Skip to main content

PawTracks may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

I said goodbye to litter scooping, and there’s no way I can go back

What you need to know about the Litter-Robot 4

Litter Robot 4

Cats poop inside your house. No matter how cute and otherwise fastidiously clean they may be, there is no escaping that fundamental truth and all its attendant horrors. The smell. The scooping. The litter tracking.

So when my wife and I adopted our cat Niles six months ago, I knew I needed to enlist a robot for this drudgery. Like robot vacuums and mops, I was sure an automated litterbox could take the sting out of scooping litter. Off we marched to Petsmart to buy the PetSafe ScoopFree for about $200. And back we marched to return it two weeks later.

It’s not that it didn’t work, sometimes, but it had a habit of … how do I say this? Niles’ poop got jammed in the rake that sweeps over the litter. Over and over and over. I took it back, and as the PetSmart cashier interrogated me about the consistency of my cat’s bowel movements in the return line, and a queue backed up behind me, I decided it was time to bring out the big guns. We got the Litter-Robot 4.

Turn it upside down

Litter Robot 4 with hood open

For the uninitiated, Litter-Robots are the Teslas of automatic litterboxes, and I’m not trying to imply the CEO is a psychopath. Whisker, the company that makes the Litter-Robot, pretty much invented the “self-sifting” category in 1999 and has maintained its edge by meticulously updating its offerings with the times. Its latest offering, the Litter-Robot 4, is smaller, quieter, and smarter than its predecessors. As you’d expect it to be, for its princely $700 price tag.

Expensive? Yes. Worth it? Also yes.

Unlike the horizontal rake action of the PetSafe, the Litter-Robot is like a clothes dryer for your cat’s excrement. Stay with me, it’s a good thing: A layer of fresh litter sits at the bottom of a drum, Niles does his business, and when he’s done the entire drum rotates. A grate sifts clean litter from waste, which tumbles into a sealed garbage bin beneath, where its hideous odors remain sealed from the rest of your house. The clean litter returns to the bottom of the drum. For such a potentially messy operation, it’s shockingly graceful and quiet.

The nitty gritty on kitty litter

The Litter-Robot ostensibly works with any clumping litter, but we tried using hippie corn kernel litter to start, and it was too large to properly sift out. Switching to a standard clay litter did the trick, and switching to Litter-Robot’s own formula seemed to last even longer between swap outs. As Litter-Robot CEO Jacob Zuppke explained to me, bentonite clay content is really the only thing that matters in selecting a litter, and any high-quality litter will do.

My reservations that Niles might be too scared to enter the Litter-Robot were unfounded. Not only did he delight in stepping into the drum, he now spends 10 minutes at a time in there, scraping and pawing around like a kid in a sandbox. It’s possible he has a little Tonka truck in there. Though he ended up kicking a lot outside the robot at first, the newly introduced add-on shield has resulted in dramatically less spillage.

Probably smarter than your cat

Close up of Litter Robot 4's controls

The Whisker app not only tracks how often Niles uses the Litter-Robot, but it also measures his weight with its SmartScale feature. After some erratic early measurements, we ordered a $30 carpet tray that allows it to measure accurately even on soft surfaces, which fixed the problem entirely. Tray or not, I’m not sure I’d pay extra for SmartScale. While it’s novel at first, it just isn’t actionable enough in most situations. My wife is a veterinarian and even she’s not that interested that Niles was 8.1 pounds at 5:56 a.m. and 7.8 pounds at 11:10 a.m. He pooped.

More pragmatically, the app can notify you when the waste drawer is full, which takes about two weeks or so. Emptying it is about as pleasant as such a chore can be: Slide the drawer out, lift up the bag full of turds, and get it outside as fast as humanly possible. This is not a task you want to dawdle with for olfactory reasons, but it will make you appreciate just how much smell the Litter-Robot manages to contain inside the machine with its charcoal filter.

Every couple months, the robot needs a more thorough cleaning, which involves popping out the orb-shaped litter drum, scrubbing it down with soapy water, and hosing it out. Dreadful as it sounds, it’s a 15-minute task.

Besides all the accessories you can kit out your Litter-Robot with, I was impressed to find a library of parts for the last-generation Litter-Robot 3, which came out in 2015. For a device that costs as much as a kitchen appliance like a dishwasher, it’s refreshing to see Whisker following the appliance model of long-term support, rather than the gadget model (“throw it away and buy a new one in two years”).

