Hi, we are the Pet Wireless team, developers of Tailio, which turns any litter box into a detection system for symptoms of common feline diseases. We have extensive experience with cats and technology. Ask us anything!
Answering questions today are Alex Treiner, Pet Wireless founder, electrical & computer engineer, Dr. Mark Goldstein, DVM, veterinarian and former CEO of the San Diego Humane Society, and Dr. Moshe Olim, PhD, Chief of Data Analytics for Pet Wireless.
We're very excited to have launched Tailio on Kickstarter to deliver technology that will improve the lives of cats and people around the world: bring people peace of mind with Tailio, and improve feline health and help your cats to avoid unnecessary suffering.
We're here to answer your questions! Ask us anything about your cat's health and wellbeing, and how tech can help us look after our beloved feline friends.
Preorder Tailio on Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2120447837/tailio-the-first-smart-health-monitor-for-cats
EDIT: OUR AMA IS OFFICIALLY OVER! Thanks for the great questions! If you have any further questions please comment on our Kickstarter, connect with us on our Twitter and Facebook, or email us at [email protected]
We recommend that people avoid standing on the Tailio unit to avoid damaging the precision sensors. It’s probably safe to say that if you actually make that mistake, your BAC is probably too high! :)
You win this round Tailio...
Cats and technology.. You certainly picked the right place haha. I think this is especially useful for the high cost of veterinary services if symptoms persist.
When did you think of this, how did it come to you? Do you think something similar can be done for dogs or other pet?
Alex here: I lost my cat to cancer. We discovered that he was sick only after he lost a significant amount of weight, which was not easily determined by my family. After this happened, I looked for a product that would keep this from happening to other people. I couldn’t find one, so as an engineer, I invented one myself.
With regards to dogs, and other companion animals, we already see applications of Tailio to their health, and we’ll be looking into that in the future.
Thanks for the compliments! :)
What was testing this like?
Any interesting stories to tell?
I'm imagining hundreds of cats in a lab somewhere pooping in these things for science and it intrigues me.
A great story is when we had a prototype in Moshe’s house, used with his cat, and his wife was skeptical that Tailio could do more than just her looking at the litterbox herself and physically handling their cat everyday. When the data started coming in from Tailio, and she saw the insights that came out on her cat’s behavior from the data, she became a believer :)
Could you tell us more about what insights are there beyond whether your cat is going to the bathroom? Which is handled by looking at the waste daily.
For example, your Kickstarter video mentions time. Do cats go to the bathroom at the same time daily? Or does a burying behavior indicate a particular problem?
Over time, Tailio is able to see trends and provide you information about your cat that just looking at the litterbox would make much harder, if not impossible to notice. In particular, weight and various trends cannot be learned from just looking at or inside the litterbox. For instance, if a particular disease manifests itself through a slow, gradual weight loss, this would be very hard to detect with the naked eye or sense of weight. For example, some cancers, diabetes, and hyperthyroidism, among other feline diseases, are known to cause weight loss over time. Such changes can be gradual or sudden, and are often very difficult for even the most diligent cat owners to detect, because people see their cats everyday. This, along with the nature of cats to not show signs of illness, contributes to why cats are often much sicker than dogs when they’re taken to the vet for the same health problem.
With regards to your question if cats go to the bathroom at the same daily, not necessarily, but daily number of visits, and daily amount of cumulative waste are important data points that are valuable from a feline health perspective.
Your last question: burying behavior may or may not indicate a problem. Tailio’s analytics don’t just look at just one data point, they look at patterns over time.
Thanks for all of your great questions!
My cat has a problem with pooping on the floor.. He used to do it as a kitten in the bathtub but after moving into an apartment with just a stand up shower he got out of it. He later started doing it on the floor but only every now and then, seemingly only if the litter had been used a few times. I have gotten very diligent about scooping it every time its used but now he never uses it, regardless. He will always pee in the litter but never poo (sometimes pees, gets out, and poops on the floor). I've moved the litter and he just moves his pooping spot to wherever I move it. I used to have two cats, so I thought that might have had something to do with it, but now its just him and the saga continues. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Also, any tips for deterring him from scratching the outward facing corner of a wall? He only does it in one place.. He seems to like picking favourites. (Sorry if this has been asked.. I'm at work and should not be on reddit...)
