Litter Robot Review – We Tried the Open Air III and…
The Litter Robot is the Tesla of litter boxes – but is it really worth it?
The Litter Robot made its market debut in 2000 as an answer to one of the only unpleasant things about sharing life with a cat – cleaning the litter box. It was designed by an engineer named Brad Baxter, who is currently the president of Automatic Pet Care Products, Inc.
Thanks to its innovative take on a self-cleaning litter box, the Litter Robot is regularly ranked as the best automatic litter box on the market.
When I got the opportunity to try the Litter Robot, I was aware of the the product’s reputation. The Litter Robot looks like a giant alien eye, costs as much as some teenagers’ first cars, and promises to spin away your cat’s waste faster than you can scoop it.
I didn’t think I needed one. The globe shape of the Litter Robot didn’t appeal to my open-box policy, and the mild discomfort of cleaning out the litter box has never felt intolerable. But that didn’t stop me from being curious. I wanted to know if this high-tech litter box could put an end to the scooping struggle for good.
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What is the Litter Robot Open Air III and how does it work?
The Litter Robot Open Air III is the latest edition of the Litter Robot, a rotating automatic litter box. It automatically detects the presence of a cat inside of the globe and then starts a cleaning cycle, allowing you to forget about cleaning the litter box yourself.
Its innovative gravity-driven sifting mechanism avoids some of the pitfalls of other self-cleaning boxes, which rely on a rake that often jams and clogs. This allows you to pair it with any clumping cat litter and get a complete clean. The Litter Robot features a unique rubber globe liner that pops out during rotation, ensuring that all waste detaches from the bottom of the globe and drops down into the waste drawer.
How does the Open Air III with Connect differ from the original Open Air III?
For an additional $50, you can upgrade to the WiFi-enabled Open Air III with Connect. The Litter Robot app allows you to monitor the waste drawer and track your cat’s litter box usage. It gives you a daily, weekly, and monthly analysis of your cat’s litter box activity.
Your cat’s waste isn’t just an annoyance to sweep away into a hidden receptacle, and the people behind the Litter Robot recognized that. Because it allows you to elegantly track your cat’s litter box activity, the Litter Robot app compensates for one of the things that’s most commonly criticized about automatic litter boxes: the inability to closely observe what your cat is doing in the litter box.
As an Android user, I was disappointed to learn that the Connect functionality is currently only available for iOS. I asked a company representative when we’d see an Android app:
“We are actively developing the Android app for the Litter-Robot Connect. We have gathered insights throughout the development process, from our internal beta, and from product feedback on the iOS app. In order to deliver the best product possible, we’ve decided to change some core product features to both the hardware and software before launching the Android app. We are working and planning to have the Android app released by November 2023 in advance of the Holiday Season.
Please note: If you have already purchased the Litter-Robot III Open Air with Connect and want to add the Android app to your existing unit, that will be available as promised when the app launches.”
Click here to receive updates about the Litter Robot with Connect for Android.
The Litter Robot Open Air III: A First-Paw Experience
Several days after shipment, the Litter Robot arrived on the porch.
If you’re like me and struggle to differentiate between left, right, and upside down, you’ll be delighted to find that the Litter Robot arrives completely assembled and ready for use. Just remember to take the ridged rubber mat out of the globe and slip it onto the 7” kitty step. The cardboard protective separators also need to come out so that you can start operating the Litter Robot.
The Litter Robot comes ready to run with a waste drawer liner installed, plus two extra liners for future use. You can purchase replacement liners from the company or use any 8-13 gallon garbage bags. Plastic grocery bags work, too.
Along with the machine, the package contained an instruction manual, informative materials, and a fun sticker.
Time to see what the feline evaluators thought of the Litter Robot.
Following the instructions in the Litter Robot guide, I placed the machine in a familiar litter box location, filled it up to the fill line with litter, and added a scoop of unclean litter to give it a familiar scent.
Wessie and Forest, our feline litter box testers, were curious about the new addition to the home, but didn’t use it for several hours. We left the Litter Robot unplugged to allow the cats to get used to it without cycling.
