In brief: Cat owners might be happy to know Petato is working on a new solution which takes much of the manual labor out of cleaning the cat litter box. Footloose, as it's called, is a cat litter box in itself, but one which comes with a number of smarts to improve the cat (and owner) experience, including the use of a dedicated companion mobile app, and artificial intelligence (AI). The latter of which is designed to monitor cat toilet behavior with a view to spotting when issues might be surfacing so the cat owner (parent) can get Snuggles checked out before the issues become more serious.
Footloose is not quite ready for market yet as this week saw the product launching on Kickstarter, although early indications now suggest this is something that's clearly in demand. As the crowdfunding project not only reached its goal within a hour of going live, but has since, and in spite of still having 28 days to run, racked up ten times its initial goal amount. Of course, one of the benefits of backing a project like this early is Petato offers a fairly substantial discount to those who do. For example, Footloose is expected to retail for around $500 when it launches, and those who take part at the Kickstarter stage have been given the opportunity to secure a Footloose for half the going rate – $249.99. However, as the project has gained so much traction in the few days since it launched (October 16), most of the greatest discount spots have already been filled. Thought those still interested can still secure on at the $350 marker, or save a little more when opting for two at $600 in total.
Background: The issue of cat litter box cleaning is nothing new and neither is the various technology-based solutions that have emerged as a means to help with the process. At the superficial level, this is a self-cleaning litter box, which like other self-cleaning boxes means users are not expected to manually have to clean the cat litter except for emptying the main collection box once it's been filled. In other words, this is designed to turn manual cleaning into more of a weekly event than a daily one – though the exact frequency will greatly depend on how many cats are using the same box. In terms of how it works, the self-cleaning process is not that different to similar solutions as it rotates the box and separates the clumped and harder elements from the rest of the litter through the use of a specially-designed sieve and funnel with the whole cleaning process expected to take ninety seconds at most. Petato has confirmed Footloose is compatible with any cat litter and is not particularly dependent on specialized formulas or types. In addition, the litter box includes various other technologies designed to offer a more comfortable and secure experience, including the use of UV light to neutralize odors and motion detection to ensure pets and people do not interfere or become hurt by the self-cleaning action shown below.
Where Petato argues Footloose goes beyond convenience and its competitors is through the use of its AI support. Here, Footloose is understood to be able to monitor cat behaviors and help to provide a greater degree of insight into those behaviors, which Petato again argues is a common "barometer for health" used by veterinarians. The data – which includes aspects such as body weight, waste amount, frequency and duration — is then accessible by the cat owner via the corresponding app, and as the data is always accessible it can also be shown to veterinary specialists during a routine visit. This is not just a data collection tool either, as the company explains the AI is able to identify anomalies in toilet behavior and specifically make those anomalies known to the cat owner through the app. What's more, Footloose is also able to do all of this at the multi-cat level due to the litter box's ability to identify which cat is using the box at a given time based on the weight of the cat. As a result, collected data is grouped based on that identification, allowing owners to benefit from the same AI-driven health monitoring benefits for different cats. The app also boasts a number of additional features such as notifications when the collection box is full, and the option to manually control various aspects of the litter box (start the cleaning, power the unit down, enter a sleep state and so on). Lastly, as Footloose connects to a home Wi-Fi network it remains connected even when the user is not at home allowing the user to perform all of the app-based controls and data viewing from a phone, anywhere and at any time, including pushing firmware updates to the litter box as and when they become available.
Impact: There's no doubt that this could be a beneficial product to current cat owners as it does look to address different pain points. And yes, while there are similar options already available, the use of AI here is likely to be a specific benefit to opting for Footloose over other options, providing it does work as described. However, the price is a little on the high side and although the technology is included, the price might not make this a suitable option for a number of buyers. This is likely to be even more true for those families that happen to include more than one or two cats. While Petato does argue Footloose is designed to accommodate more than one cat, if you already feel the need to use two litter boxes in a property, then it stands to reason two of these units will also likely be needed.
In either case, the speed at which the Kickstarter campaign seems to be moving at the moment does suggest that not only is this a viable product, but for many, it's a solution they are quite keen on getting their paws on. If you have backed the project, or plan to, then the company expects to begin shipping units to early backer starting in June of next year. In the meantime, some of the primary benefits on offer with Footloose can be seen in the promotional video below.