Dr. Mark here: I feel for you because inappropriate urination or defecation outside the box can be extraordinarily frustrating and is all too common. This is the number one reason that cats are given up to shelters, unfortunately. The problem is complex, and without knowing more specifics, the one piece of advice I’m comfortable giving is to consider having two litterboxes.
I’m excited to be part of this project with Tailio for many reasons, especially helping cats parents deal with this problem. Very often, inappropriate urination or defecation is not medically caused, but is behavioral. It’s been well established that the longer a behavior goes on, the more difficult it is to reverse. With Tailio’s ability to measure a multitude of parameters on a daily basis, we learn more about inappropriate urination or defecation at an earlier stage, which translates to a better chance of resolving it. Thanks for bringing light to this important issue.
With regards to the scratching, this is more often behavioral than medical, and I encourage you to seek the input of a veterinarian skilled in cat behavior, or an animal behaviorist or trainer in your area.
I hope this has been helpful, and thanks for your interest and support of Tailio.
What do the cats think of the technology?
We've made Tailio invisible to cats. The physical design of the unit, function of the electronics, and the materials have been selected so that cats don’t change their litterbox behavior. We haven’t seen any issues in our testing, so cats don’t appear to notice that their litterbox just got smarter.
Vet student here :) I don't mean to be rude at all, but I feel like a lot of the answers so far in this AmA have been quite vague.
What information exactly would this device provide?
Do you think there could be issues with owners needlessly worrying about the health of their animal because of something this device told them? I can also see owners bringing their cats to the vets being quite confident about a problem their cat has because of this product (granted this is already a problem thanks to Dr. Google). Of course it would be a great idea to get more health info about cats - as you mentioned, they are notoriously good at hiding clinical signs of illness until it is quite advanced.
Dr. Mark here:
Hello and welcome to the profession!
Completely understand your concern about the potential for false positives. You obviously also appreciate the value in identifying behaviors that may be symptomatic of a problem at an earlier stage than is presently practiced, as exemplified by the abnormally low visitation rate of cats to veterinarians.
A lot of effort has been put into designing Tailio to be capable of differentiating what is significant and what is not. First, Tailio creates an individual profile of the physiology and behavior for each individual, which we call the “Pawprint”. Second, the analytics for the alerts have been developed with veterinarians and other animal specialists, to make the alerts relevant to the individual cat.
You will note below some of the data points that Tailio analyzes and provides the following information on :
- body weight
- date and time of each litter box visit
- daily number of litter box visits
- weight of waste left in the box after every visit
- cumulative weight of waste in every 24 hour period date and time of each litter box cleaning (by humans :-) behavior in the box
Tailio takes these data points, analyzes them, and from there alerts the user to meaningful information referable to that individual animal:
- weight loss / gain trend
- sudden weight loss / gain
- no show in the box for longer than usual for this cat
- unusual increase or decrease in the waste or lack of waste after a visit
- "broken" pattern of elimination indicative of straining to eliminate
- unusual changes in the time spent eliminating waste, or picking a spot before or digging after eliminating litter box usage exceeds the usual
We have both been taught and learned from field experience that medicine is an art along with a science. Tailio will provide invaluable insight, at an earlier time in the course of a disease or traumatic incident then is presently possible, that will then empower the family in concert with their Veterinarian to determine the course of action to pursue.
1) What is your favorite cat gif?
2) Is TailIO connected to IFTTT for google calendar/pushbullet/twitter...?
2) We’ve gotten numerous comments from our Kickstarter backers asking for IFTTT integration. Right now we’re focusing on delivering the core features of our product (i.e. with regards to feline health), but we’re evaluating the future integration of Tailio with IFTTT, Apple Homekit, and other IoT API’s.
how does the Tailio sensor work to detect if a cat has... done its business?
Tailio senses when the cat steps into the litter box and then when the cat leaves the box, using weight as a trigger. Tailio also senses how much cat waste was left in the box.
What if you have more than one cat???
Tailio handles multiple cats and one or multiple litter boxes (each coupled with a Tailio device) in one household.
Our mission is to improve the health of cats worldwide. We chose to make a product that rests under the litterbox because it is THE place that cats go to routinely, on a daily basis. It's an excellent place to gather valuable information and detect early signs of feline problems.
