Any cat owner will tell you, scooping cat litter is far from the best part of owning a feline companion. For those who truly can’t stomach the task, litter robots can be a great solution, and one brand consistently rises to the top of the self-cleaning litter box game: Whisker.
Whisker has been creating new iterations of the original Litter-Robot since 1999. That’s over 20 years of product innovation in the robot litter space. And while its Litter-Robot 3 has been the brand’s highest-rated and most popular self-cleaning litter box available for several years (we named it the best self-cleaning option in 2021), Whisker has been hard at work on its latest innovation, the Litter-Robot 4, which officially launched on May 10.
Designed with community feedback in mind, the latest Litter-Robot is all about improving on all the pain points from previous models; notably it’s less noisy, bulky and smelly. And while I’ve been skeptical of litter robots in general, the allure of a world free from scooping the litter box multiple times a day was too strong to resist. Ahead, everything to know about the Litter-Robot 4, based on a couple weeks of testing with my two cats, Lilah and Ernie.
How the Litter-Robot 4 works
For those new to the Litter-Robot world, here’s how the gadget actually works. Once your cat steps into the litter box, the gadget identifies which cat (it can track up to four different cats) has entered and how long they’re inside. After your cat has done their business and left the litter box, a timer starts, which ensures the litter has enough time to clump up. How long this timer goes for is something you can choose based on your and your cats’ preference through the accompanying app (though Whisker recommends about 7 minutes).
Once the timer is up, the litter box starts its 2 1/2-minute cleaning cycle. The globe component rotates, separating the waste from the clean litter through a patented sifting process. The clumps are deposited into a waste drawer at the base of the litter box, which is fully enclosed. The globe then rotates back into its original position, leaving a clean bed of litter. Once the waste drawer is full, you simply slide the drawer out and toss the contents in the trash.
First impressions, installation and set-up
The Litter-Robot 4 was delivered in a large box, and setup was super simple. All the parts are modular, so it was easy to put together (and is equally easy to break down for monthly deep cleaning). Once assembled, fill the globe with any clumping litter.
While Whisker recommends a high-quality, clay-based clumping litter, I opted to stick with the litter we were already using — World’s Best Multi-Cat Unscented Clumping Corn Cat Litter — so we weren’t introducing too many new variables to our cats. Whisker warns that some lightweight litter (our litter being one of them) may not pass through the screen as effectively, which fortunately wasn’t a problem we faced. The only litter that won’t work with the Litter-Robot 4 is anything strictly absorbent, non-clumping or loose-clumping. Common examples include wood pellet litter and pine-based litters.
Then comes the tricky part: getting your cats to actually use the litter box. Lilah and Ernie were instantly intrigued, sniffing the machine and cautiously putting a paw on the step up to the globe or litter compartment itself. However, it took some coaxing to get them inside. I placed treats on the step, and then held some inside the globe so the cats would step up and into the litter. My cats got the hang of it after just a day, though we were sure to keep a close eye on them in the beginning. (They seemed a little confused after the first couple of cleaning cycles, which was to be expected.) After about a week, they started to acclimate, and now, several weeks later, they ignore it completely.
Size and design
Vets typically recommend cats use litter boxes that are at least as long and as wide as they are, so I’ve always aimed to opt for the biggest litter box that makes sense for our small New York City apartment. There are two boxes in my home: one in the bedroom (which is only occasionally used) and another in the corner of our living room. Both cats use the latter nine times out of 10, so that’s the one I replaced with the Litter-Robot 4.
One of the main complaints about self-cleaning litter boxes (and the Litter-Robot 3 in particular) is how much space they take up. As someone in a smaller apartment, it was definitely one of my primary concerns as well. Fortunately, the Litter-Robot 4 fit perfectly into the space we had used for our previous traditional litter box. In our case, we also had a diaper pail (ridiculous, I know) next to the box where we would dump clumps in order to control odor and eliminate the need for constant trips down to our garbage room. So while the Litter-Robot 4 isn’t small by any means, it allowed us to consolidate our cat corner, and since the Litter-Robot’s odor-controlled waste collection drawer is built into the bottom of the machine (the purpose and design of which is similar to a diaper pail), it looked a lot sleeker sitting in the corner of our living room.