The price of convenience

Don’t let my whinging about the price mislead you: I did not pay for my Litter-Robot 4, which was provided for review, and I’m pretty sure Jenna Fischer didn’t either, but I share her enthusiasm for it. If your life includes smelling cat poop and manually scooping it every day, you could say it’s a literal life changer. My Narwal Freo has been a life changer, too, but if you forced me to choose, I might go home with the Litter-Robot 4. It’s that good.

And in the hopefully unlikely event that mine ever breaks, I will be cringing and prying out my credit card to get another, because there’s simply no way I can go back to the plastic pan.

How many kittens can a cat have in a single litter? You might be surprised
Number of kittens in a litter - how many is normal?
A striped mama cat with her two kittens

How many kittens can a cat have? Let's find out. Dr. Elsey's informs us that kitten season occurs each year between April and October. While cats can give birth any time of the year, more kittens are born during kitten season than during any other time. The vast majority of kittens are born to stray and feral cats, but all unspayed cats — known as queens — are more likely to give birth during these months. Few things in the world are as adorable as kittens. Read on to learn more about them.

How many kittens are in a cat's first litter? 
A healthy cat's gestational period lasts roughly 63–65 days, and queens may have an estrus cycle within four weeks of giving birth — even if they're still nursing. A healthy queen can potentially give birth to three litters per year, each containing up to 12 kittens. Because cats are such fertile breeders, one single unspayed female can produce 20,000 descendants over just five years. Fortunately for pet parents, the average size of a single litter is much smaller. Most litters have between four and eight kittens, though the size of each litter may vary from one kitten to over 10 kittens per litter.

Read more
7 telltale signs your cat may be allergic to their litter (and what you can do to help)
Kitten sitting in a litter box looking up

If your cat is sneezing, coughing, or has a runny nose, you might think he's sick. But those can also be symptoms of an allergy. Cats can be allergic to all sorts of different things. For some cats, the cause of their allergies is a central part of their lives: their cat litter. Those allergies get aggravated multiple times a day for a cat that's allergic to litter. When you understand the signs of an allergy, you can recognize that your cat might have a problem and take the right steps to get to the bottom of it.
Why cat litter allergies occur
The ingredients in cat litter can cause allergies. Clumping litter generally contains silica, which produces silica dust, an irritant known to cause allergies in some humans and animals. Fragrances can also be potentially irritating. While clay litters tend to be the most bothersome, your cat can be allergic to any number of components in any litter.

How your cat uses the litter box contributes to these potential allergies. Cats dig in the box, bury their business, and scratch at the box sides and at the litter. All this activity can stir up dust and irritants, making the issue worse.

Read more
Can I go sailing with my cat? (Yes, we’re serious, and yes, you can!)
Cat lying on a beach in front of a boat

Cats and water traditionally don't mix, but cats and boats have been a match for hundreds of years. Cats were once considered to be good luck charms, and having a cat on your boat was highly desirable. Sailors appreciated cats for their mousing talents, and while boats have certainly evolved, many still have cats on board. But if you're thinking of taking your cat on a boat, it's important to do a little research and some planning to help ensure the experience is positive for everyone, particularly for your cat. Every cat feels differently about adventure, but your cat might be ready to sail the seas with you.

Can you take a cat on a boat?
According to Adventure Cats, you can absolutely take a cat on a boat as long as you take some safety precautions and slowly introduce your cat to the experience. Start with some training, and introduce your cat to clicker training and to voice commands. Teaching your cat to come when you call can help to keep him safe in an emergency on your boat.
Just like humans have life vests, your cat will need some safety gear, too. Buy a life vest that fits your cat snugly without restricting his ability to move. Make sure to choose a life vest with a handle on the back, which will make it easier to lift your cat out of the water just in case he goes overboard.
Once your cat has a life vest, it's important to determine how well he can swim. Introduce your cat to the water in a controlled environment so he'll be better prepared just in case he does ever end up in the water.
Next, gradually acclimate your cat to spending time on the boat. Start with a visit while the boat is docked, and let your cat explore the space. Create a spot on the boat for him where he feels safe and secure, such as by adding a pet bed and some toys from home below deck. Then, gradually increase the duration of these visits, and progress to short trips out on the water while ensuring your cat stays comfortable.

Read more