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I'm a lifelong cat mom, and this self-cleaning litter box is worth the splurge

A smart litter box made my cats, family and home happier — here's how

Author's cat using the Litter-Robot 4 litter box
Litter-ally: This is the best litter box we've tried! (Libby Sentz)

I was raised by cats: A wild calico and a flurry of Fancy Feast fluff balls were my big sibs. And I've raised cats my entire adulthood, including a scrappy boy from the streets, a shy gal from a horse barn and a magical shelter kitten who lived to be 22. They've all had one thing in common: stinky litter boxes.

Cats are self-cleaning, experts say. Now we finally — finally! — have a litter box that is, too. Here's my full review of the self-cleaning Litter-Robot 4.

Keep up with the Jetsons: This sleek, smart, self-cleaning litter box detects cats and automatically runs a quiet clean cycle after they exit. It serves households with up to four cats.

Pros
  • No scooping
  • Drastically reduces odor
  • Serves up to four cats
  • Simple setup
  • Useful app
  • Monitors weight, waste
  • Quiet
Cons
  • Expensive
$699 at Whisker

Publication after publication (Forbes, People, Spruce Pets) has crowned this litter box king. Even Jenna Fischer of The Office swore it "changed her life" in a funny video. Now I get why! Ever since I plugged in the Litter-Robot 4 a few weeks ago, our two senior cats have enjoyed an immaculate litter box, our house smells fresher than ever and we aren’t cleaning up over-the-edge misses. Bonus: Our giant muppet of a pup has zero litter box treats to nosh on (more on her later) and a handy app keeps tabs on it all. It's truly awesome.

This is our first foray into the world of high-tech litter boxes. I'd never thought outside the plastic box until 2011, when my husband ordered the then-advanced Omega Paw Roll n' Clean Self-Cleaning Litter Box. (Spoiler alert: That one is not self-cleaning — you must roll the box over and bang on it to sift, but it has served us well. We're keeping it upstairs until we can afford a second Litter-Robot since multicat households require more than one potty.) We've also tried the box-hidden-in-a-sleek-looking-cabinet trick, which was quite literally a miss for the cats as one kept aiming her hindquarters out of the hole. Nope.

Image from writer's Whisker litter box app
A peek at the Whisker app. Cool, right? We named our litter box Johnny. (Libby Sentz)

The simple setup

The Litter-Robot 4 arrived fully assembled! We read the breezy instructions, plugged it in and added litter up to the designated line (it requires 8 to 10 pounds of clumping litter or very small litter beads or crystals). Then we downloaded the adorable Whisker app. There, you can upload pet pics and stats such as age and weight so the smart box can track your cats' bathroom habits. The best feature of the app, though: It tells you when the hidden, lined lower tray is full and needs to be dumped (for us, that's maybe once a week). And you'll need that reminder because you'll forget you even have a litter box.

To acclimate our senior tuxedo kitties, we placed the new box next to the old one with just a touch of used litter from the old box, as instructed. The transition was immediate for our tough 13-year-old Brooklyn boy, Willie (he used it that very day). It's been slower for our skittish 11-year-old, Lupe, because of the dang dog (again, more on her later), but it's happening!

The smell test

When you live with a smell, a sort of "nose blindness" sets in, so the true test of whether your house stinks is to go on a trip. When you return, the truth will smack you in the face as all the smells hit you at once. We left on a five-day trip the morning after plugging in the Litter-Robot. The regular "Cat Detected" and "Clean Cycle Complete" notifications let me know they were using it while we were away. (You can disable those, too.) Still, we were concerned we might come home to accidents. Instead, we returned to happy cats and — for the first time ever — a delightful-smelling home!

Author's cats inspecting and using the Litter-Robot 4 with dog near.
Our kitties are smitten with (and our dog, defeated by) the Litter-Robot 4. (Libby Sentz)

The dog test

Our giant muppet dog, Suki, loves our kitties just a wee bit too much — so much that she took up coprophagy (poop-eating) when we adopted her. Begrudgingly, we set up kitty obstacle courses to keep her muzzle out of the litter boxes. It was complicated and weird. This smart box has put an end to the madness. A clean cycle runs within minutes after the kitties go.

There's still one little problem. Our shy cat, Lupe, prefers using the box upstairs where the pup doesn't pounce on her, but when Suki is safely out of the house, Lupe makes a break for the Litter-Robot. We may need a second one in our lives.

I've also heard plenty of good things about the previous Litter-Box 3 Connect from everybody from my trusty Realtor to Queer Eye's Jonathan Van Ness. I could get one as our upstairs backup to save a couple of bucks. (If I do, I'll report back.) But the Litter-Robot 4 has improved our lives so much, I'm tempted to splurge or pick up a refurbished model.

A few extras

The folks at Whisker seem to have thought of everything. They won't even let a power outage send you back to scooping: Just pick up a Litter-Robot 4 backup battery. And for the ultimate in clean, you can upgrade to the Litter-Robot 4 Clean Bundle, which features a special mat, enhanced ramp, extra liners, wipes and more.

You'll feel like you're watching Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey when this quiet robot smoothly rotates and disappears your cat's waste. The clean, mod design comes in eight colors and patterns.

Pros
  • No scooping
  • Drastically reduces odor
  • Serves up to four cats
  • Simple setup
  • Useful app
  • Monitors weight, waste
  • Quiet
Cons
  • Expensive
$699 at Whisker