I used to be staunchly against automatic litter boxes. Frankly, I thought moving parts could easily trap tiny kitty paws. And without daily scooping, you lose vital information—if a cat isn’t urinating, that’s a telltale sign that something bad is happening internally. A difference of a few days could be tragic. I have to keep a close eye on one of my own cats, Huxley, for this reason.
Now that I’ve tested two automatic litter boxes made with the safety, comfort, and health of cats in mind, I’ve come around to the idea of letting a machine do most of the dirty scooping—at least, as long as the pet parents are keenly observant and their kitty likes it.
I have two cats. Even though Huxley is the one whose health is a concern, he is not impressed by robots and chooses the $5 storage tub with an opening cut out for easy access. Eely-Rue, on the other hand, walks right into whatever robot box I bring home that week without concern.
Whisker’s Litter-Robot 4 is the company’s fourth iteration of its famous box (we also liked the 3 Connect). This one comes with a much larger entry and sleeker design. Considering that it’s essentially a vessel for clumps of poop and pee, I don’t hate looking at it in my living room. There are even two little dim lights you can turn on to illuminate the opening. It was an unbearably cute feature, like a bathroom sign. (For more cute cat toilets, I suggest peeking at some of the older Litter-Robots, which looked like something out of a Star Wars cat cosplay.)
Probably the closest competitor to the Litter-Robot is Leo’s Loo Too litter box (8/10, WIRED Recommends). I also loved how it looked, and it’s becoming clearer that cat companies are starting to take home design into account. Leo’s Loo Too is equipped with safety features and connects to an app that displays the cat’s bathroom schedules and weight, and the Litter-Robot 4 has similar features.
Weight sensors detect cats, as long as they weigh at least three pounds. Laser monitors stop a cleaning cycle if a cat jumps back into the drum or even stands on the step; I put my arm into it without touching anything, and it stopped then too. With any electronics, there’s a chance of malfunction, and after a month it started cleaning multiple times a day when no cat was using it. The company told me it is aware of these “ghost cycles” and that they will be fixed via a firmware update.