Hey! This is PART THREE of THREE PARTS updating everybody about my cats.
While I love Jake and Jenny and wouldn't trade them for the world, there's one small problem that becomes a big problem when it comes to them allowing me to have them live with me. And that would be when I'm not at home. Travel is something I cannot avoid, which means there are stretches of time that food won't be put out and litter boxes won't be cleaned.
The easiest solution is to have a friend or neighbor drop by twice a day to take care of things. But it's kind of a burdensome thing to have to ask somebody. And so I went looking for automated solutions that would cover me for short trips away. Longer trips would still require a cat-sitter, but those are far and few between.
IMPORTANT UPDATE! AS OF OCTOBER 1, 2018, FEED-AND-GO HAS CEASED OPERATIONS. THEIR CLOUD SERVICES HAVE BEEN SHUT OFF. THESE FEEDERS NO LONGER WORK! Bad enough that the company had to close AND shut down their servers, rendering the feeders useless. But it's reprehensible that they didn't bother to notify their customers... or keep their website up with a message to warn their customers... or push out an app update which warns their customers. Because otherwise there is NO WAY TO KNOW that the cloud service has been shuttered. The blue network light on the units still glows blue! Luckily I test the units every time I haul them out, otherwise my cats wouldn't have been fed FOR THREE DAYS. What a bunch of pig-fuckers. They are perfectly content to let YOUR PET STARVE rather than warn you their product no longer works. I can only hope that some genius electronics expert out there will come up with a circuit board replacement that will allow the feeder to be programmed directly, instead of relying on a cloud service that's been shut down.
The first thing I looked at was an automated feeder.
There are "gravity feeders" that are basically a never-ending buffet of food that keeps replenishing itself until it runs out of kibble. This would be problematic for Jake, because he would eat and eat and eat all day long. They also have gravity feeders that are portion-controlled and timer-driven... but when I bought one for Spanky at my old place, it would clog up and a neighbor had to keep checking on it. I wanted something that wouldn't jam and also allow me to verify that the feeding took place.
Enter the Feed-and-Go automated, web-enabled pet feeder...
I bought two. They work flawlessly. There are six compartments that rotate through the feeding window. That means you have five days (in addition the day you leave) to be gone with once-a-day feedings. If I'm gone for three days or less, I put half-portions in the cavities and set it up for twice-a-day feedings so there's some variety. I had concerns as to what happens if the internet goes down... but each feeder stores a schedule locally, so it's all good. Pricey as hell... but good.
FEED-AND-GO SMART PET FEEDER: $199 from Amazon.
But what about the litter box?
I did a lot... and I mean a lot... of research. But every time I read the reviews on those litter trays that essentially drag a rake through the kitty litter to clean the box, there were always horror stories. Rakes getting jammed. Rakes getting clogged with poop. Rakes bending out of shape if two clumps of pee were fused together or if a clump fused to the bottom of the tray. They just didn't seem very reliable.
And then I came across the Litter Robot...
This thing is frickin' magic.
Because it uses gravity to do its dirty work, there's no rake to clog or break. The bottom floor of the unit is a flexible rubber sheet that pops out of place as the dome rotates, so even if a clump gets fused to the bottom, it's still getting cleaned out. I had some problems with the weight sensor at first... but after dumping the litter and re-calibrating, Litter Robot has been operating flawlessly ever since.
And my cats love the thing. They took to it immediately. All I had to do was put the Litter Robot in the same spot where the old litter tray was located, and boom goes the dynamite. Which was a pleasant surprise, because they are generally fearful of entering a space where they can't see a way out. I was more than a little worried that they would be too afraid to jump in. But, hooray, that was not the case. I have two other litter boxes in the house. I took one out, but left the the one upstairs so there's a box on each floor. They hardly ever use it, preferring to go downstairs so they can use the Litter Robot instead. I guess they like the privacy of the dome... and the fact that the box is always clean and ready to go.
The best part? Even with two cats, it only needs to be cleaned every five to six days. In other words, its schedule is the same as my Feed-and-Go pet feeder! Changing out the bag is easy, and I always dump in a Red Solo Cup of fresh kitty litter to replace the litter that was clumped and removed. So far, the litter inside looks like its staying clean. But, for sanitary reasons, I'll probably replace it anyway every two to three months.
The not so best part? Magic comes at a price.
I bought the larger "Open Air" model to accommodate my cats' claustrophobia. It's also the most expensive model (which I recommend it because I think it's how a cat would be most comfortable). So prepare to chop off an arm and a leg. But... damn... I could never... and I mean never go back to scooping out a litter box again. This product is just too perfect. I recommend buying direct from the manufacturer because you get free shipping and a 90-day money-back guarantee.
LITTER ROBOT OPEN AIR: $449 from Auto-Pets.
After I ended up being so thrilled with the Litter Robot, I ordered a few accessories. First was the Litter Robot Ramp, which will make it easier for the cats to reach the box when they're older ($50 from Auto-Pets)... next was the Litter Robot Fence, which helps keep the kitty litter in the box (and should come with the unit instead of being an add-on ($25 from Auto-Pets). And, of course, you'll need replacement drawer-liner bags ($50 per 100 bags from Auto-Pets). You can use any clumping litter in the Litter Robot, and I top off with Arm & Hammer brand litter because it's always on sale at Safeway. But I ended up buying the "official" Litter Robot litter too, as it comes pre-measured to perfectly fill the tray when starting out or when replacing old litter. Pricey, but very convenient ($46 for two, 10-lb. bags from Auto-Pets).
And there you have it. An automated solution that can cover my being gone for up to five days! It ran me around $1000 for both Feed-and-Go feeders, the Litter Robot, and Litter Robot accessories... but that's a small price to pay for the peace of mind I get when having to leave my Jake and Jenny at home alone. Luckily I already had security cameras installed so I can check in on them as well.
And did I mention that the Litter Robot is frickin' magic?