Cat Got Your Wallet? Four High-Tech Gifts for Furry Friends.

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By Janet Burkitt
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, December 21, 2008

Here's a curious little oasis in our economic badlands: The number of people buying holiday gifts for their pets is expected to rise this year.

So says the American Pet Products Association, which predicts that at least half of dog and cat owners -- some 20 million people -- will shop for Fido and Fluffy.

In this season of scaled-back holiday plans and whittled-down gift lists, we can't explain why more people would be buying for their animals -- who may be cherished loved ones, but they still wouldn't know Santa Claus if he hitched them to his sleigh.

But we're not judging. After all, the pet trade group expects this largesse to pump millions of dollars into the economy, so if you've got the means and motivation to buy for your pets this year (or the animal lover on your list), we say go for it. Someone has to, and there are lots of intriguing high-tech gadgets and innovative offerings out there. A few of our favorites:

Litter-Robot

According to a highly unscientific poll consisting of my neighbor who just bought one, Litter-Robot is the best product ever created in the universe and completely worth its hefty price tag.

The device's tag line, "The automatic self-cleaning litter box that really works," pretty much says it all. A cat steps onto a sensor and into the Litter-Robot (which looks kind of like an old sea diver's helmet), does its business and steps out. A weight sensor is triggered, and after a time delay the machine's globe starts rotating, sifting the litter and dropping the clumps into a drawer below.

The drawer, which was designed to eliminate odors, needs to be emptied about once a week for a single cat. There's no scooping involved, so you won't have to be nearly as hands-on with your cat's commode. Of course, you may find yourself talking about it -- enthusiastically and in great detail -- a lot more. And that might even be worse.

$329 at http://www.litter-robot.com.

Mouse in the House

Cats are an independent lot, but that doesn't mean they don't get lonely or bored when their humans are away. Enter Mouse in the House.


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