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Litter Robot 4 review: A great, but imperfect, self-cleaning litter box

Would you spend $699 to forego litter-picking?

Just plain sick of all the faces. I just needed some respite from the heaps of faces now that I’m dealing with three cats, an 11-month-diapers, old’s and putty time with my four-year-old. Introducing Whisker’s automated litter box, the Litter Robot 4 (a product we first reviewed in 2005!). It’s a tiny, spaceship-like contraption that rotates on its own after your cat poop-scoops, collecting the waste in a storage bin and leaving the clean litter in place. You simply need to remove the Litter Robot’s bin bag and replace it with a new liner once a week instead of scooping a box every day (or multiple times a day for families with multiple cats). Right, that sounds like a dream.

Mostly, that is. For starters, it costs an eye-watering $699, making it unaffordable for the majority of cat owners. And just about every “smart” device has problems during setup, including the Litter Robot 4. After a few months of testing, I found a lot of bugs — sometimes it didn’t sift correctly, sometimes its cat-detection sensors went berserk, and it didn’t truly stop litter from falling onto my flooring. But even with all that, it still made my life simpler. I had to deal with animal waste a little less frequently each day as a result of the Litter Robot 4. I’ll consider that a victory.

I’ve had a cat since 2009, and I’ve always looked longingly at self-cleaning litter boxes. Yet, practically all of the options at the time looked to be a hassle: some needed specialist litter, while others were prone to jamming and failure. The Litter Robot has also been around for a long, but I’ve never thought of it as being useful because of how pricey it is. But now that my family has expanded as a result of that poopy baby and two adopted kittens, I was eager for some respite. (One of those kittens also developed into a massive 18-pound monster; just picture what his litter box looks like.)

The Litter Robot 3 was generally well-reviewed despite being both bulky on the exterior and a little too small for cats inside. I know numerous folks who adored it. With a more streamlined design and a bigger entrance for large cats, the Litter Robot 4 outperforms its predecessor. It should fit better in tiny spaces because to its slightly reduced width. Also, it has Wi-Fi, making it simple for you to use Whisker’s app to check on waste and litter levels. You can now track how frequently your cats use the Robot thanks to additional weight sensors, and the business plans to introduce more personalized tracking later this year. That should, in principle, inform you if one exists.

Before I encountered some software problems, setting up the Litter Robot 4 was quite simple. Simply take the 24-pound egg-shaped robot out of its packaging, fill the main compartment with clumping litter, and dispose of the supplied bag in the trash. As the entire object is composed of plastic, it is quite light and simple to handle. It should be reasonably sturdy and easier to clean than hard plastic because the inner portion, where the litter resides, is wrapped in a rubber-like material.

I encountered my worst worry with any new smart device, though, after plugging in and turning on the Litter Robot: pairing troubles. The Robot wouldn’t even attempt to self-clean if it weren’t synced with the app. After several hours of aggravation, I discovered that Whisker was experiencing a widespread problem, and I had to wait a few days for the firm to supply a fix.

You could say the same thing applies to smart devices. But manually cleaning this $699 litter box was absurd (and a little upsetting). It was no better than the $20 litter box my cats use upstairs without that initial hookup. The Robot then went through a cleaning cycle and uniformly sifted the leftover trash when the programmed was configured. My three cats wouldn’t go near this new litter box after witnessing it move and make noises (it’s quite silent!). It was basically a $699 monument to pet excess at that time.

My 18-pound tuxedo cat named “Jiji,” who was the bravest of the group, finally climbed into the Litter Robot a few days later to investigate. He made numerous hops in and out before deciding it was secure. He then left his first offering, which was immediately disposed of in the trash. The litter robot appeared content. My kitties were all on board within a week. About that time, I became aware of a weird phenomenon: I had no sense of smell for urine or excrement! Even though the waste bin was full, the Whisker app didn’t let me know that while I was standing right in front of it. Anyone who wishes to put the Litter Robot in a small living room should take heart from that.

When one of my cats left a trail of poo inside the Robot, my honeymoon period came to an end. It was unaffected by any filtering or cycling. Eventually, I became aware of the device’s odd behavior (perhaps in protest to what that cat did). According to the Whisker app, occasionally, its indicator lights would flash red, indicating a sensor problem. The device had to be powered on and off in order to correct that. The Robot occasionally failed to finish cleaning itself after one of my cats used it. To start it, I had to press the cycle button at the top.

I normally have to handle three to four problems like this from the Litter Robot during the course of a week. Few of those need me to actually touch poop, and the amount is far less than when I clean a typical litter box. But, I wish it were more dependable for $699. If my family took a vacation, I wouldn’t rely on it to function flawlessly for a full week. Keep your cat sitter’s phone number safe at all times.

Simply remove the liner bag and replace it with a new one to clean out the Litter Robot’s waste bin. You could continue using Whisker products, but I’ve had no issues with Glad’s 13-gallon Force Flex bags. The manufacturer also suggests replacing the litter with brand-new litter and cleaning the Litter Robot’s interior once a month. Although it’s not a difficult process, I discovered that dragging the device outside made it go more quickly. And sure, it also means you’ll have to work a little bit with your hands dirty. It’s impossible to avoid the poop.

The mobile app for Whisker does an excellent job of notifying me when the trash can is full or when there is not enough litter. And although it may seem unusual, I actually enjoy observing how frequently my cats use the litter box. It’s especially beneficial if one cat is sick because repeated visits to the Robot may be an indication of disease. The app also monitors your cat’s weight, which may prevent you from overfeeding or underfeeding. (Of course, a significant loss in weight could raise additional health issues.)

Only two of my cats have continued to use the Litter Robot 4 after several months of testing. They still utilize it regularly enough to consistently empty its trash can. (For the lone renegade, we also have two regular litter boxes scattered throughout the home.) Aside from all of those minor mistakes, the open design of the Litter Robot is my biggest pet peeve. Although I am aware that cats love it, it also results in the floor becoming littered. Regrettably, Whisker’s bundled front step and gate for the Litter Robot are of little assistance. If you do decide to purchase this item, I would advise placing a litter mat in the front and preparing to sweep or vacuum once every few days.

Although the Litter Robot 4 is a luxury, it is one that stressed-out cat owners can find handy. Simply don’t anticipate any miracles. You’ll still need to check for mistakes, scrub manually, and pick up stray trash. The Litter Robot 4 is the closest thing to the ideal self-cleaning litter box that is currently available.