New Litter Robot accessories help keep your cat’s bathroom clean and uncluttered

We’ve written before about our love for and evangelism of the Litter Robot.

Our only complaint about the product related to the fact that one of our two cats isn’t always conscientious of ensuring that everything that’s supposed to end up inside the door to the globe actually does.

So we were pleased to find out recently that Automated Pet Care Products now offers a few accessories that solve our problems. They sent us an upgraded unit for review, and here are our thoughts.

The first accessory is a relatively inexpensive lip extender that catches any “misses” and helps redirect them back into the globe. It snaps into place over the existing lip and extends the catch to a total of three-and-a-half inches.

The second is a new “Bubble Unit” globe that creates a skylight in the back. It also adds a few more inches of space for larger cats like our Charlie (who is now on “the light food” to help her slim down a bit). This upgrade is a complete replacement globe and it also includes a lip extender.

We know the idea of a litter box costing over $300 might seem outrageous to some, but we’re convinced the efficiency of the internal sifting mechanism causes us to buy less than half as much litter as we previously needed, so we figure the device is actually likely to recoup it’s own cost over the long run. And you can feel good about the fact that your cat always has a clean and uncluttered box.

You don’t need to take our word for it though. Cat owner’s who have Litter Robots are fanatical about them, so just look at the Amazon reviews to get an idea of how great these things are.

Disaster uncluttering

Today, I want to introduce you to Unclutterer programmer Gary DuVall. This post is the first in a series that he has agreed to write for us based on his personal experience of losing everything he owned.

June 27, 2008, was like any other day. It was early afternoon, the sun was out, I was working from home, and I was on a conference call with a client. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a plume of smoke coming from what seemed to be our building’s roof.

As the plume grew larger, I began to realize the smoke wasn’t an afternoon pre-Cubs-game barbeque on the rooftop by a couple of guys playing hooky from work — this was a real fire. I ran up the stairs toward the rooftop deck to check things out. By the time I got to the door leading outside, the fire had grown large enough that I could hear it blazing, and I knew there were a half-dozen propane grills on the other side of the metal.

It was most certainly time to go.

Luckily, before the fire had spread downward through the floors, I was able to herd our two cats into the carrier, pack up my work laptop in the bag I always had close by, and make it down the smoke-filled stairway and out the building with a couple of minutes to spare. Unfortunately, in the end, we lost almost everything — but we had our pets, our safety, and an emergency line of communication.

Months before, when my wife and I first moved into the building, I insisted that vital items like our cat carrier be stored in easily accessible places in our apartment (rather than the basement storage area) in the — we thought — unlikely case of just such a situation. Only a couple of minutes of planning for what could happen made that split-second decision-making much easier when it did.

This is the crux of what I like to call “disaster uncluttering”: Being prepared for the unlikely, in case it happens. It takes but a little time and thoughtful review to prevent mind clutter from getting in the way of your safety when you have very little time to spare.

Here’s a checklist of questions to ask yourself and suggestions of what can be done to prevent both mind and physical clutter should a disaster strike you out-of-the-blue:

  1. Consider where you store things. You should have almost immediate access to the following items: Pet carrier(s), an emergency line of communication (preferably a laptop, netbook, or advanced PDA), a cell phone, your car keys, a rugged flashlight, and, if at all possible, a copy of your renters or homeowners insurance policy.
  2. Have an escape route ready, and cover your bases. Being on the third level and without a fire escape, our elevator was out and one stairwell had already become dangerously consumed by smoke. Become familiar with every pathway that leads out of your home ahead of time.
  3. If you have pets, consider putting Pet Safety Alert decals on external windows and your front door to alert neighbors and authorities you have animals (in case you aren’t at home when an emergency happens).
  4. Spend the time, and take inventory of your belongings. Even if you don’t use an automated system, a video of everything in your home can help spur your memory. Be sure to backup the video so you can still access it if your home is destroyed.
  5. Are your vital documents protected and organized? Ideally, you’ll want to store them in a fireproof safe and keep a backup copy online. Check out our series on fireproof safes for more information on this subject.
  6. Consider where you’ll temporarily live if you’re unable to inhabit your home. Will you need to stay in a hotel, or will you have access to the home of a friend or relative?

