In our experience, there’s rarely any question when the cat uses the litter box. At all. In the entire house. For hours. And while it may be instantly obvious to the most casual observer that it’s time to clean the thing out, that doesn’t mean there’s no value in quantifying your feline friend’s noxious vapors. For science.
Now of course, [Owen Ashurst] could have opted for one of those fancy automated litter boxes, the kind that detects when a cat has made a deposit and uses various methods to sweep it away and prepare the box for the next use, with varying degrees of success. These machines seem like great ideas, and generally work pretty well out of the box, but — well, let’s just say that a value-engineered system can only last so long under extreme conditions. So a plain old-fashioned litterbox suffices for [Owen], except with a few special modifications. A NodeMCU lives inside the modesty cover of the box, along with a PIR sensor to detect the cat’s presence, as well as an MQ135 air quality sensor to monitor for gasses. It seems an appropriate choice, since the sensor responds to ammonia and sulfides — both likely to be present after a deposit.
At power-up, the monitor connects to WiFi, starts up a web UI, and connects to [Owen]’s Home Assistant instance via MQTT. It posts the readings from the sensor every couple of minutes and creates a handy chart to track the cat’s visits and whether they result in new deposits or just visiting old friends. One place we can see the potential for error is the particulates released just by digging in the litter, which seems to be a popular pastime for some cats.
In general, we feel like more data is better data, so we salute [Owen] for the effort here. If you need help managing your furry friend’s other habits, we’ve got something for that too.