I tried different "automated" litter boxes which self-clean so I don't have to scoop. Not that I mind doing it, but Jenny is very particular about having a clean litter box in which to do her business. If the litter box is dirty, the poor thing will hold it as long as she can... wandering from box to box hoping to find a clean one... then go on the floor when she finally can't hold it any more. I really don't want my sweet girl go through that, so I pay the massive cost for the only automated boxes I trust to do the job... Litter-Robot.
I started with the Litter-Robot 3. It was great. But I started having random "BONNET REMOVED" errors soon after purchase, which would render the unit nonfunctional. I followed all the advice that Litter-Robot Customer Service gave me, but nothing solved it. This was so worrying to me due to my constant travels that I ended up buying a second just in case the "BONNET REMOVED" error happened while I was gone. This error itself is inexplicably stupid. Who wouldn't put the bonnet back on after taking it off? It's huge. It's not like you'd forget or not notice. But despite tons of people having this problem, there was never a permanent fix offered... and nobody ever offered up any hacks to solder a jumper or disable the faulty sensor, so it kept happening.
Enter Litter-Robot 4.
I waited for reviews before I even considered spending SEVEN HUNDRED DOLLARS buying one. When the reviews came and nobody mentioned any BONNET REMOVED errors, I wrote the Litter-Robot Customer Service and specifically asked if the problem had been solved. About all they would commit to saying was "We've improved the product in many ways." Hardly the assurance I was looking for.
Worried that the cats may resist the new machines, I started by replacing only one of them so they would have a choice. Jenny noticed something had changed immediately...
Jake took a bit longer before he realized it...
In any event, there was no adjustment period. I transferred the litter from the old Litter-Robot to the new so that the smell would reassure them what it's for. But I don't think it was necessary, as they both took to it immediately and the Litter-Robot 3 was forgotten.
After a week of use, here's the positives...
- Litter-Robot 4 is much more attractive than the previous versions. The old one was kinda industrial and sad. The new one is sleek and beautiful. Plus... instead of the sickly tan/grey color, you can choose either white or black. I went with white since it will show litter dust less and be easier to spot when it's dirty and needs to be wiped down.
- The opening is larger. Jenny, in particular, seems to like this better even though she's a smaller cat than Jake by a third.
- The latest version is incredibly quiet. I can barely hear it, even when I'm in the same room. Instead of having both units side-by-side in my living room, I've got the second unit in my office next to my bedroom. Haven't been woken up by it yet (and you can program quiet hours if it still bothers you, which I doubt).
- There's a new feature which measures the level of kitty litter in the unit and alerts you when it's getting low. This is very cool and much appreciated. Furthermore, it seems to be fairly accurate in letting you know when it's time to add more.
- The waste drawer is smaller, but deeper, and it is filled up from the middle instead of always piling up in the side of the drawer. Since the waste level is measured by the same laser which measures the kitty litter level, it's far more accurate than the old photo sensor (but still not perfect).
- The nightlight is much nicer for the cats, making it easier for them to see inside and less wary about entering when it's nighttime.
- The odor control is even better than before, having the filter above the drawer instead of in front, which is far more logical. You also have the option of using odor-trapping pods instead of filters which is even better. I don't smell anything after the air clears once the unit cycles... even after one of Jake's infamous toxic dumps.
- I've already had some firmware updates, which means that they are still fine-tuning to make the product work better. That's nice.
- Despite the problems you're about to read below, it's still the best automated litter box I have ever used (and I had four before I found Litter-Robot).
Here's the negatives (photos to follow)...
- The interior of the globe is smaller by about an inch in both directions. My cats can still use it, but Jake is noticeably less comfortable, and spends a lot more time than he used to trying to scratch over his waste because he has less space to operate.
- If a cat steps on the step to look inside without entering, the unit will think that a cat has entered and trigger a cycle. Hell, if you fart in the general direction of the unit, it will think that a cat has entered and cycle the unit. This is frustrating because it results in unnecessary cycles. You'd think that you could set a threshold so that anything under a certain weight is ignored because it's clearly not your cat.
- The little fence that snaps on the front to keep the kitty litter inside is included now (it used to cost $25), but it doesn't stay on. Jake snaps it off every time he uses the box. The old one never came off. This could be because he has less room to scratch and is pawing at it, but it's a pretty serious design flaw.
- The units goes offline at random and are brain-dead about trying to reconnect to WiFi once they go back online. When I am away from home I want to keep track of what's going on with the Litter-Robots, so I've had to install smart plugs so I can remotely cut the power then restore the power so they will go online again. Until next time.
- When the unit goes offline, you lose the history from that time.
- The bonnet... which has always been problematic... has a new problem. It doesn't fit well and doesn't stay closed. The little tab on the top snaps into the slot as it's supposed to (but pops back out any time a cat uses the units and it cycles.
- Apparently the units will eventually be able to track which cat is using the Litter-Robot based on their weight. This is a feature which is "coming soon." The problem is that sometimes the weight doesn't get recorded. Pair this with the whole "offline" nonsense, and I actually have less of an idea as to what's going on with my cats' potty habits than I did with my Litter-Robot 3 boxes. Hopefully the update will disregard false positives... or at least allow you to flag them so you can train the system how to recognize your cats.
- Litter can still be tracked out of the box fairly easily. Furthermore, since the globe is smaller and the fence won't stay on, litter gets tossed out of the box more than with the old one.
- There's no stairs you can buy to accommodate older cats or cats who are uncomfortable with jumping/climbing in and out. The stairs I got for my Litter-Robot 3's were ugly and klutzy, but they worked. Maybe if the step on the drawer protruded a little more it wouldn't be necessary. I may have to build some kind steps myself, which might be tricky because I don't want to interfere with the operation or weight sensor.
This is a screen capture showing how one of them is offline. They were actually both offline until I power-cycled the first one...
As you can see, the unit went offline sometime after 11:11am, and I've lost all data from then until I cycled the power at 7:10pm. I have no idea why it's saying a cat was detected at 7:12, because neither of my cats are even in the room. I can only guess that I farted in its general direction, and that was enough to make it think a cat is taking a dump...
This is the tab of the bonnet which will not stay locked into the slot. I keep putting it back in only to have it pop out the next time the unit cycles. Incredibly frustrating...
The bonnet itself is ill-fitting all the way around, with gaps and seams that don't match up...
But, to be honest, I can handle the bonnet being poorly constructed... just so long as I don't get those idiotic "BONNET REMOVED" errors that plagued me for years with my previous units. It seems inconceivable that something costing $700 is so poorly constructed, and I can only hope that it stays operational despite it all.
And that's that. A lot of plusses. Some hefty minuses. But an overall good product that I can't imagine being without.
Pretty sure my cats can't imagine it either.