We are a pet-intensive household. Currently we have three dogs and a cat, but we used to have two dogs and three cats. Having three cats teaches you that maintaining a litter box is an endless, thankless, hopeless, gross, stinky, unhealthy, unending chore. We used to use the LitterMaid, and went through three of them over the course of five years. They worked…okay. However, they had some significant engineering flaws, such as the fact that the rakes became caked with kitty poo, the receptacle filled up super quick when three cats were on the job, and they simply wore out after a year or so.
When we moved to our current house we decided to forego yet another LitterMaid and search for a newer, and hopefully better, solution. The search led us to the Litter-Robot, pictured to the right. It’s kind of space-age looking, and looks kind of big, and looks like it might freak out a cat or something, and maybe, just maybe, might refuse to open the pod bay doors.
The good news is that the Litter-Robot works, and it works extremely well. It’s hard to describe the mechanics of it, but the large, round part on the top is simply sitting in place by virtue of gravity, it’s not attached or connected to the base in any way. The orb has a couple of windows on the side (you can see one of them in the picture, it’s the black blotch on the side), and when in the normal position those windows are blocked by panels from the inside.
The orb sits on the base, and the base beneath the orb is open to the drawer below. Sensors in the unit determine when your cat has used the litter box, and seven minutes later little wheels (hidden from view underneath the orb) start turning and spin the orb counter-clockwise. Inside the orb is a mesh grate and retaining pocket for the litter, and as the orb rotates the litter flows through the mesh grate and into the retaining pocket. Anything a little bit bigger than a couple grains of litter can’t go through the mesh, so continue to roll along the inside of the orb as it rotates.
After the orb passes the rotation point where all the litter is contained in the pocket, the movement of the orb engages a lever that starts opening the panels that block the windows. When the orb is fully rotated, the windows are completely unblocked allowing free access for any dropping droppings to fall into the drawer below. After a short pause, the orb rotates back clockwise, the panels close the windows, and it eventually returns to the fully upright and locked position.
Note that on this return turn, it over-rotates by about 15-20 degrees, then comes back to completely vertical. This movement leaves the inside with perfectly level litter, but the first time it happens it doesn’t make sense and, if you’re like me, you might think the thing has slipped the chain and gone into rotational hell. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I guess that means a video must be worth a million, so here’s a video of what I just tried to describe:
It’s not nearly as noisy as the LitterMaids were, and there is zero, and I mean *zero*, smell of litterbox in our house. With two cats we had to empty the drawer twice a week, with one cat we empty it once a week. Standard garbage bags can be used as a liner for the drawer to make cleanup even easier. And it only uses a tiny bit of litter each changing, because you only have to replace the litter that falls out clinging to the refuse.
Some caveats – the floor must be level, and it works best on a hard floor as opposed to carpeting. Also, don’t overfill it with litter – the whole system works by sensing a cat’s weight stepping into and out of the litter box, and the whole unit rocks forward and back about a 1/2 inch during ingress/egress. If there’s too much litter it can falsely trigger the sensors, and carpeting can dampen the rocking motion and make the unit not sense usage.
Also, the people at Litter-Robot are very nice and their support is very helpful. When we first got ours I had a lot of trouble getting it working (due to unlevel floors and overfilling!), so I stuck it in the garage for a year. When I pulled it back out I realized I had lost a part of it that I had loosened while tinkering, and the Litter-Robot folks were happy to replace it, free of charge, even!
Our cats took the the Litter-Robot within a couple of minutes, no hassle at all. It takes up about as much floor space as a large litter box, but it’s about 2′ tall and requires the freedom to rotate, so you can’t smash it up against the wall or pull the drapes over it or anything.
The bottom line is that the Litter-Robot works great, it has a fabulous design, it’s easy to clean, our cats love it, there’s no smell, and it’s actually a conversation piece instead of being a sh*tbox. What’s not to like!??