We chose cats initially because they represent a group of companion animals that have been overlooked with regards to health issues, and are difficult to recognize early signs in. Tailio will help address this problem. We’re looking into using Tailio for other companion animals in the future, but right now we’re focused on delivering a great product for cat parents.
Thanks for the great questions :) It's amazing as a young company to get real time feedback.
What's the warranty if I were to buy this?
Also, as a data lover, I would love to be able to see the data points associated with the device.
Have you taken into accout of adding new litter and how that would affect the data?
We're offering a 1 year warranty on the Tailio device.
We're data lovers too!! :-) You can see the raw data from the device at one of our videos here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GNlTVfzcG4
Tailio automatically handles any changes in the litter: scooping cat waste, replenishing litter, or switching to a different litter box.
How long will it take before the device gathers enough data to be accurate in its predictions?
Tailio establishes a Pawprint for each of your cats based on their individual physiology and behavior, within 3 days.
Does everyone in your company carry toxoplasmosis?
Nope, we're only infected with our love of cats :)
I hope I'm not too late. This seems like an excellent project! Here's my questions...
We have five cats! Is the system going to be able to cope with that? Also, we have roughly five or six litterboxes; has the system been tested with that many litterboxes/units/cats?
I'm a bit of a hardware hacker myself, and I think it would be great if I could write code to have my home systems monitor these, and to snap photos from our security cameras that are tagged with which cat is using the litterbox. How difficult would that be; is the data easy to access from the home network, or even better, some kind of API provided? Does it identify the cat when it gets in, in an accessable way, or is the identification delayed to the point where I couldn't possibly know which cat it was at the time I'm taking a photo?
This seems like a great project!
EDIT: One other question - the price of this project is quite reasonable, but getting five or six gets expensive fast. How would the system cope if not every litterbox is using it?
Congrats on your five cats!
Tailio can handle multiple cats and litter boxes / Tailio devices in one household. Here is how: first, user enters the number of cats in the app. Next, Tailio creates an individual profile, or "Pawprint", for each cat. All cat event data ends up in the cloud, where the analytics make a decision to which cat this event data belongs. One cat can use multiple litter boxes throughout the day, and Tailio analytics will sort out the data in the cloud.
We have tested three cats and three litter boxes in a household.
Each cat event data packet is date & time stamped, as well as contains information on from what litter box / device it actually came (custom labeled, e.g. "basement"); accordingly, you could match these data packets with the photos based on the photo's date & time stamp, and camera location.
We're looking into opening up our API, but we're currently focusing on delivering the iOS and Android mobile apps with our core health features.
If every litter box is not covered by Tailio,it will still provide valuable information about your cats' weight.
Thank you for your kind words!
Thank you so much for the response.
I'm a little wary of using a system like this that's cloud-based without being completely open. While we all hope you are wildly successful and last an eternity, history shows that just never happens. If your cloud service is eventually discontinued, or just experiences some unfortunate downtime, do the Tailio devices become useless?
You make some good points.
We’re an experienced team that has direct experience building companies and products that are here to last, and we're planning for success.
We’re looking into opening up our API. We’d love the feedback of potential developers as we decide how to go about this, and we hope you’ll join us. Feel free to email us at [email protected]
I have extensive experience in cats and technology as well, where can I fill out an application?
Feel free to shoot us an email at [email protected]
Why isn't there something like this for people? I'd love a toilet which examined my pee/poop and said I'm dehydrated or need more vitamin b or something like that.
Taking this rhetorical question as a compliment :-). Seriously, though, there are some obvious challenges for people's version of Tailio: 1) each person might use several different toilet throughout the day, e.g. work, home, restaurant etc., and 2) people have more complicated lives than cats: variety of foods, changes in schedule, stress. All that just to emphasize that indoor-only cats use a known number of toilets, have a stable menu, and a pretty good stable schedule, so changes picked up by Tailio are more likely to be caused by changes in their health or stress.
What about fancy-pants litter boxes that have moving parts like scoop arms? Would the movement / vibrations bother it? Or the fact that the waste is collected in one area instead of scooped out one-by-one?
You're referring to automatic self-cleaning litter boxes - good question.
Tailio handles movements and vibrations: there are three types of litter box events that Tailio Data Analytics log: 1) cat event, 2) litter box cleaning event, and 3) other - unrecognizable event. Depending on the intensity of the movements and vibrations, they will be either detected and flagged as "other" or go undetected, if too subtle.
