I can’t stop tracking my cats’ bathroom habits. Now that I’ve been using Purina’s Petivity Smart Litterbox Monitor, I know what time they visit the litter box and what exactly they’re doing when they’re in there. My cat Huxley, for example, is a late-night number-twoer.
You may be thinking: Why do you need to know this? Cats are remarkably good at hiding health problems until it’s a serious issue, but their excreta, or lack thereof, doesn’t lie.
Last year, I found this out the hard way when Huxley was diagnosed with lower urinary tract disease. When I noticed he was entering the litter box significantly more often than normal, I knelt down next to it. He was straining to urinate, but nothing was coming out. I immediately rushed him to the emergency vet, where his condition was treated with medication. If I hadn’t noticed it, his kidneys could have failed, or his bladder could have ruptured.
I’m lucky enough to work from home with Huxley and his sister Eely-Rue, so I spend 99 percent of my time with them. Not everyone can do that, and even the most devoted cat parent can miss things. If I had the Petivity Monitor then, I might have saved myself a hefty ER bill, and Huxley some pain.
Many robot litter boxes purport to monitor your pet’s waste and health, but Petivity is not a complete litter box by itself. It’s a rectangular scale that sits underneath a standard box and connects to an app (iOS, Android). The device can be plugged in or powered by AA batteries, which is nice if your box isn’t near an outlet. The maximum litter box size recommended is 16 by 21 inches, and you can’t use automatic litter boxes. You need at least an inch of space on all four sides to ensure the data is accurate, so pull your box away from the wall a tad.
It takes about a week or so for it to learn your cats’ habits accurately. During that time, the app alerts you when an event is detected and, based on the weight recorded, you select which cat it was (or if it was a non-cat event, like you scooping). Once it learns who’s who, it compiles that day’s activities into the app, letting you know when each cat peed, pooped, or did a little dance inside the litter but didn’t actually go, complete with cute illustrated icons. You can set up multiple monitors if you have several boxes.
Petivity used over 300,000 video-recorded cat events to develop its system. “The raw data from the monitor is processed through a collection of AI models trained to interpret what is going on every time your cat visits the litter box,” a company representative told WIRED. “The AI looks for particular features of the data to distinguish things like number ones from number twos.”
The app doesn’t just compile visits, either. It actively monitors those visits in order to alert you if something changes. So if Whiskers suddenly stops peeing or visits the box an unusually high number of times that day, you’ll get an alert. Because it records your cat’s weights to tell them apart, Petivity will let you know if there’s a change there too. Every few weeks, you’ll get an insight report email, with all that information together. This is all helpful to keep your cats healthy and gives you real information you can bring to your vet. Want to be reminded to scoop your litter boxes every day? You can set the app to do that too.