That evening, it became obvious that Wessie needed to go. Determined to hold back rather than go in an inappropriate location, he wandered through the house meowing. I was concerned about his health, but convinced myself that a couple of hours wouldn’t hurt him. And waited.
The sound of scratching in the night let us know that he’d finally given in. After a manual cycle, the waste was gone and the odor contained. That wasn’t the end of Wessie’s fear of the Litter Robot, though. I suspect that he disliked the rounded shape of the globe – both because it turned the normally flat litter box into an awkward bowl and because it confined him in a small space. He’s never used a covered litter box before and has never felt comfortable in cramped spaces. His housemate, Forest, however, used it without complaint. She’s a small 7-lb cat who loves snuggling under bed sheets and in other small, private areas.
After a few days, the cats were consistently using the Litter Robot.
They hopped in the box, scratched around, did their business, and hopped out. Seven minutes later, the Litter Robot did its business. Note that you can choose a 3, 7, or 15 minute interval between use and cycle. Choose a shorter interval for more efficient odor control and a longer interval if you need to give the litter a few minutes to firm up.
Each cycle takes about two and a half minutes. Here’s a video showing how the Litter Robot cycle works:
The Litter Robot isn’t loud, but it’s not noiseless. The sound is a non-disruptive hum similar to an operating bread machine. My cats weren’t disturbed by the sound, but in a quiet home, I could hear it running from one story above. If you prefer silent nights, you can turn on sleep mode – a setting that prevents the Litter Robot from cycling during an eight hour period each day.
Every night, the automatic night light activated and created a deep blue glow.
Mounted inside of the bonnet is a night light, which detects low light conditions and turns on when the room is dim. According to Litter Robot, this helps senior cats to safely climb into the globe in a dark room.
I tried the Litter Robot with three different types of cat litter.
Although the Litter Robot manual suggests using premium litter, I started out with a very fine, dense budget litter from Chewy’s house brand, Frisco. Because this fine litter was quickly saturated, it fused to the rubber globe liner. Even the inversion and rubber detachment couldn’t loosen the clods. The sticking situation wasn’t terrible, but it was disappointing.
Knowing that many other Litter Robot users had a much different experience, I switched to a biodegradable litter. Because it has a reputation for creating strong clumps, I chose a grass seed litter. And unfortunately, the results were similar to that with the budget product – one clod stuck to the rubber globe liner for hours after use. The people behind the Litter Robot recommend using World’s Best Cat Litter, so if you’re set on using a biodegradable litter, that’s a brand to try.
Things didn’t start working well until the third cat litter experiment – Tidy Cats 24/7 Performance clumping clay litter. This hard-clumping litter brought out the best in the Litter Robot, allowing every clump to smoothly detach from the rubber liner and drop into the waste drawer.
What’s the best cat litter to use with the Litter Robot?
Pair the Litter Robot with a quick-clumping, medium-grain litter. Many people have great success with Dr. Elsey’s Precious Cat Ultra clumping litter. If your cat takes a long time to warm up to the Litter Robot, try a cat attractant litter.
How often does the waste drawer fill?
In my two-cat household, the waste drawer filled and had to be changed twice a week. The company says that the waste drawer fills once weekly in a single cat household. When the drawer fills, the globe stops rotating and the blue “ready” light starts to blink.
It’s easy to remove the soiled litter from the waste drawer and install a new bag. Once you’ve replaced the bag, touch the reset button and you’re ready to go.
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What’s great about the Litter Robot?
The Litter Robot has the most intelligent design of any automatic litter box on the market.
Unlike other automatic litter boxes that cause more problems than they solve, the Litter Robot does exactly what it’s meant to do and it does that job well. The Litter Robot is an elegantly-designed litter management system.
Unlike most other automatic litter boxes, the Litter Robot has no rakes that might become laden with wet litter. And while many other automatic litter boxes require special proprietary cat litter or other parts, the Litter Robot works with any clumping cat litter and any 8-13 gallon trash bags.
It offers outstanding odor control.
