An Honest Review of the Litter-Robot 3 After Long-Term Use

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I love cats. The internet loves cats. But what we don’t love is their poop. It smells worse than most animal poop, including human — and I used to work in veterinary medicine so I’ve smelled a lot of poop. Sometimes the cats don’t bury their waste, most of the time they make a huge mess, and dealing with the litter box is generally no one’s favorite task.

Smart people have invented many iterations of automated litter cleaning devices because we cat owners are suckers and will pretty much buy anything for our furry feline masters — and to avoid having to deal with their messes.

I’m no exception, so when a friend of mine told me the Litter-Robot changed her life, I basically had to have one. Although Litter-Robot offers a 90-day guarantee (because cats), I still didn’t want to drop $500 for cat poop cleaner in case I kept it. So I diligently checked for a reconditioned Litter-Robot in the shop for a discounted machine (I can’t seem to find this section anymore) and jumped on it when one was listed.

Here’s my honest experience and thorough review of the Litter-Robot 3 Connect (LR3) after over 2.5 years in a multi-cat household. 

Click a link below if you want to jump to a specific section.

About my cats

Our cats are the deciders around here. They were the ones who would decide if we kept the LR3 or not. Since their temperaments have a lot to do with how well they were able to acclimate to the Litter-Robot, I’ll tell you a little about them before talking about the Litter-Robot.

We’re fortunate that our cats are super agreeable about changes to the food, litter, environment, etc. Tobi only flipped out once when we changed the litter (see below), but the rest of the time, they are totally fine with whatever. Tobi is scared of everything, so we were especially worried that he wouldn’t use the robot.

Selina is a spayed 12-year-old female and weighs about 19 pounds. She’s built like a tank and cautiously curious.

Iroh is a neutered 12-year-old male and weighs about 13 pounds. He’s not afraid of anything and has mild asthma. Most of the time, he’s fine, but he occasionally gets a little cough and sometimes needs meds in the spring or summer.

Tobi is a neutered 10-year-old male and weighs less than 8 pounds. He’s afraid of his own shadow and needs daily medication for his chronic upper respiratory infection (URI). Before purchasing the LR3, I was most worried about Tobi being too afraid of a machine that moves and makes noise.

Summary of Litter-Robot 3

The Litter-Robot 3 has been part of our household since September 2018, so about 2.5 years as of this post. Here’s a summary of my experience with it.

Pros

  • (Mostly) works
  • Big enough for 19-pound Selina
  • Easy to empty
  • Lightweight
  • Generous return policy
  • Solid warranty

Cons

  • Generates more dust than normal litter boxes
  • Weight sensor doesn’t always trigger with 8-pound Tobi
  • Litter sticks to the rubber bottom
  • Not great with natural litters
  • Garbage bags don’t work well
  • Limited sleep mode
  • Status light is super bright
  • Loud for a bedroom or office (any room you spend a lot of time in)

Once we got the cats acclimated, the LR3 did its job mostly well enough. YMMV, but here are the most annoying things I found about the LR3.

Size matters

Make sure you check the measurements because it was bigger than I thought, and that meant it didn’t fit where we originally planned to put it. We didn’t have other space for it except in the shower of our second bathroom. Putting the LR3 in there essentially rendered it useless as a human bathroom because of the mess and smell, but it was the only place it would fit.

Not only do you need enough space for the robot, but you also need enough space in front of the machine to pull the drawer out to empty it. It’s not heavy, so if you need to push it around a little, you can, but it’s a bit of a pain.

Light sleepers be warned

It’s not loud like a blender or vacuum, but if this is in your room and if you’re a light-ish sleeper, it will wake you up when it cycles. We had it in our room almost the entire time we had it, and the sound woke me up every time. In other words, I never got used to it. The sleep mode is limited to 8-hour blocks (as of this writing) and it automatically runs right at the end of that 8 hours, so if you normally wake up later, it’ll wake you up. Or if you go to sleep earlier than the timer, it might wake you up at night.

When we moved it to the office for a few months, it was loud enough that I didn’t want it cycling when I was in a video conference.

An unwelcome light show

The status light that shows you when it’s on, full, cycling, etc. is super bright with no way to turn it off. This was a problem for us because it was in our bedroom. We couldn’t close the door because obviously they need access to the litter box at night. We had to put gaffer tape over the light, but that wasn’t a great solution since the blinking light is how you know when it’s time to clean out the drawer.

Finicky weight sensor

We found that the weight sensor was finicky. Full disclosure: This could be our fault because we used all sorts of litters in the LR3 (support told us light litters confuse the sensor). The sensor is supposed to trigger on anything over about 5 pounds, but on several occasions, the LR3 started cycling while Tobi was still inside. Thankfully and surprisingly, that didn’t deter him from using it, but for some cats, this would be a deal breaker — and potentially dangerous for a kitten or maybe even an older cat.

