I’m someone with a sensitive nose, so ever since getting my ragdoll cat, Pearl, I’ve struggled with the daily task of scooping her litter boxes. I love the little blue-eyed feline more than my own life, but there’s no pretending – litter box duty is a really shit job. For almost three years, I’ve dreamed of getting a self-cleaning litter box and eliminating the task altogether. That’s why, when I heard that Litter Robot was bringing out a new model in Australia soon, I jumped at the chance to review one.
If you’re curious about how the Litter Robot 4 works and if it’s everything it’s cracked up to be, then allow me to take you through Pearl and I’s experience over the last couple of weeks.
How does the Litter Robot 4 work?
The Litter Robot 4 is an automated litter box that uses Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connection to sync with your smartphone.
When it senses that your cat has exited the litter box, it will take up to three, seven, 15, 25 and even 30 minutes (depending on what you’ve set in-app), before it will begin the disposal process.
The drum of the litter box will then begin to rotate slowly, sifting any unused litter into a compartment before the robot throws your pet’s poop through a gaping hole and into the waste drawer.
Later, in the app you’ll be notified of your cat’s activity. The app is fairly simplistic, describing the exact time your cat used the litter box, when the cleaning cycle activated and a record of your cat’s weight.
The app will also keep you informed when the litter begins to get low, as well as when it’s time to change the waste drawer. But before you can even enjoy the world of never scooping, you have to train your cat to use it.
How to train your cat to use the Litter Box 4
A major roadblock that can arise from buying a very expensive automatic litter box is the risk that your cat may never be brave enough to use it. My cat Pearl is a well-trained ragdoll that’s never had an accident in the time that we’ve had her. She’s also very curious and is unafraid to explore new things. Yet, Pearl didn’t immediately take to the robot like I thought she would.
There’s a bunch of different ways to acclimate your cat to their new litter box. But the first trick is to install, fill it up but don’t turn it on. Upon switching the Litter Robot 4 on, it will begin its first cycle, which is highly likely to spook your kitty.
Introduce your cat first, integrate some of its normal litter into the robot and let them figure out how to use it on their own. For me, Pearl kept going back to her old litter box, which was located in another room. Even though it was frustrating, it meant I had to find other ways to help her go potty in the Litter Robot.
The next thing I tried was scooping some of her used litter from the old litter box into the Litter Robot. This helped integrate her scent into the automatic litter box, so she became more familiarised. After another few days of no toilet incidents, I decided to move her old litter box back into the same room as her Litter Robot.
It still took another two days, but by leaving her old litter box a bit smelly and unscooped, it led Pearl to finally use the Litter Robot 4 sometime overnight. This process, along with its trials and tribulations, took a full week.
After Pearl’s first “usage”, I was able to switch it on to get a good look at how it all runs, so let’s talk about the good and the not-so-good.
If you’re trying to introduce you cat to a self-cleaning litter box, my advice is to just be patient. It can take some cats up to a month before they get over their fears or reservations, so try to troubleshoot as I have above, and just wait.
What I liked
I think there are a lot of fun and interesting features that have been included in its design to make it better for cats and their humans. Its large, open-mouthed design is handy in terms of pouring litter inside and it means there’s plenty of room for Pearl to enter, turn around and chill. My mum said it looked like an “alien toilet bowl” and I can’t say she’s wrong.
At the top of the Litter Robot 4 are five buttons that allow you to turn it off, activate a cleaning cycle, reset it, empty the waste bin and connect it to Wi-Fi. You can pretty much do all of this stuff in-app if you’re in another room, but it’s still very handy to have.
One thoughtful aspect of its design that I enjoyed are its little internal LED lights, which come on when its dark, so you can see what it’s doing. You can adjust how bright it is to ensure your cat isn’t blinded, but it’s very helpful for both Pearl and I when walking past.
The last aspect of its design that I liked was the fact that you can actually disassemble the Litter Robot 4 for cleaning. Most of its components are removable, so you can take it outside and give it a good hosing down if it gets really gross.
