Hi everyone, and thanks for the invite!
Let me try and answer everyone's questions with this post.
The litter box works best with clumping clay litter, but crystals work fine too. Naturally, the problem with crystals is the "saturation problem" requiring that you dump the whole box and rinse/wipe out the inside (which is not pleasant). What's good about clumping clay litter is that you just empty the waste receptacle when it's full, and occasionally add more litter. It's also a lot less expensive, and ultimately more convenient. If you're a fan of crystal litter, what I can say is that the tumbling action of a sifting litter box will certainly extend the life of the crystals over a raking litter box.
The web site (http://www.litterloo.com
) currently is showing (as of 1/11/11) a semi-recent prototype. I've almost completed a more-recent set of enhancements that will be shown within the next few weeks, but what you see up there today is pretty close to what I expect will be my final prototype.
There are two features that prevent clumps from sticking to the litter box:
- The "drip cap", which you see in the picture on the main page, is attached along the three exposed sides around the inside, and directs urine about one inch from the edge of the litter. Instead of the cat being able to pee on the side (which cats often do), the sides are hidden by the drip cap, and the drip cap forces the urine away from the side preventing it from sticking to it. One might contend that this reduces the size of the litter area, but if you think about it the cat can still urinate within the same space as when the drip cap (which is removable) is not present.
- In this design, the depth of litter is key in preventing clumps from touching the bottom. If the clump can't touch the bottom, then it can't stick to the bottom. This litter box holds more litter than you might think. I'm still experimenting with the depth required, but I have zero sticking problems with the unit I'm using here at home. All I do is occasionally add litter and replace the waste bag once every two weeks (that's with one cat). It's really nice.
As for price, my current pricing models suggest a retails price of about $250, but this is exremely preliminary.
The litter area is (I think) fairly large. The dimensions are 17.5" x 14". That should handle pretty large cats (and my cat certainly falls into that category). I made a conscious effort to make the litter area larger than all the competition (LitterMaid: 14.25" x 13.5", ScoopFree: 14" x 14", Simply Clean: 8" x 17" half-circle, CatGenie: 15" circle, Litter-Robot: 14" round at full capacity). It's hard to tell from a picture, but it seems pretty large in person.
Thanks for pointing out safety, as I've gone to great lengths to make this as safe as possible. This prototype actually uses a sensor in the base to detect the presence of a cat. It does not use beam-breaking technology like a LitterMaid, or weight-triggering switches. Unfortunately, I can't yet disclose how it works as it's kind of a trade secret at this point, but what I can say is that there are multiple safe-guards to prevent injury:
- The only place a cat could possibly get caught within the unit is when the waste receptacle is exposed. After the cleaning cycle has finished, the unit returns back to level the litter. There is a mechanical safeguard in that the rear panel snaps in and out of place. Should something provide even the slightest resistance to that panel, it will snap out preventing any kind of pinching. That panel is present primarly for the purpose of sealing in odor, so it's a fairly light piece of plastic that doesn't provide significant structural function.
- Obviously, if the litter box detects the presence of a cat while it is running, it will stop. The timer will be reset and it will attempt to resume cycling minutes later.
- There is an additional safeguard that detects interference with other objects. For example, placing the litter box in a corner is fine, but if you place it too close to a wall it can hit the wall. There's another sensor built into the base that detects this condition. If it detects even the slightest amount of force in a lateral direction, it will reverse the litter box for a few seconds and stop. It will also flash a code (which you can look up) to tell you what you need to do (e.g. move it away from the wall).
As for the sensors getting dirty and stop working, they are sealed (although not hermetically), so that should not happen; however, as a secondary safeguard, the microcontroller tests the sensors to make sure they are working before it will start a cycle.
Although I have significant interest from (I'm intentionally being vague here) one or more parties in bringing this to market, it is still very early. It will take quite a bit of time before you will be able to purchase one of these, but I'd be more than happy to answer any further questions. You can also leave suggestions or other feedback at http://www.litterloo.com