Both my cats are Devon Rexes, which are known for being small; they weigh in at about 6 pounds and 10 pounds respectively. The Litter-Robot is plenty big enough for them, and according to Whisker, there’s no weight limit to use the box (though cats must be at least 5 pounds to use it in automatic mode in order to trigger the weight sensor).
The design of the Litter-Robot 4 is undoubtedly much sleeker, minimalist and simply more attractive than earlier models from Whisker. The new look is also better for cats: The open design makes it easier for them to get in and out of the litter box, and ultimately gives them more space to go to the bathroom. And as most cat owners know, the more space you can give to your cat and the more comfortable they are, the smaller chances are of accidents.
There are also features specifically for older cats or those with mobility issues. While the Litter-Robot 4 does include an automatic night light and the optional ramp attachment for easier entry into the box, the comfort level and ease of mobility for your cat is something to consider.
Noise and odor
The latest iteration of the Litter-Robot has come a long way when it comes to noise and odor control. While I haven’t personally used the Litter-Robot 3 or any earlier versions of the self-cleaning litter box, many reviews describe a noisy machine that controls most of the odor, but not all of it. Since my cats insist on having a litter box in the living room, odor control is top priority, and the reason why we had a diaper pail and scooped our old litter box multiple times a day. Fortunately, the Litter-Robot 4 truly does control 100% of stinky smells once it cycles. And as compared to the Litter-Robot 3, the new airtight seal is paired with a larger waste drawer. When it comes to Ernie and Lilah, I’m currently emptying the waste drawer around once a week, maybe twice.
As with any litter box, you can get a whiff of your cat’s waste immediately after they go. But once the machine goes through its cycle, you won’t smell a thing. It’s another huge draw of owning a self-cleaning litter box; not only does it stop your home from smelling like cat litter, but also keeps the litter box clean for your cats. I’m particularly excited about having the Litter-Robot 4 for when we go on any short weekend trips. Typically, we would have to ask a friend or hire someone to clean Ernie and Lilah’s litter box once a day. But with the automatic cleaner, it’s just not something we have to worry about.
When it comes to noise levels, as compared to the Litter-Robot 3, the Litter-Robot 4 actually uses a new QuietSift technology, which not only reduces noise during litter sifting but also reduces airborne dust and allergens. The soft whirring of the Litter-Robot 4 is audible, but not loud enough to distract from basic activities like having a conversation or watching TV. The sound definitely caught the attention of our cats throughout the first week of testing, but they adapted to it quickly and now don’t bat an eye (or ear) when it cycles.
No, you don’t need a Wi-Fi-connected litter box, but the ability to better and more accurately and regularly monitor my cats’ litter box usage is a huge draw for me. While the full functionality of the newest app wasn’t available while I was testing out the Litter-Robot 4, there’s a whole lot I’m looking forward to.
The Litter-Robot 4 introduces a few new app features that are key to keeping even better track of your cat’s health. The SmartScale feature records your cat’s weight after every use in the Whisker app, which you can view instantly in the app. You can also view real-time litter levels to predict when you’ll have to add more litter before you get a notification. In addition, the new app includes AI that will learn more about your cat and its bathroom usage as time goes on. This will help it provide you with an overall health picture that is key to understanding abnormal bathroom usage and weight fluctuations.
A couple features that are consistent from the Litter-Robot 3 to the Litter-Robot 4 include the ability to detect cat motion in the litter box to make sure your cat is safe at all times; the ability to view daily, weekly and monthly activity to identity patterns and irregularities in your cat’s litter box usage and the ability to monitor real-time waste drawer levels.