In an upcoming post, I’ll discuss what happened after the fire. In many ways, the aftermath was far worse than the fire itself.

The image above is what was left of our oak bedroom floor. In addition to soot, it took only a few hours for mold to begin to grow in the water that helped put out the fire.

Unitasker Wednesday: The Jog-a-Dog

dog_treadmillAll Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we don’t want you to buy these items, we want you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!

Are you sick and tired of walking your dog? If you would rather stay inside and plop in front of the television while your dog gets its exercise on a treadmill, then you are in for a treat.

The good folks at Jog-a-Dog (since 1972!) have a product for you. The DC 7 is described as “the most impressive dog treadmill to date.” It weighs in at 261 pounds and costs just south of $3000. That is a bit steep, but think of all the time it will save you now that you no longer have to walk Fido. From their site:

The incredible 84” x 24” running surface will accommodate all breeds while allowing large dogs ample room to reach and extend while exercising. Ridged reinforced steel decking provides a secure foundation for breeds exceeding 300 pounds. The powerful 1 H.P. PWM whisper quiet industrial drive system comes standard! Likewise, the proprietary four roller drive system insures a smooth and consistent tread operation that will not slip at even the slowest of speeds. The side guardrails are formed from ½” round steel and are detachable, allowing for easy transport and storage. 

It is all so easy. If you combine the Jog-a-Dog with an automatic feeder and a doggy door for access to your back yard, then you will never have to be responsible for your dog again. Sure, the dog may be happy to see you on your couch from time to time, but a little doggy independence will make it much easier to care for you canine.

(Exception: If someone with a disability and/or mobility restrictions has a dog, we understand that this could be helpful. It would be especially helpful for a service animal. However, for able-bodied pet owners, this is truly, truly ridiculous.)

Pet hair gets everywhere

My home has been cat free for eight months now. It wasn’t by choice. Our two cats passed away within a year of each other and we are waiting until our daughter is a bit older to get a new kitten. I definitely miss having a cat, but one thing I don’t miss is cleaning up cat hair all the time. It is a never-ending task that gets old quickly.

We are currently awaiting the possibility of cat-sitting for my in-laws when they travel to Florida for the winter. My daughter (pictured with the cat in question) will absolutely be thrilled with this, and I must admit that I’m excited to have a cat in the house again. After my initial excitement, the next thing I thought of was the return of cat hair. It is definitely a negative aspect of owning a pet. Dogs aren’t much better in this regard, so I’ll include them in this post. My mom spent many hours vacuuming up black hair from her carpets from the Labrador they had years ago.

Here are some tips I came across recently when looking for solutions:

Grooming: Brushing your pet regularly will decrease the amount of hair that ends up on the floor and furniture. You may also look into a corner comb.

Furniture and Floors: Vacuuming regularly is a must. It doesn’t matter if you groom regularly, the hair will find its way to the floor and furniture. You may want to instill a no furniture rule for your pet to curb furniture fur.

Clothing: The lint roller is a necessary evil if you plan to exit the house hair free. Also, don’t leave clothes out  on the floor. Most cats love to lie on clothing left on the floor.

Also, I went back and explored Erin’s previous post on Taming pet fur tumbleweeds. The Furminator will definitely be something we purchase.

How about you? What do you do to keep pet hair from taking over your home?

Litter box hideaway

The October/November issue of Ready Made magazine has a great do-it-yourself project for a Litter Box Hideaway:

If you have been looking for a way to get your cat’s litter box out of the way or hidden from sight, this could be your perfect solution. The Norrebo box they used for the project has enough space in it that you could also use it to store other pet-related items (not food, but things like fur brushes). And, you could use the top of the box for seating or storage.

Organizing pet information in case of emergency

My friend Elspeth recently lost her cat. The kitty is home safely now, but in the process of looking for her my friend learned a thing or two about how she could have been a better organized pet owner.

