At the end of last year I decided to use my vacation budget for something I would consider a luxury, and an unneccesary luxury at best: I got a robot litterbox.
I originally wrote out a long section to this post about my history with cat pee, but decided to scrap it. You can just read the Rigel secton to get an idea. Suffice to say I’ve had some anxiety about litterboxes and my cats' frequency of urination ever since this happened. I didn’t even realize that I had it until it went away after I got the Litter Robot. Honestly, I originally bought it as a luxury “nice to have”. I had a vacation fund that I wasn’t using due to COVID and cleaning litterboxes is the only part of cat ownership that I dislike. It’s only about ten minutes a day (except for the deep clean once a month or so, which takes longer), but darn it those ten minutes add up.
After I got the Litter Robot though, I realized that I just was not thinking and low key worrying about my cats' urinary habits as much as I used to. With being at home due to COVID, I found myself in the habit of feeling obligated to check and clean the litter box each time I heard one of the cats go. And…my cats go a lot. The Litter Robot cleans itself after each visit, so when I wake up in the morning I don’t even have to think about it anymore: I know my cats will have a clean box at all times. I just have to take out the garbage bag of collected waste about twice a week and do a deep clean as needed.
It did not take long for my cats to get acclimated to the Litter Robot. They tend to be pretty good with changing litter, and for a couple of years I had been using non-clumping wood pellet litter with the PeeWee system. The Litter Robot requires clumping litter. K2 is allergic to clay, so I knew I’d have to get something based on corn, wood, or walnut shell. Originally I tried walnut shell, but found that the clumps stuck to the rubber lining of the litterbox too much. Eventually I switched to World’s Best (which I had used before). I read that this too tends to stick to the rubber lining, but didn’t find that to be the case here - on each rotaton of the box all clumps go down into the waste basket.
Originally I took just one of my normal boxes away from the cats. I left the other for about two days, and simply did not clean it. The idea was that they would choose to use the clean litter robot over the increasingly dirty box at some point. No such luck. My cats didn’t mind using the dirty box at all, even though the smell of cat pee and poop was now permeating through the apartment. I minded.
So then I experimented with taking away both of the old boxes completely and only leaving the Litter Robot. I also put a plywood board up to the entrance of the robot as a ramp. The opening is quite a bit higher than a standard litter box, so I figured i tmight be dissuading the cats from going in there. Both approaches together worked - the cats quickly started using the ramp to go into the Litter Robot. Eventually I ordered the proper Litter Robot steps attachment and used it for a while, but now it is removed. The cats no longer need it.
Tracking depends highly on the litter and with the World’s Best litter there is quite a bit of tracking. I bought a sisal rug to go underneath the robot which serves as both a scratching pad and a way to trap some of the litter. There is also a small step up to the opening of the robot which contains a little removable piece of rubber that traps some of the litter. However, my cats tend to just hop out of the box withot touching that step on the way out so it does not catch much.
The Litter Robot 3 cleans itself by rotating the large dome counter-clockwise a few minutes after the cat uses the box. The litter grains are sifted into a separated part of the dome, and the clumps, which are too big to get through the sifting mesh, fall into a hole that becomes exposed at the bottom by the rotation. The hole leads into a rectangular box that sits under the dome. The box is lined with a bag to catch the falling clumps. The dome then rotates clockwise to bring the sifted, clean, litter back. It does a slight over-rotation to make sure the litter sits in an even layer, then comes back to neutral position. The result is clean litter being left in the box for the next trip.
Once the catcher box at the bottom becomes full, you slide out the box from the front of the Litter Robot, tie up the bag with the dirty litter clumps in it, and throw it out. The Litter Robot comes with a few branded bags, but I ended up just ordering large garbage bags from the grocery store when those ran out.
The Litter Robot is not quiet, but not vacuum-cleaner loud either. I have it set to “sleep” overnight, but sometimes I have been asleep before its sleep time starts or after it ends. Sometimes it wakes me up, sometimes it doesn’t. My apartment is about 45sqm so I can hear it from anywhere in the apartment. The noise itself during the day doesn’t bother me, even though it is clearly audible. Then again I used to live near a train station and even that noise stopped bother me after a while, so it might be more of a problem for more sensitive ears.
Problems and Gotchas
Even though I am really pleased with the litter robot, I did have to get used to a couple of things:
- The trash bag has to sit low enough to not trip the “bin full” sensor. When my black trash bags were positioned a little bit too high on the edge of the bin, the Litter Robot thought it was full all the time.
- The dirty clumps are dispersed unevenly through the bin. When rotating, the litter clumps tend to collapse to the left-most side of the litter robot (when facing it head on). This results in clumps gathering up on the left side and not always properly falling down to the right side of the box. The clumps also end up close to the edge of the bin and due to the bag needing to be positioned low enough as mentioned below, some litter gets between the bag and the wall. I have never had full clumps overflow from the bag, but I usually toss out a bit of old litter from the box that got trapped between the bag and the plastic.
- The connection to the app can have issues sometimes. I’ve had problems with trying to edit sleep mode settings or marking the Litter Robot as having been cleaned (ie the bin emptied), but the changes would not properly register. I had to power th Litter Robot off and turn it bakc on. This has not happened recently, luckily.
- The sleep mode only allows you to work with 8-hour intervals. I’m not sure why. Sleep mode prevents the Litter Robot from running while it is active, so that the sound doesn’t wake you up. If I set my sleep mode to start at 11pm it will end at 7am. If I set it to start at 10pm, it will end at 6am. There is no way to change this. For me, eight hours of sleep is the minimum target. Therefore I want to allow for more time to be in bed undisturbed so that I can fall asleep easily to get my eight hours. But if the last Litter Robot run is just as I am falling asleep, it might just wake me up again. I wish there was a way to set a longer sleep time.
Is the Litter Robot 3 worth it?
I paid 8490 SEK for the Litter Robot 3 (with the WiFi functionality). This is a large sum of money for a Litter Box. I do believe that the Litter Robot 3 is overpriced; on the other hand I have no regrets about spending this money. It let me spend less time cleaning litter boxes and more time petting my cats. But more than that, it had the unexpected side effect of reducing my anxiety about my cats' bathroom habits. That alone makes it worth it for me. So I guess I am contradicting myself: on the one hand I think it is overpriced, but on the other I’m glad I bought it even at this price. I fully recognize that this was a luxury purchase and not at all necessary or worth it for most cat owners. For me, the Litter Robot 3 is worth it, but I would not necessarily recommend it to everyone simply due to the price tag.