You may be a diligent litter box cleaner, but do you clean the litter box every time your cat uses it? Unless you scoop the litter box three to fifteen minutes after each use, you aren’t cleaning as diligently as the Litter Robot does. Because the Litter Robot captures waste so promptly and leaves so little residue, it stops odors before they take hold. Instead of sitting in the open, the waste is locked inside of a waste drawer with an odor-capturing carbon filter.
If your cat is one of those who turns their nose up at anything other than a spotless pan of fresh litter, consider the constantly clean Litter Robot.
It’s a great fit for multiple cat homes.
The Litter Robot cycles quickly and doesn’t require any special supplies or parts. It’s perfect for multiple cat households, keeping the litter box constantly clean and ready for any cat to use. The only caveat is that it’s not the best fit for households with kittens. Because the cat sensor detects cats weighing 5 lbs or more, the Litter Robot may continue to cycle with a kitten inside of the globe. For that reason, it’s a good idea to leave the Litter Robot turned off until your kittens weigh 5 lbs or more.
The Litter Robot Open Air III Connect keeps you connected to your cat’s litter box when you’re not at home.
While automatic litter boxes get a lot of criticism for keeping you too distant from your cat’s litter box activity, the Wifi Connect feature gives you insights into your cat’s litter box activity that you otherwise wouldn’t have any access to.
The Litter Robot app allows you to track litter box uses. This gives you a concrete measure of how often your cat is entering the litter box. If the frequency suddenly goes up, something might be amiss.
Besides providing insights about your cat’s litter box activity, the app allows you to adjust your sleep mode settings, turn the automatic night light on or off, and lock the control panel to prevent changes to your settings.
It’s easy to clean.
In her Wirecutter piece “The Best Automatic Cat Litter Box (But We Don’t Recommend It)”, Kaitlyn Wells describes disassembling and cleaning the Litter Robot Open Air III as a “gargantuan task” and says that the full deep clean takes 20-30 minutes. Sounds intimidating.
After using the Litter Robot for about a week and letting a little waste build up on the inside walls, I decided to take the Litter Robot apart and see for myself if deep cleaning was as challenging as this popular review suggested.
Your definition of a gargantuan task will be different from mine, but I would use words a bit closer to “a walk in the park”.
The Litter Robot is big and sturdy, but it’s not difficult to take apart. With a push of the “empty” button, a pull of the plug, a squeeze of the bonnet, a flip of the globe key, and a lift of the lightweight globe, the Litter Robot was disassembled and ready for cleaning. I used dish soap, warm water, and paper towels to clean the Robot. After a preliminary drying with paper towels, the Litter Robot was fully air dried in a few minutes. Putting it back together was as intuitive as taking it apart.
The Litter Robot is large and a little more cumbersome than an ordinary litter bed, but a fifteen-minute cleaning once every 1-3 months is nothing compared to daily scooping and, potentially, weekly scrubbing of an ordinary box.
What’s not great about the Litter Robot?
The Globe still isn’t big enough.
Previous Litter Robot generations weren’t large enough for most cats – older Litter Robots had small globes that just didn’t satisfy the needs of full-bodied or even average-sized cats. The Open Air III was created to correct the inadequacy of previous models and meet the needs of larger cats.
The litter pan of the Litter Robot Open Air III measures 14 x 14 inches – nothing close to roomy litter boxes the likes of the Petmate Giant Litter Pan, which measures 27 x 19.5 inches.
If you subscribe to the usual recommendation of using a litter box measuring 1.5x the length of your cat and equal in width to your cat’s length, the Litter Robot globe is clearly inadequate, especially for large cats.
According to the company, this model is well-sized for cats between 5 and 20 lbs, but your cat’s individual preferences could prove this estimation wrong.
While the interior of the Litter Robot is relatively cramped, it’s by no means a low-profile appliance.
The Litter Robot is a big, bulky installment measuring 30 x 25 x 27 inches and weighing 24 lbs. It might be difficult to find room for it in smaller bathrooms and other cramped spaces.
I know some people don’t like an obvious litter box – regardless of how much it looks like a cement mixer from outer space. Personally, I think it looks fantastic and that it makes a great conversation piece. It brightens my day to walk past the space-age cat litter globe with its softly glowing lights. The glowing blue night light makes it even more fun in the dark.