What we loved
My partner and I were always going back and forth on whose turn it is to clean our cats’ litter boxes. With the Litter-Robot 4, it’s not something that ever comes up for us anymore. Emptying the waste drawer goes hand in hand with taking out our kitchen garbage, and we plan a deep clean once a month. It’s that simple. So as far as not having to worry about your cat’s litter, the Litter-Robot 4 will absolutely check that off your daily to-do list. Especially with two cats, we were scooping litter and using new bags two to three times a day, which isn’t just a hassle — it also creates more waste.
The airtight odor-control of the waste drawer is a game changer for those who have to put their litter box in an open space (like a living room) or just can’t stand the smell of your cat’s business and litter box in general. Because you can cycle out the waste from the litter in as little as 3 minutes after your cat uses the bathroom (or immediately if you manually start the cycle), you don’t have to deal with any smells, and your cat (or cats) always have access to a clean litter box — a huge win-win.
The Litter-Robot 4 is a dream for those who may have unpredictable schedules, or those who frequently leave their cats home for a couple days at a time; the peace of mind alone might be worth the investment. If you have a cat that’s prone to or may have a predisposition to health issues, it serves the double purpose of being a fantastic way to consistently and accurately monitor two of the biggest health indicators: weight and litter box usage. And of course, if scooping your cat’s litter box is absolutely your least favorite thing to do in the world, well then, the Litter-Robot 4 has everything you’re looking for.
Finally, I’m really looking forward to utilizing the app’s ability to measure and keep track of both Ernie and Lilah’s health and wellbeing. It’s near impossible to keep track of who is using the bathroom how many times a day with more than one cat, and the Litter-Robot 4 makes it a breeze. The daily weight checks are also a great way to keep an eye on their health, and a super important tool to help your vet determine a diagnosis should any health issues come up.
What we didn’t like
As with anything new, there’s a learning curve when it comes to getting your cat used to the Litter-Robot 4. I would suggest that for the first week to two, you keep a close eye on how your cat or cats are reacting to the litter box, and even monitor them as they use it. At one point during the first week with the Litter-Robot 4, Ernie entered the litter box mid-cleaning cycle and started peeing. Fortunately, the globe sensed this and stopped rotating. However, since there was no litter in the box and there was less space in the globe due to the positioning, his pee was directed out of the litter box onto the floor right outside of it. I was there to clean up right away and it hasn’t happened again, so I’m attributing it to getting used to a new thing, not an inability to figure out when to and when not to use the litter box. However, I’d stress keeping a close eye on your cat’s bathroom habits in the beginning for this very reason.
One pain point I initially had with the Litter-Robot 4 was that the cats would dig and kick a huge amount of litter out of the globe. Like less of a splatter and more of a pile would accumulate right outside of the box. Fortunately, the Whisker team suggested adding the fence attachment, which helped alleviate the majority of the litter kicking and tracking. And with the Litter-Robot 4 comes a new suite of accessories which enable you to fully customize the unit to your needs. One of these attachments is a mega fence, which I’ll personally be adding to my cart.
Finally, the Litter-Robot 4 is most definitely an investment at $649, and it’s not free from issues. However, I do believe that most hurdles (primarily to do with your cat’s reaction and comfort with the Litter-Robot), are ones that would or wouldn’t be resolved within Whisker’s 90-day in-home trial period. In my opinion, it’s more than enough time to figure out whether the Litter-Robot 4 will work for you, your home and, most importantly, your cats. And if it doesn’t end up being a fit, you’ll get a full refund minus shipping costs.
The bottom line
As to whether the Litter-Robot 4 is a worthwhile addition to your home, it depends on your needs, personal preferences and your cats. For the cost of $649, it’s important to consider other factors: the number of cats in your home, their ability to adjust to a new litter box and whether the additional features (like smart AI features and odor control) are worth paying a premium for. But when it comes to eliminating the task of scooping from your day to day, we can’t ask for much else. Everything Whisker says the Litter-Robot 4 can do, it does brilliantly.