Cat Litter Tray Joins The Internet Of Things

Keeping a cat as a pet can be rewarding, but it’s always important to consider how to handle the mess – and we’re not just talking about the tea cups pushed off tables here. To handle just this task, [Igor] decided to hook his cat litter box up to the internet of things.

Monitoring the litter box brings several useful advantages. Load cells enable the weight of the litter tray to be monitored, allowing sand levels and the weight of the cats to be checked at regular intervals. Additionally, a door sensor keeps a record of comings and goings, giving an idea of how frequently the box has been used, and whether or not it may be time for cleaning. It’s all powered by an ESP32, hooked up to the Thingspeak platform. This allows for easy graphing and analysis of the data collected from the system. The electronics is then neatly installed in an attractive two-tone 3D printed enclosure with a pleasing cat motif.

It’s a great example of using some cheap off-the-shelf parts to ease the regular tasks of daily life. Building your own gear can be beneficial too, especially when Big Litter implements DRM on their hardware.

25 thoughts on “Cat Litter Tray Joins The Internet Of Things

  1. I don’t understand why this is necessary. It does not make anything easier. Clean the litter box every day. No sensor is necessary. Is it really that hard to pick up your cat and step on the scale? Interact with your cat, instead of figuring out ways to avoid interacting with your cat. Why did you get a cat, anyway?

    1. … why are you even on this website?

      But to answer your question with a hypothetical scenario: maybe the cat is using the litterbox way too often each day while you’re out at work. You’d never know otherwise, but with this setup you now know that your cat needs a trip to the vet.

        1. But looking at the litter you may just see one normal pee clump and maybe a poop, which appears normal, and be completely unaware that your cat had gone into the box over 20 times throughout the day failing to pee more due to a dangerous urinary blockage.

          1. This… Or if you have multiple cats, you can get an output of each (assuming their weights are different enough) I have one cat with urinary issues I try to “catch” every day so I can see if she’s doing her thing like she should because the other cat is a thrasher and will break up large clumps when he covers his clumps.

          2. That warning alone would make this setup totally worth it. Now I only find out when the cat tries to solve the problem by removing the litter box from the equation. With an curate enough you could even track the deposited volume, unless the cat throws out a lot of weight while digging.

  2. There are already several automated, self-cleaning litter boxes for sale, which can separate clean litter from waste and, wirelessly hooked to a router, send a text message to the cat owner every week or so when the waste drawer bag needs disposal.

      1. Do you really want to wait that long? But I also do not understand the idea with the alarm :-) I remember personally if I have already done it that day, usually in the morning after breakfast.

  3. Awesome! I made a cat litter measuring device some time ago and never thought to incorporate a door switch – this would’ve made it a lot easier to tell when the cat was in vs. out.

    For the people saying it’s unnecessary, you can keep track of your cats weight by taring out the litterbox before a cat enters over a long period to see if they are under/over weight. It’s invaluable data if they’re ever under the weather and the vet asks if they’ve been losing weight or if they’ve been going to the toilet enough. Cannot recommend something like this enough as it helped save our cats life when the vet was going to diagnose him with bowel obstructions and it was just him not eating enough. Turns out he just didn’t like the food we were giving him and was super fussy!

    I made a circuit board up for this project with ESP8266 and it’s been a super versatile board because I use the exact same board to measure the weight of my kegs and CO2 canister for my homebrew setup to see when I need to brew next or fill CO2 up.

  4. My cat has kidney disease, often putting her paws in the litter and peeing on a doggie weewee pad. I’d like to know how soon it’s happening after her subcutaneous fluids are being administered rather than peek my head in there all day ( it’s not an area of the house that is frequented more than once a day). I think this is a great product. Knowing how often she uses the box and to know if she pooped after I put Miramax in her food rather than just soften the poop would make me feel more confident when I do need to take her to the vet. I’m a bit of a helicopter parent…

  5. We often leave our cat alone at home for a couple of nights, with clean litter and lots of food and water. One of these little IOT gizmos would also serve to simply let us know he is alive and taking an interest in his lower digestive tract.

    1. so… if you’d notice (while you ar far, far way) that the cat didn’t went to the toilet (according to shedule), do you run home then?

      Chances are, you’re not. It’s merely to satisfy your sense of guild of leaving the poor animal alone. As long as it’s alive (poops and pees enough) you have no reason to feel bad. You may even decide to leave it alone a day longer… The moment when we start automating the care for our pets, we should wonder if we deserve to take care of them.

      From a technical point of view, this project (tanks for posting) is just so much fun. I can can see the challenges that need to be solved here. And as a bonus, when this technical puzzel is solved it also does something interesting. In other words, the perfect project. Well done!

      1. I think you’re overreacting just a bit. Most people with cats have to be away from home for a day or two occasionally. Sure, you could board them, but that’s gotten very expensive, stresses the cats out, and usually requires the cats to be gone from home longer since I’d have to drop them off a day early and/or pick them up a day later.

        I have cameras set up so I can observe my cats when I’m away. They sleep, play, eat, and generally act just like they do when I’m away for the day at work.

  6. We clean our cats littler boxes every day- it just helps keep things tidy, the cats healthy and the “smell o’ cat” at bay. With a clean litterbox, they don’t have near the behavioral issues that everyone else seems to have with marking and going outside the box. So I can see the point in this, and it looks like a nice build.
    That said, I built an automatic dual feeder for our guys based on a commercially available feeder originally intended for large koi ponds (superfeeder). It is much more robust than anything you’ll find in normal stores. With two large tomcats and the fact they have all day to figure out how to break into stuff, a large, heavy bit of gear was necessary. Most of the auto-feeders in stores are flimsy and easily gamed. So with a small storage cabinet, some down spout, a couple of digital lighting timers and the two commercial feeders, I constructed a cat proof auto-feeder cabinet.
    I also added photo-interrupt detectors for alerting us to low food levels at a glance. Its just an LED that blinks, no IoT craziness – I built it before ESP’s and IoT were really a thing. But our cats have learned the sound of a nearly empty feeder and will start alerting us to refill it just before it starts blinking anyway.
    When we used to open feed, the cats got way too big and unhealthy, and when we tried switching to scheduled feeding, they would drive us nuts with begging. With the auto feeder, they kind of get the impression that feeding them is out of our hands and leave us alone other than filling it back up when its low and the smaller scheduled feedings throughout the day keeps them calm, happy and healthy.
    If I ever build another one, I’ll probably go with an ESP32 leveraging NTP and a RTC backup for the timing, multiple food levels and a bit of logging – but just for kicks more than benefiting the cats. They don’t care as long as the food keeps coming on time.
    Oh, and Jan, cats are not babies… They have lived at our side for thousands of years without the level of helicopter pet parenting that you are suggesting they need. Some even manage quite well in nature – all by themselves. Regular feeding, a little affection and a proper place to do their business and they are more or less just good room mates if that’s how someone wants to view them… I don’t think they mind. Dogs are a little more dependent…

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