It’s difficult to pour litter into the globe.
Unless you choose small, lightweight litter containers, pouring litter into the globe will be a challenge. Because the opening is almost at a 90 degree angle to the floor, it’s a struggle to pour from a 35-lb litter pail.
The company’s own cat litter is packaged in perfectly-sized bags that are easy to pour and fit into the Litter Robot entrance. Larger pails will be cumbersome and pouring from them could result in litter spilled on the step and floor.
It requires electricity.
First, you’ll need to connect it to a power outlet, which limits your location options and may sometimes necessitate the use of an extension cord. Secondly, if there’s a power outage, the Litter Robot won’t cycle. If you’re worried about a power outage taking away the self-cleaning ability of the Litter Robot, you can install an optional backup battery for 24-48 hours of reserve power.
How much does the Litter Robot cost?
The Litter Robot Open Air III costs $449 on the Litter Robot site. If you don’t want to pay the full cost upfront, check if you qualify for financing through Affirm. You could pay as little as $40 per month.
Because the Litter Robot is theoretically a more efficient scooper than you are, it could save you money on cat litter. Switching to the Litter Robot could save you as much as 50% on annual litter costs. If you’re like the average American and spend $200 a year on cat litter, the Litter Robot would pay for itself after five years in litter savings alone.
The Litter Robot does incur a few costs of its own. You’ll want to change the waste drawer’s carbon filter once every six months. A three-filter pack costs $18.99.
And how much do you value your time? The Litter Robot is an efficient machine that, unlike many other automatic litter boxes, seldom malfunctions and does its job well. So instead of causing headaches, the Litter Robot saves you time – your most precious possession.
The Litter Robot comes with a 90 day money-back guarantee and an 18 month warranty. For an additional $50, you can extend the warranty by another 18 months.
Who should buy the Litter Robot?
Extremely busy people.
People who are away from home on a regular basis will appreciate that you can leave the litter box for up to a week, and instead of filling up with waste, the Robot will stay clean.
Cat sitters aren’t always available or practical for trips lasting one to two days. Even if you do hire a cat sitter, they don’t always keep the litter box clean to your standards. The Litter Robot can pick up the slack while you’re away. If you find yourself feeling guilty for letting waste build up in the litter box during trips or hectic periods, the Litter Robot can give you peace of mind.
People with mobility issues or disabilities.
I’ve heard from many people who find it difficult to clean out their cat’s litter box because they’re in a wheelchair, have back problems, or other mobility issues. Once the Litter Robot is set up, it does all the scooping for you. That said, the Litter Robot isn’t a complete solution for people with limited mobility. You’ll still need to thoroughly clean it at least once every three months.
People who are grieving, depressed, or just overwhelmed.
By no means should the Litter Robot be considered a substitute for caring for your cat, but it can make caring for your cat easier when you’re struggling to take care of yourself. Some people say that they’d find it easier to justify the cost of the Litter Robot as a gift – it might be perfect for someone in your life who’s having a hard time keeping up with household chores.
While the Litter Robot doesn’t spell the absolute end of your contact with cat feces, it eliminates daily cleaning and reduces your litter box exposure to an absolute minimum. If you’re pregnant, the Litter Robot spares you from the need to enlist a new litter box cleaner. Aside from weekly waste drawer cleanouts, the Litter Robot eliminates the need to clean the litter box.
That said, you should still have someone else take out the waste bag to avoid Toxoplasma Gondii transmission.
People who hate dealing with the cat litter box.
Although the Litter Robot isn’t completely hands-off – you will need to clean it every month or so as waste smears on the interior surfaces – it takes care of the scooping that would otherwise eat up five minutes of every single day.
Over the course of your cat’s life, that could add up to 400 hours or more. That’s time you could spend with your family. Meditating. Oil painting. Learning a second or third language. Writing in your journal. Playing with your cat.
Where can you buy the Litter Robot?
You can purchase the Litter Robot Open Air III through the Litter Robot website. Reconditioned models are also available at a reduced cost. The Litter Robot store includes the accessories and replacement parts that you might need during the life of your new self-cleaning litter box.
Thank you for the great detailed review. Very helpful.