Product Review: Litter Robot

Posted by Steve on Tue, 04/06/2010 - 8:18pm

I never thought I'd be doing a product review for an electronic cat litter pan.   A table saw or compressor, yes.  Well, until I get back into construction mode at BRH, I've got to fill the blog with something.

Seriously though, regulars to this blog know that I don't accept direct advertising and that I generally steer clear of product reviews.  I usually spotlight a product only when it really pleases me (like the Magic Trowel and Glasseye 2000) or it pissed me off (the ISY99-i Insteon controller, cheap CFL bulbs and stay tuned for an upcoming mega-smackdown on Mannington engineered flooring!)

You've probably seen late night TV ads for self-cleaning cat litter pans and assumed that there had to be major issues with them.  I did.  After all, how many people do you know who actually own one?   I never took them seriously until the Great Owls Head Cat TNR Roundup last summer.  Afterward, the feline population at Brooklyn Row House suddenly increased to four healthy, adult cats and the occasional drudgery of litter pan cleaning became a hateful morning ritual.   Anything that could reduce that aggravation has my permission to call itself a "tool".

Litter RobotI began reading online reviews for the various automatic litter pan cleaners and, yup, the opinions were all over the map -- complaints about everything from early breakdowns and the company not returning calls to cats being absolutely terrified by these machines.

But one brand, Litter Robot, seemed to have consistently good reviews.  Of course, it was also the most expensive and the least low-profile unit of the lot.  But I couldn't find one scathing criticism against it so I decided that Litter Robot was the product I would try.  Just as soon as $330 fell from the ceiling.   Because, come on, who wants to invest that kind of money in a toilet they can't even use themselves?

What pushed me into prying my credit card out of my wallet was -- warning: if you're eating, stop reading now  -- that one of the rescue kitties was never taught by his mama how to bury his poop.  It's amazing how a 12 pound cat can turn an entire floor of my house into a hazmat site in about thirty seconds.  Even the fragrant oils I burn in the kitchen are no match for these litter pan WMDs.  I needed an automatic bomb disposal unit. (It sort of looks like one, doesn't it?)

I bought the "green" model, which is actually gray.  The copy said it, "utilizes 100% recycled plastics in 84% of the total plastic volume", which seems to be a verbose way of saying that 84% of the plastic is recycled.   I liked it because I thought gray would lower its profile a little.

The box arrived a few days later.  Unpacking and assembling it was a no-brainer.   The manual explains it all well enough.  My first impression was that it looked larger than it did in the photos, which was actually somewhat of a relief because I wasn't sure my large tom cats would fit inside that ball.  But it's also about the size of an end table so it's not something that will disappear in a small room.  The web site has some optional wood cabinets you can purchase to hide the device.  But of course that makes it even bigger.

I replaced the most popular litter pan on the first floor with the Litter Robot.  The cats were thoroughly unimpressed by it.  Forty eight hours later, I saw no evidence that a cat had even put a paw into the thing.  The manual suggests  pouring a cup of soiled litter into the Litter Robot so the cats will have a familiar smell.  So I did.  The next evening I heard a muted motor sound and saw the globe slowly rotating.    When it stopped I checked the waste drawer.  Yes!  At least one of the cats was getting with the program.

It's been a week and it looks as though all the cats have accepted it.   As an emergency backup, I kept a regular litter pan in the kitchen extension.  Based on its decreasing use it appears that the cats prefer the Litter Robot now.   For three hundred bucks, they'd better.

Design-wise, the Litter Robot is pretty ingenious.   When something about the weight of a small cat puts its weight on the outside step to enter the globe, it starts a seven minute timer.  When the timer counts down to zero the globe slowly rotates counter-clockwise.   The litter gets dumped through a mesh screen and into a temporary holding area, effectively separating it from the poo.   The globe continues turning.   When it reaches about 270 degrees, two doors pop open and dump the waste into the drawer underneath, which is lined with a kitchen-sized garbage bag.  Then the globe reverses direction, the doors close, the clean litter is returned to the globe and the machine resets.

Cleaning is also a snap.  Just pull out the drawer, remove the plastic bag, install a new one, close the drawer, you're done.   It takes about 30 seconds every five days. 

Is it worth it?  I'm looking for budget cuts so I can afford to buy two more.


what an odd machine didn't even know these existed, my cat does and doesn't bury his 'mess' but we usually get rid of it before it stinks the house out which isn't the most pleasant task but hey its gotta be done. This machine would get rid of that task and make things alot easier but not sure i can part with that amount of money

Posted by Anonymous (not verified) on

We got a replacement machine after 5 years of constant use it started to stink. So we opted for a reconditioned" machine. It has been here two weeks and every day it dumps litter all over the place or gets stuck in the " all theree lights flashing, can't find home" mode. Anyone know how to fix this? We cant get anyone to answer the phone at Lit Rob. Thanks, Spike's litter box

Posted by Steve on

There's an optional extended lip you can add to it, but I've got one and it won't stay attached.  One of my cats is a pretty aggressive kicker so I don't know how well it would work in any case.   I just keep the vacuum close by.

As for the smell, every six months I take the ball and drawer outside and wash them down with Simple Green, bleach and an old toilet brush.  I do the same with the regular litter pans.  That seems to have fixed that problem.

Posted by Anonymous (not verified) on

I'm having the same issue, try emailing them, they have been very helpful and have sent me 3 replacements but all have one the same thing. Still trying to figure out what's causing it.