Litter Box Sensor Lets You Know Exactly What The Cat’s Been Up To

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.

16 thoughts on “Litter Box Sensor Lets You Know Exactly What The Cat’s Been Up To

    1. Just what is it with dogs and coprophagia? (had to look that word up ‘coz I didn’t want to write “eating shit” in such a scholarly forum). Our dachs likes deer-poop quite a lot, loves cat poop, but really thinks it’s her birthday if we’ve had a visit from a tanuki.

      Gotta’ love ’em …but you don’t have to kiss ’em!

  1. 10 years from now there’s going to be a class reunion of all the Nodes made in 2023, and this Node is going to be there with his classmates from node school, and you just know how it’s going to go…

    Node 0x3d6a: ” So, anyhow, then some college students put me on a high-altitude balloon and used me to find a new jetstream! ”

    Node 0xcc5b: ” That’s so cool, Me and 0xa5a4 were installed in a water-purification machine that brought drinking water to a town in the desert! So.. Bob, what are you up to? ”

    Bob: …. ah….

  2. I dig it. But my cat actually lets me know when she needs to go out to do her business. Never once went in the house. Forest starts 20 feet behind the house. So she chooses to go directly under my bedroom window.

  3. This is especially good if you have an older cat, one of the early warning signs of kidney issues is more frequent urination. Chronic kidney disease is incredibly common in cats – 30-40% by age 10 and increasing with age. The earlier you can detect and begin treatment, the better the prognosis.

  4. I use a PIR sensor to detect my cats on their way to/from the litterbox.

    This is used to significantly crank up the fan speed on an air purifier in their space, for something like twenty minutes.

    Simple, commercial off-the-shelf zigbee equipment goes a light way to improve the “air quality” impact.

    I even took advantage of this sensor to send me push notifications when I needed to get a fecal sample for the veterinarian – pretty straightforward to wait and see *which* cat leaves the box, then grab the sample …

  5. Those electric litterboxes are crazy expensive here. 500 euro’s and up.

    I bought a manual one. It does the rotating, but you have to rotate it yourself. Still paid a hundred euro’s for it, but it’s so worth it. I rotate it once a day, while keeping my hands clean, no need to go into it with a shovel to scoop out the poop. Rotate it and the dirty stuff falls down into the tray below, clean that once a week and done. Going to buy another one soon so I’ll have two litterboxes for her. Also planning on getting a kitten so another box won’t hurt, except for my bank account.

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