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I made the switch to a smart litter box, and my cat approves

The Whisker Litter-Robot 4 automates what's typically a messy job and even manages your cat's health.
Written by Allison Murray, Staff Writer
Reviewed by Min Shin
An orange cat in a black robot litter box
Allison Murray/ZDNET

You're either a cat person or a dog person, and this writer is a cat person. My cat, Norbert, is a loud, orange boy and is the cutest thing ever. He's easy to take care of, but one thing I, and perhaps all cat owners, dread is the litter box.

It's messy, smelly, and just a downright gross chore to scoop your cat's business daily. You must be diligent about it, especially since a litter box sits inside your home. 

Also: The best robot litter boxes

When I was given the opportunity to try Whisker's Litter-Robot 4 -- a self-cleaning litter box -- I was all for it. While it's expensive ($699), it solves cat owners' daily problem of having to scoop out their cat's litter.

Norbert and I set out to try the robot litter box, and we were both impressed. I would go so far as to call this device life-changing for cat owners, and while Norbert's only response was "meow," I can tell he appreciates having clean litter daily.

Setting it up

The robot litter box comes out of the box already assembled -- just plug it in and follow the directions provided. You'll need to download the free Whisker app and connect the unit to the app via Bluetooth (it's also connected to your home's Wi-Fi).

View at Whisker

Overall, the setup was easy, but I needed clarification at some points. It took a while to learn that the device is super sensitive and will "sense" a cat, even if you're playing around with the box and figuring it out. It took some playing around with the app and the litter box's buttons, but ultimately, it took only a little bit of time.

No more scooping

The Whisker app gives you insight into when your cat is in the box, when a cleaning cycle is happening, and when a cleaning cycle is complete, as well as an entire history and your cat's average usage. I never paid much attention to how often my cat was using the litter box during the day, and I feel a lot better now knowing every time he's going and his normal range.

I can see the history tracking helping pet owners to catch things like a UTI (when your kitty starts to urinate more frequently) and spot it early before it turns into something serious.

Top of a robot litter box with buttons
Allison Murray/ZDNET

I also love the smart scale built into the Litter-Robot 4, which automatically records your cat's weight each time they use it so that you can keep track of any concerning weight gain or weight loss.

Also: The best automatic pet feeders

The device is much quieter than other robot litter boxes I have seen that my friends have, and it never scared Norbert away from its noise.

The app tells you the clean litter level and the waste level. It took about a week and a half for the waste to reach 85%, which is when I emptied it. It was super easy to take the waste liner out and switch it for a new bag, and while the Litter-Robot 4 comes with a few litter bags, you'll eventually have to purchase more on Whisker's website.

Even with the waste at almost 100%, I never once smelled his litter, which is refreshing, to say the least.

Is it worth it?

After using the Whisker Litter-Robot 4, I will never return to a regular litter box. The insight it gives me into Norbert's overall health and the daily cleaning makes it completely worth it. Just be patient with the setup process and with your cat learning a new routine. Norbert's opinion also upholds the new litter box since he was able to transition pretty seamlessly and gets to have a clean litter box every single time.

Also: This army robot dog is part of a bigger battle for brain-machine interface tech

The Whisker Litter-Robot 4 is no doubt expensive, but the company also offers the previous generation Litter-Robot 3 for a bit cheaper at $549. It's definitely an investment, but this is a type of automated technology I can get behind. 

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