But ultimately, there’s little-to-zero odours that come from the robot. While you might be able to smell it after your cat initially takes a little dump, once its been cycled, the scent completely disappears into the waste drawer.
The biggest highlight for me was the Whisker app. It made set-up a complete breeze and is one of the easiest apps I’ve navigated. When you open it, you can see straightaway how much litter is left and how full the waste bin is. You can even register profiles for each cat in your household, so you can get an idea at who’s using the Litter Robot based off their weight.
Its SmartScale part also gives you regular updates on your cat’s weight and a breakdown of Recent Activity. It’s all well-documented, and there’s even a dedicated History tab that shows you a complete overview of your cat’s toilet habits, in case you’re worried about how often they’re actually using it.
The Controls section lets you turn it on and off wherever you are, switch the lights on or off depending on the time of day and lock the control panel at the top of the Litter Robot (in case your cat is more mischievous than mine and tries to play with the buttons). You can even set a Sleep Mode, so the cycling doesn’t wake you up in the middle of the night. I turned mine on, but upon further reflection, I’ve realised it’s not really necessary. The self-cleaning process is remarkably quiet and not bothersome at all.
The waste disposal process is also super satisfying to watch. When a cycle begins, the drum will begin to rotate and the internal lining will balloon a little bit to sift the litter into the waste drawer. Its fairly slow, but appropriately so to ensure that as much unused litter finds its way back later on.
Once the robot has caught any clumps of poop or pee, it’ll rotate in the other direction and re-orient itself. You can then open the waste drawer, which should be lined with plastic. Every week, or when the app notifies you, you can simply pick up the plastic bag and toss it out. Simple as that.
What I didn’t like
While opening the Litter Robot 4 was an exciting process, it was still a challenging one. The robot itself was huge and tightly packed into a box that was two-thirds of my height.
There was only really one issue I had initially with the Litter Robot 4 and that was that it only works properly with a specific type of litter. Luckily, Pearl has been raised on a variety of litters – all a process of trial and error when it comes down to what’s easier to clean and what’s affordable. But most recently, we’ve been using Michu’s tofu clumping cat litter.
The first few times I let the litter robot cycle, I noticed that whenever I filled it to the max line, it would immediately discard two-thirds of the litter I’d put it there. Even though it was unused. Since the guidelines say to use a clumping litter, I thought that our go-to Michu cat litter wouldn’t be an issue.
I reached out to Whisker, the creators of the Litter Robot 4, to ask for advice. While its advertised that the Litter Robot 4 doesn’t require a “special type” of litter, there are a few caveats.
For starters, you need to choose a clumping kind, but the hardest part, is to choose one that isn’t lightweight. Lightweight litter includes clay-based and plant-based litters (like my favourite Michu one). I ended up finding a spare bag of Coles clumping litter in my laundry and poured that in instead to discover that it works much better with the Litter Robot 4 than my Michu litter. Case closed.
The only reason I worry this might affect other pet owners is that cats are creatures of habit and may struggle to adjust to a new type of litter immediately. It’s highly likely you may go through a lot of litter before you can fully make the switch. From my perspective, this is a little bit of a win, since Coles Clumping Litter costs $3.50 in comparison to Michu’s $14 price tag per bag.
Should you buy the Litter Robot 4?
If you have a spare $1,600, sure! If scooping really is as much of a chore for you as it is for me, then it’s a solid investment in both your time and your sense of smell.
What I can tell you is that the app is simple, no-frills and highly accurate, while the actual self-emptying process works soundly (even if it may try to get rid of more litter than it should). The Litter Robot itself does an incredible job at sealing off unpleasant odours and it’s super rewarding once your cat has become comfortable with it. Every morning now, I just check my notifications and it tells me exactly when Pearl has used it and when it last cycled.
However, I understand that the Litter Robot 4 might just be a faraway dream for most pet owners, given its price tag is about double the price of most self-cleaning litter boxes on the market (which is already pretty expensive). But if you want one that’s easy-to-use, looks great in your home, and good at its job, then it’s safe to say you won’t run into any major issues with this model.
The Litter Robot 4 will be available to buy in Australia on September 17, 2023.