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Hacking a Cat Litter Box

CatGenie The other day I got a message from a uCHobby reader named Jake. He wanted to talk about improving the performance of his automatic cat litter box. His litter box, a Cat Genie, takes care of most of the dirty work. It does more then just scoop out the kitty litter, it washes, rinses, and dries the litter as well. Basically it is a litter box robot. The Cat Genie does a good job but Jake believes it can do better with some code changes. He contacted uCHobby for advice on how to hack the system.

We did some initial research and found that the Cat Genie should be easy to hack. Not only as a potential better Kitty litter box but for other projects. The main board has lots of relays to control motors and water valves, it uses a PIC processor with a clearly labeled programming port. There is also a clearly marked serial port on the main board.

Jake put up a bunch of pictures showing the insides of this device. He would like suggestions on how to get started hacking the Cat Genie. I suggest that we take over the PIC code via the programming connector. Figure out what I/O pin controls which function and write a library to operate all the I/O then release this as open source so owners can take charge or pimp there Cat Genie. Jake would like to add an LCD panel, which could be done via that serial port.

More information and pictures after the jump.

The picture below shows the PIC programming connector in the middle right. Notice the "JC1 Prog" label. Even each signal on the connector is labeled. The serial port pins can be seen at the bottom of the picture, again each pin labeled. There are a bunch of relays which must be under the PIC’s control to turn on all the functions of the litter box cleaning. 


Jake has a bunch more pictures of the board at this photobucket page devoted to the Cat Genie.

Here is a video showing the device running though a cleaning cycle.


Give Jake some advice on how he might hack the Cat Genie to change things like when water is dispensed and how long parts of the cycle last. I would also like to hear other ideas for how this board might be hacked to do other things. The first thing that popped into my mind was a hydroponics controller.

Posted in Discovering, Hacks, Microcontroller, Projects.

6 Responses

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  1. Jake says

    Hi Tom!

    Would you be able to assist on this project? Please email me directly CGProblems at aol dot com

  2. Everett_Tom says

    Looks like fun!

    For PC software, I’m assuming you’ve already pulled down MPLab from ? (The company who makes the PIC micocontroller provides a free development environment).

    Also, depending on which PIC it it, you may be able to get a free C compiler for writing code from .

    Note that the PIC can be configured so that you cannot pull out the code. If that is the case (or even if it isn’t), your probably going to want to re-create a schematic for the PCB so you know what is connected to what.

  3. monkey says

    You guys need to be sure to put this online so we can follow your progress!

  4. Berni says

    Shure thing!

    You can get me on MSN at (note this is not a real e-mail so mail will bounce back!)

  5. Jake says

    Can you help me get started?

  6. Berni says

    Now thats some nice hardware running that thing it just cant be more hackable.

    First thing i would do is plug a programmer on it and read out the entire program, so you can save it in a safe spot in case you want the original functionality again (I hope the pics memory is not locked, but if they put a really obvious programming connector on it i don’t think it is.)

    Now the problem is your most probably not going get your hands on the source code of the original firmware. (Well unless your a ASM guy they you can dissemble the hex file back to ASM but it will profitably be a big mess) So this means you need to make the whole program that works like the original firmware in like C or basic or something. But i bet it will be a lot of fun to hack it.