After her experience, Elspeth put together a list of emergency information and resources you should have on file if you have a pet:

  1. Have your pet microchipped and have on file the name of the company, the microchip number, and contact information for the company.
  2. Know the number on your pet’s rabies tag.
  3. Have documentation on all of your pet’s vaccinations and surgeries. Shelters and vets that take in lost pets will conduct blood tests to identify strays from non-strays. Knowing which vaccines are in your pet’s blood and locations of scars can help in identifying your pet.
  4. Take pictures of your pet at many different angles and of all unique pattern markings. Have these images in digital format. Many states and shelters will post pictures of lost pets online and you’ll want the pictures to print fliers.
  5. Most agencies will only allow you to report a pet that has been missing for more than 24 hours. Find out which agencies take these notices (usually shelters and animal control) and have their contact information in your address book.
  6. Even if your pet lives primarily indoors, you still need to have a collar on your pet with identification. Break away collars are best for constant wear so that your pet doesn’t accidentally choke himself/herself.
  7. Keep contact information for how to post messages to your neighborhood e-mail listserv and Craigslist community.

Ultimately, it was a couple who found the cat and also saw one of Elspeth’s posters on a bus stop in the neighborhood. We hope that you never lose one of your pets, but if you do, you’ll be prepared by having the above information at your fingertips.

Techniques for taming pet fur tumbleweeds

Reader Jim sent us the following question:

OK, so I like your 30 minutes per day cleaning model…however, with a dog (big chocolate lab) that is constantly shedding, what tools, cleaning devises, ideas, etc., might I use to keep up with the seemingly endless dog-hair dust bunnies? Vacuuming works, but takes time to drag out the vacuum, and the Swiffer just seems to move the hair around.

In my house, we call these gifts from our two cats “tumbleweeds.” I like your use of the word “bunnies,” though, since they do feel as if they are forever multiplying. I completely empathize with your situation and hope that I can help.

Here are a handful of strategies for dealing with pet fur tumbleweeds:

  1. Once a day, armed with a couple slightly damp paper towels, walk through your house and capture the worst offenders. If they’re large enough that you would see them and be stressed or embarrassed if a house guest were to immediately notice them, just scoop them up with the paper towel. This isn’t deep cleaning, this is just peace of mind. At most, this process should take you five minutes and is a great chore for a younger child.
  2. Bathe your pets regularly. When you bathe a pet, a good chunk of loose hair and dander goes down the drain with the water. Now, granted, this task is a bit more difficult with a cat. You have to start bathing the cat when it’s a kitten or you’ll never be able to give it a bath as an adult. We’ve been bathing our cats twice a month since they were first adopted from the shelter and now they just climb into the water. Use a pet-friendly shampoo (not human shampoo) and ask your vet for tips and breed-specific bathing frequency recommendations if you’re new to the pet-washing adventure.
  3. Keep a pet brush handy. When your pet curls up at your feet and wants some snuggles, give him a brush at least once a day. You’ll capture the fur before it can become a tumbleweed.
  4. Install reliable air filters in your heating/air conditioning system and replace them seasonally.
  5. If your pet routinely uses a bed, drape its bed with a fleece blanket. If there is a favorite spot where he likes to curl up, lay a fleece blanket in that location. Fleece blankets act like giant magnets for pet hair because of their inherent static nature. Roll up the blanket and throw it in the washer once a week, and for extra pull, dry it without a dryer sheet.
  6. Although you hate to do it, you should run the vacuum at least once a week. Don’t forget to vacuum under the couch, along baseboards, every stair, and closet floors where pet fur tumbleweeds like to hide.
  7. Feed your pet high-quality food. The healthier your pet’s diet, the healthier your pet and his coat. Talk to your vet about the best diet for your pet. Sometimes, switching to a healthier pet food will greatly reduce the amount your pet sheds.

Good luck! And, if ever in doubt about a technique, just ask your vet. He or she will be able to tell you if something is safe for your pet.

Photograph accompanying this post taken by Matt Niemi.

Creative ways to curb cat clutter

I have two cats who are in the running for being the world’s most adorable kitties. (Okay, so I may be a little biased about this fact … but you have to admit that they’re at least a little cute sleeping in that photo?!) I love my two little fur balls and spoil them rotten, but I will admit that they come with a lot of stuff.

As I’ve discussed in the past, I subscribe to a mid-century modern/industrial design style in my home. My small house has hardwood floors and concrete and glass walls. There are virtually no knickknacks in my place, and cat accouterments are rare. Except for their litter box, food and water bowls, and collection of fur balls that have to be cleaned out of the corners every other day, it’s not obvious to people when they first come into my home that I even have cats.