How did I get my cats to use the Litter-Robot?

I was so excited to get the LR3 set up that I forgot about Litter-Robot’s advice to leave the machine unplugged for a while. Iroh and Tobi waltzed in and used it immediately, but then it started a cleaning cycle a few minutes later and that scared them away until I got a involved with getting them used to it.

Selina wouldn’t touch it, though. She would often stare at it. She would even approach it cautiously, but she wouldn’t go inside. Here’s what I needed to get everyone comfortable with using the Litter-Robot again.

Use high-value treats

What’s a treat that your cat will come running for? If your cat is motivated by play, that also works. For our cats, they love these dried bonito flakes, which I highly recommend in general and for acclimating your cat to the Litter-Robot. They are much more economical than the bags from the pet store, and these are actually for humans, so it’s high quality — I also make dashi with it sometimes.

If they don’t like the fish flakes (or if you don’t like how pungent they are), I also used these freeze-dried shrimp cat treats (though they are also kinda smelly). Tobi goes crazy over these, and Iroh likes them too. The important thing about choosing the right treats for this is that the cats have to jump-out-of-bed love whatever you’re offering.

I made sure the litter was clean, then I put a plate of these dried fish flakes or shrimp close to the LR3. As they got more comfortable, I moved the plate closer and closer until it was actually inside the globe of the LR3. They love these treats so much that it was worth going in the robot to get them.

Fortunately, after only 3 days consistently getting of high-value treats near and inside the LR3, Iroh and Tobi used it again. And only 4 days after that, they were using it regularly without prompting. If this didn’t work, I would have tried the laser pointer with Tobi since that’s his favorite toy.

Consider the stairs accessory

Photo by Litter-Robot

Selina was another story. Even the treats weren’t enough to lure her in, and she’s not much for play, so I had to figure out something else.

Even though I really didn’t want to buy another expensive accessory for this already-expensive machine, I had a hunch that my girl would be much more comfortable with the Litter-Robot stairs — and I was right.

She still needed some time, but about a week after I added the stairs, I saw her using the Litter-Robot on her own without the treats or any prompting. About 2 years later, we decided to relocate the LR3 in our home and decided to remove the stairs; she used it fine without them. 

Be patient

I consider myself lucky that all of our cats only need about a month to acclimate to the Litter-Robot 3. That generous 90-day guarantee was a real selling point because otherwise I would have been really anxious the entire time. Still, the process required a lot of patience offering treats every day and trying different things for Selina.

What litter is best for the Litter-Robot 3?

I’ve always opted for non-clay clumping litters because Iroh likes to eat clothes and had surgery to remove a blockage from this habit. Once the boys developed (or we discovered) respiratory issues, I had even more reason to avoid clay since I’ve read that clay litter dust might be aggravating to their lungs.

Finding a non-clay litter that had adequate odor control and good clumping was always an issue, especially since non-clay litters aren’t great for the Litter-Robot. The inside of the globe was always coated in a layer of dust. Here were our requirements:

  • Low or no dust
  • No wheat (Iroh is allergic to wheat)
  • No clay
  • Clumping

We have tried pretty much every type of natural litter out there that doesn’t have wheat.

The only litter that didn’t have that layer of dust inside the LR3 was So Phresh Grass Seed Litter, which I don’t actually recommend. Although it had no smell and was truly dust free as they claim, it didn’t clump well, had poor odor control, and it was so light that it got buried in their fur all over their bodies, not just their paws.

So basically, an honest answer to this question is I don’t know. I never found a natural litter that worked well in the LR3, but that’s because our cats have specific needs.

I do like World’s Best Cat Litter for Multiple Cats in general because it’s a good litter, didn’t seem to mess with the weight sensor, and what I’d use with the LR3 if the boys didn’t have the respiratory issues. It’s what we used before we got the Litter-Robot and — spoilers — after we stopped using it.

It’s a great clumping litter that’s clay-free and wheat-free. It isn’t scented, but it does have a smell to it. I don’t find it offensive, and I’m pretty sensitive to smells, but YMMV.

An important thing to consider is that soiled walnut-based litter in the drawer of the robot would sometimes grow mold. So if you’re using natural litter in your Litter-Robot, emptying the drawer often is really important if you or someone in your household has any sensitivities. We generally emptied ours once every 3–4 days and that was enough time for the mold to grow.

How long does the Litter-Robot last?

