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My cats, Penny and Tiny, have been a part of my family for more than 10 years. We’ve lived together in a college house in North Carolina and several cramped apartments in New York City; we currently reside in a lakeside bungalow in the Hudson Valley. Throughout all these living scenarios, their litter box setup has stayed relatively the same: two separate boxes, each enclosed with an opening on top, which need to be kept meticulously clean to live up to their standards.

There have been countless hours of lugging cat litter, sifting, scooping, and scrubbing. When I became pregnant, I was given a directive to stay far away from used cat litter to avoid a potential toxoplasmosis infection, and I began to look for options that could make litter life a bit safer and easier for us all. Enter the Litter-Robot 4

Litter-Robot 4

Courtesy of Litter-Robot

The Smooth Setup 

Setup for the Litter-Robot 4 was just as easy as the decision to try it. The self-contained unit arrives already constructed and simply needs to be plugged into a standard outlet. Adding litter is a simple process: Open the waste drawer compartment and insert a liner to catch the goods (the unit comes with one bag, which you can reorder, or you can opt to use a standard garbage bag instead); add 8 to 10 pounds of clumping litter to the globe (which denotes a max-fill line); and scan the QR code to download and connect the Whisker App to Wi-Fi. After an initial spin of the globe to get into position, a light ring on the unit let me know that the setup was now complete, while the app informed me that the robot had an optimal amount of litter.

It took a few days for my pets to grow accustomed to their new litter palace. Tiny, in particular, as well as our dog, Milly, were perplexed when the globe would start a clean spin cycle. Luckily Litter-Robot’s website provides several resourceful tips that would encourage both cats to acclimate fairly quickly. We placed treats around the unit and on the step up to it to create a positive connotation, and instead of immediately swapping out their previous boxes for the Litter-Robot 4, we removed one box and slowly let the other become dirtier to entice them to use their new, always-clean commode.

The Spotless Self-Cleaning

The automatic self-cleaning function itself is pretty straightforward: After a cat has been detected entering and exiting, the unit pauses for a countdown before starting a two-minute cycle (which you can also initiate yourself at any time). While slowly spinning, the sifting system separates the clumps and drops waste into the drawer, while an integrated weight encourages the liner to actually fall away from the globe to ensure any stuck-on clumps are removed. Then it begins a cycle back to its original position, which causes the clean litter to again spread into the bottom of the globe. After that, it’s ready for the next use. Even though there is some cajoling of the litter and waste during the cleaning cycle, the replaceable carbon filter sitting directly over the waste drawer greatly minimizes any odors. 

A view of the Whisker app.

After about a week, both cats started using the Litter-Robot 4 regularly, but even within those first few days it was surprising how much I myself became interested in their use of it. Now armed with an app, I’m alerted when a cat is detected inside the globe, how much that cat weighs (Tiny is smaller than Penny, so I know exactly which cat the app is referring to), when the unit completes a clean cycle, how much waste is in the bin, and when litter needs to be replaced. All of a sudden, a lifelong onerous chore became something I was personally intrigued by, even from afar. 

The Minimal Maintenance

Since waste is removed immediately after being used, we only need to manually swap out the liner about once a week. There’s been no trace of wafting litter smells, and our need for two litter boxes is no longer mandatory (the Litter-Robot 4 can apparently handle up to four cats). Aside from the complete automation and keeping on top of the litter situation so I don’t have to, we’re not using as much litter because of how efficient it is at cleaning, and the sleek design takes up less of a footprint and isn’t as much of an eyesore as our regular boxes. 

The Tricky Transition

Going from a top-down to a forward-entry litter box proved challenging for Tiny, as she prefers to bury her business and is still kicking litter out the front of the Litter-Robot 4. This previously wasn’t much of an issue since there were walls to contain her mess, but even with the low shield that comes with the Litter-Robot 4 she manages to spread litter onto the floor. Adding a mat out front has been helpful, and I’m hoping with time she’ll come to realize that the litter is always clean when she enters and there is less of a need for her to kick and bury.

The Price Tag

While there is a steep price tag, the biggest selling point of the Litter-Robot 4 was an investment in getting my time back. Automating this chore will save me legitimately dozens of hours annually to focus my energy elsewhere, with the reassurance that I will receive prompts when it is time to refill the litter or empty the waste. It also cuts down on the amount of litter I need to cycle out. With a 37-pound box of my preferred litter clocking in around $60, a single box lasts me almost twice as long than when I was using conventional litter boxes. My hope is the greater up front cost will save both time and money for the foreseeable future. And, since the Litter-Robot can also easily contain the waste of up to four cats, it becomes even more cost efficient if you have multiple feline friends.

The Final Word

I feel much more secure keeping my baby and myself shielded from toxoplasmosis, and tracking my pet’s usage of their business has never been easier—or more enthralling. Most important, the Litter-Robot 4 is clearly appreciated by Penny, as there have been no accidents outside the box since we brought it into our home. That’s a win I will absolutely take any day. 

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