Petato's smart litter box, Footloose, looks pretty impressive on paper. Not only is it self-cleaning and works with any clumping litter on the market, it connects via Wi-Fi to an app that tracks the weight plus excretion volume, frequency and duration of every cat that uses it. No wonder it blew through its Kickstarter goal within the first hour, even at its high price -- discounted to $274 and up for the Kickstarter and $500 when it ships.
The box differentiates between cats by weight; it incorporates three weight sensors and four position gauges. Claimed weight accuracy is within 3.5 oz/100 g and output to within 0.04 oz/1g, which probably isn't granular enough for young kittens but fine for bigger cats. The app tracks and analyzes the data so you can spot some of the major red flags that your cat is ill -- excessive weight gain or loss, frequent or excessive urination, lots of unproductive activity and more.
To clean itself, the inner section rotates backward, pulling the unused litter through a grate to isolate the solids, which it then drops through to a sealed compartment via gravity; the rotation blocks a cat from entering while it's cleaning. There's a deodorizing unit that uses photocatalysis and a fan.
The design seems very thoughtful, combining the best parts of hooded and open litter boxes. There's a full body opening so big cats don't feel cramped, and it's raised so that the cat in the box is above other cats in case you've got a problem with cornering bullies. You can remotely initiate cleaning, emptying and powering it off through the app, too, and scheduling sleep hours.
Off the top of my head, I still see a few potential issues with the Footloose:
- All that tech doesn't come cheap. It might possible to swallow $500 for a single box, but if you have four or more cats you'll likely need multiple boxes.
- It may not work for cats with polyuria (i.e., pee in great volume). There's no decent clumping litter that can handle the output of a cat with kidney disease, for example, unless it turns into cement.
- The 8-inch opening may not be large enough for some cats -- not just obese cats, but cats who'd barely fit but don't want to squeeze through the opening.
- At 26 inches/65cm on its long edge, it's pretty big -- giant sized, by litter box standards.
Keep in mind that a Kickstarter isn't the same thing as a shipping product, so weigh the risks before forking over your funds. Petato's last Kickstarter for the Queek sifting litter box got fully funded (just), but the company ended up canceling the project. This one's a lot more ambitious, but also unique.