We had our Litter-Robot for 2.5 years. It worked mostly fine, but it was not without its issues.

I had to contact Litter-Robot several times, and each time, customer service was super helpful. I even had to file a warranty claim when the rubber bottom of the globe needed to be replaced. They sent one to me for free without any fuss. It was a beast to replace because we had to take the entire thing apart, but it was a good opportunity to deep clean the machine.

Here’s what happened with the Litter-Robot 3 after about 2 years:

It stopped cycling properly

It stopped sensing when a cat had been inside the box, which means it didn’t cycle when it was supposed to. Again, we were told that the weight sensor gets confused with light litter, but we tried the troubleshooting steps and they didn’t solve the issue.

The light was always flashing

For some reason, the LR3 always indicated with a flashing light that the drawer was full, even if we just emptied it. When the Litter-Robot’s sensor indicates that the drawer is full, it will halt cycling until it’s reset so the drawer doesn’t get overfull. This makes sense, except when you’ve just emptied the drawer and the robot still thinks it’s full. We followed the troubleshooting steps on the Litter-Robot website, but that didn’t fix the issue. By the time this started happening, we had decided to stop using it because of Tobi, otherwise I would have contacted customer service.

The rubber bottom was torn up

Tobi loves to dig in the litter box. It probably doesn’t help his respiratory issue, but that’s what he loves to do. After he’s done, he likes to scrape the outside of the litter box or LR3 for a while in an attempt to bury the traces of his business. Iroh does this a little, but Tobi is definitely the worst of the three when it comes to tearing up the LR3’s rubber bottom.

I don’t care about aesthetics, but the cats’ claws create tiny tears in the rubber bottom, which means clumped litter would stick to the bottom. That made cleaning more difficult for me and for the automated cycling.

Do you have to clean the Litter-Robot?

Yes, you have to empty the drawer and it has to be scrubbed once in a while. Like I said, we emptied it every 4 days, though sometimes we would go a little longer. That issue with the rubber bottom I mentioned in the section above comes in to play with the cleaning. Whenever I emptied the drawer, I would first open the drawer, shake it a little to level it off, then reset the robot and cycle it to get all the remaining waste. I noticed that clumps of urine would adhere to the bottom, so we’d have to scrape those off. If we didn’t scrape them off, they wouldn’t get removed with the rest of the drawer and would just make the LR3 smell. I don’t remember this being an issue when the rubber bottom was new, though it could have been an issue with the litter too.

Annoyingly, the Litter-Robot has quite a few cracks and holes where litter falls into that you have to then clean out. If it’s not cleaned, it gets a little smelly. I don’t know if the company has a recommend amount of time to go between deep cleans, but I did a deep clean every time we switched litter brands. We also deep cleaned when we needed to do troubleshooting with the sensors and when we replaced the rubber bottom.

Is the Litter-Robot worth it?

Whether or not it’s worth it for you depends on how much you want to avoid cleaning the litter box and if you have $400+ lying around. Plus, you still have to clean the litter box, just less often. Doing a deep-clean of the Litter-Robot is no picnic, either.

The main reason we stopped using the Litter-Robot was Tobi’s chronic URI. A few months ago, the vet told us that we have to give up hope that he will ever be cleared of the congestion. She said his internal mechanisms for protecting against infection are gone, that he’ll always be congested, and that we have to make him comfortable instead of treating him with the intention of curing him.

This was a bummer, but at least it’s a manageable condition and he didn’t need surgery. After this conversation with the vet, I started thinking of ways to make him more comfortable and noticed that each visit to the Litter-Robot caused coughing or sneezing fits. After trying at least 4 different new litters to find one that generated less dust, I realized that the litter didn’t seem to make a difference; they were all super dusty inside the Litter-Robot. We have a second litter box in the living room that’s a normal one, and he never seemed to sneeze as much when he went in there.

So I decided to do an experiment to see if the Litter-Robot constantly stirring up the litter was the problem. We didn’t medicate him for a little while, took away the LR3, and replaced it with a normal litter box. Of course that didn’t cure him, but he did a lot better after switching to the regular box.

Since the Litter-Robot was having the problems I mentioned above and Tobi’s symptoms improved after removing the LR3, we decided to discontinue using the Litter-Robot.

Photo by Litter-Robot

If Tobi didn’t have his chronic URI that was agitated by the LR3 stirring up dust all the time, I would have opted to keep the Litter-Robot 3 or send it in for repairs.

Even though it’s not perfect, it worked well enough and for long enough that, to us, it was worth the refurbished price to make our cat-loving lives a little easier. If you’re interested in buying a Litter-Robot for yourself, click the button below to get $25 off your purchase.

Teena Merlan