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Kamloops News

THOMPSON: Cats and the eternal battle with the litter box

February 22, 2021 - 12:00 PM



When my wife, Bonnie, asked me if spending $500 on a litter box for our two cats made sense, I thought maybe she had suffered a stroke. Turns out, it was a stroke of genius.

Fair warning, those of you who don’t have - or simply don’t like - felis domesticus might sense a waning interest in this column about now. I love cats, but I must admit losing more than winning in battles of wills and wits with the furry devils.

Still, I admire the on-again, off-again arrogance and devotion of cats. Any cat can make the most independent human look like a bloodsucking parasite. Cats will curl up on you in front of a fire...the sweetest looks on their little faces. And minutes later, ignore your ass in a particularly annoying way...shooting you a look that says, “You’re confusing me with your dopey dog.”

I’ve had cats - or more precisely they’ve had me - my entire life...most of them living long, seemingly happy lives. I once had two Tonkinese cats - a cross-breed of Siamese and Burmese - who lived 26 years. One might think I know my limitations in understanding the feline mind...I assure you...I do not. I still believe I can win.

No one — not even a cat lover — likes anything about kitty litter boxes and everything they entail.

That’s because “everything they entail” is one dirty job after another. Parents with babies love those babies...but they’re liars if they say they like changing diapers, wiping pee and pooh off butts, legs, fingers...even faces. Parents and grandparents do this for the first two-and-a-half years of a child’s life...babies depend on us and we love them.

A cat owner doesn’t have to deal with diapers...but they mess with kitty litter issues every day for the life of the cat...and I remind you...that can be 26 years! And not once will you every get anything that resembles a “thank you” from a cat...nothing. Instead, they will curl up on you...apparently stealing body heat. But they will leave cat turds in your bed...your shoe...or soak your sofa if you forget to keep the litter box pristine.

I’m grateful that our two cats weigh just 10 and 15 pounds...not 100 pounds like our two Borzoi hounds. Shudder...I just scared myself with that mental visual. Don’t get me wrong...I love our cats, which is why I didn’t bind Bonnie’s hands and feet and gag her until the men in white suits arrived when she suggested a $500 kitty litter box.

I actually thought...$500...hmmmm...could be worth it. The website for the Litter-Robot 3 almost excites you with promises like...“never scoop litter again.” I learned it is self-cleaning...with a charcoal filtered and sealed drawer that “locks away funk and odours.”

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Further, “A clean bed of litter every time keeps your cat from stepping into a gross mess. That means cleaner paws and less tracking out of the box.” Hey, had me at “locks away funk and odors.”

I scrolled down the page and read 10 reviews...all five stars...glowing testaments that seemed too good to be true. Then, the next review, “Smelly and Our Cats Hate It!” rated one star.

It read, “We have tried five self cleaning cat boxes on the market and were hoping this would be our final purchase. We were disappointed. When the box rolls to self clean, the bottom rolls to the top and any wetness and stuck on litter hangs on the top and our large cat has come out of the box with litter on her back. Both of our cats hate this box (first cat box they have ever hated) so they don't even stay to cover their business- they hurry and jump out taking cat litter with them and its all over the house! Along with this, and I should say this is the biggest reason, is it smells horrible! The auto cleaning takes place and falls into a compartment that is not sealed and sits until full. Now, I smell this waste just sitting there in the whole house. It is disgusting!”

Hmmmmm? The review not only said both cats hated the Litter-Robot 3...specifically it was “the first cat box they ever hated.” Really? They left a note? And these people complained about the smell. Change the box! Crazy cat lady?

My only hesitancy was my own history. In 1995 I bought what was then the first automatic self-cleaning cat litter box. I paid $200 for it ($343 in today’s dollars) and the motor was so loud the first time it ran so did the cats...and they never came near it again. I left it on the curb for the garbage man with a note, “Perfect if you have a deaf cat!”

But, surely kitty litter science had made extraordinary advances in 25 years. With greater hope than confidence, I agreed with my wife...and said, “I guess it’s worth a try.” Later, as Bonnie searched online for the best price, I started reading in the family room...Andy - one of our cats - snuggled up next to me.

Bonnie called out, “It’s $648 for the Litter-Robot 3 that’s Wi-Fi enabled.” I looked at Andy...he looked up and seemed to say, “What...are you nuts?”

— Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines.

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