Here are some of the ways that I hide their clutter:

  • Instead of a scratching post, I have a sisal rug on the floor of my office. Most scratching posts are covered in sisal, anyway, so it’s like a giant scratching mat for them.
  • Like a child, my cats have a toy box. The cats know that if they want to play with one of their toys that they can find it in their toy box. Once a week, I’ll walk through the house with a yard stick and fish out any toys that have been batted under dressers or cabinets and return them to the toy box. Also, throughout the course of the day, if I find an unused toy in the middle of the floor I’ll immediately toss it into the toy box.
  • My cats also have their own toiletry kit in the bathroom. I keep their nail trimmer, brush, and other grooming supplies in one labeled box in the bathroom storage area.

There are hundreds of ideas for keeping kitty clutter in check, but these are just a few that I employ in my home. I would love a well-ventilated kitty closet with a cat door to hide their litter box, but right now that is just a big wish. What do you do in your home to help keep pet items from becoming clutter?

Doggie drawer cures doggie food mess

My friend recently renovated a previously unused area in her home and kept her dog Jenny in mind when she was making plans for the room. One of the many things that she did was create a clutter-free eating area for her puppy.

Jenny’s food bowl now lives on the bottom shelf of a built-in cabinet in the new room. The shelf is on rollers and can pop out for easy cleaning. My friend slides out the food bowl shelf when it’s time for Jenny to eat, and then pushes it back in when Jenny’s finished. There’s no clutter and no mess. Jenny’s big bag of food is stored on a shelf above the food bowl, which also rolls in and out of the cabinet for easy access.

My friend had her cabinets custom made by a local woodworker, so her exact solution isn’t available online. However, a quick internet search led me to this Elfa product, which my friend says is the same concept as the pull-out shelf she uses in her puppy’s feeding area. If you’re a dog owner looking for another way to bring organization into your home, this might be a solution for you.

The Litter-Robot Revolutionizes Cat Crap Disposal

As a longtime TiVo owner, I understand that it is my responsibility to spread the Good News of TiVo to the unannointed masses still condemned to either watch scheduled television programming as it is broadcast or to record it on a barbaric and antiquated VCR.

While people have come to expect this kind of evangelism from TiVo owners, they are often caught off-guard when they learn I have the same unyielding missionary spirit for my litter box.

The Litter Robot is an automatic self-cleaning litter box that completely revolutionizes the act of cat crap disposal.

The machine, which bears an odd resemblance to Kenny from South Park, consists of a rotating plastic globe with a built-in sifting mechanism. Here’s how it works:

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Pets are clutter!

Can pets themselves be clutter? They add chores to your daily routine and they contribute virtually nothing to your living space, don’t they? Let’s get right down to it, they’re freeloaders plain and simple.

I know this is going to get me into hot water with pet lovers, but it is the truth. The thought occurred to me as I vacuumed all the cat hair off a flight of stairs in my home. Pets add clutter to your life. Whether it be their food dish and water bowl in the kitchen, the hair they leave around the house and on your clothing, the toys that you buy them, or the cat litter in the laundry room, pets clutter up your home on many levels.

I don’t consider myself a pet lover, but there are plenty of people out there that partake in the billion dollar industry of pet supplies. These “supplies” can include outfits, jewel encrusted leashes and collars, multiple baskets of toys scattered about the house, combs, brushes, beds, booties, gourmet food, scratch pads, more toys, gates, treats, car seats(!), and whatever else that’s out there. These products clutter up the home and do more for the pet owner than the pets themselves. Does a dog or cat really enjoy wearing those ridiculous outfits? If you are a pet lover, do yourself a favor and think before you buy.

Here are some tips:

  • If you buy a new toy, throw an old one away.
  • Clothing is for humans and cartoon animals only. (Yogi Bear had a cool hat.)
  • Keep the pet’s feeding area in a inconspicuous place. Don’t worry, the pet will remember where it is.
  • Keep all the pet’s non-day-to-day items in one spot. (eg. outdoor toys, carrier, leash, bath supplies)
  • Brush your pet on a regular basis to remove dead hair and cut down on shedding that ends up all over your home.