Collection of the waste in one area is also a non-issue. Tailio does not require the waste to be scooped out one-by-one or in any other particular way.
How does Tailio work with multi at households? How do you know what crap is from what cat?
Tailio can handle variety of combinations of number of cats and litter boxes / Tailio devices in one household, including one cat and multiple boxes, multiple cats sharing one box, as well as multiple cats and multiple boxes.
Here is how: first, user enters the number of cats in the app. Next, Tailio creates an individual profile, or "Pawprint", for each cat. All cat event data ends up in the cloud, where the analytics make a decision to which cat this event data belongs. One cat can use multiple litter boxes throughout the day, and Tailio analytics will sort out the data in the cloud.
- Can it detect changes in feces/urine such as UTI or other health issues?
- Why does my cat insist on splashing all the water out of the bowl with her paw?
- Not a question. You're idea is really cool since cats tend to hide symptoms of illness! Thanks for making this to keep our fur kids healthy! Can't wait to see where it leads!
- Yes, Tailio will be able to detect symptoms compatible with lower urinary tract issues, that cats are so prone to, along with other common ailments, such as cancer, diabetes, intestinal tract issues, hyperthyroidism, congesting heart failure. Tailio will not diagnose or identify a particular condition, but it will alert you to these symptoms so you could take your cat to a vet for diagnosis and treatment.
Tailio measures weight of waste that cat leaves behind in the litter box, and calculate the cumulative weight of waste in every 24 hour period - changes and trends in these could be caused by number of feline diseases. Tailio also detects if the cat has not shown up in the box for longer than usual, that could be caused by a variety of reasons, UTI potentially being one of them. Other reasons could be cat locked in the room away from the litter box, or stuck somewhere.
There not likely a medical problem; your cat is playful and possibly enjoys watching you cleaning after them ;-)
Thank you so much!
Hi - a friend just sent me the link to this. How would this work with a multi-cat family? I have 2 older cats (18 yrs) that I think this would be helpful to have. However, I also have 2 younger cats (2 and 4 yrs) and they all use each others litter boxes. In order to track essentially 'who did what', would I have to purchase four of these devices? Or is there a way to create individual profiles for each so I can monitor individually? Thank you!
Hi, in order to provide full coverage for your cats, you need to have the same number of Tailio devices as the number of litter boxes in your house. I am not clear on how many boxes you have, but if you have two litter boxes, then two Tailio device will be able to monitor all four of your cats, and so on.
Tailio will automatically generate Pawprints (see below in other answers the details on the Pawprint) for each one of your cats.
I'm getting each of my two kids a kitten for Christmas. Got any tips on what to do when we get them home?
Dr. Mark here:
1)Safety First: There are many aspects of holiday decorations that can be dangerous to kittens and cats, like tinsel, and string from gifts (they can swallow it accidentally).
2)Are the two kittens bonded (i.e. from the same litter)? This will make the introduction to the household much easier. If they are not bonded try to get a male and a female, as this increases the chances of them being compatible. This is of course predicated on the fact that the kittens are appropriately spayed/neutered.
3)Some of this will be age dependent, but it’s always best to introduce kittens to a small area of the household first, and then slowly increase the area they are allowed to go to.
4)Tailio has a feature in the app that monitors kitten growth rate, similar to how infants are monitored in pediatrics.
Does Tailio have a cat-friendly office?
Everything is cat-friendly. And kitten-friendly :-)
What are size or shape restrictions on the litter box?
We designed the Tailio device to fit underneath many of popular litter boxes of all sizes: small / medium / large / X-large. Tailio dimensions are 18 x 12 inches.
Manufacturers of litter boxes provide the most outer dimensions (understandably so - people care how much room such box will take up), and we found that due to the inclined walls of the litter boxes and the rounded bottom edges around the perimeter, the difference between the dimensions of the box provided by the manufacturer and its footprint (literally where the litter box comes in contact with the floor) could be 5 inches or even more. For example, a 24 x 18 inches box's footprint measured 19 x 12.5 inches - a perfect fit for Tailio.
Even if the litter box's footprint exceeds 18 x 12 inches by a few inches on each side - the box will still remain very stable on top of the Tailio device thanks to two factors: 1) the anti-skid mat, and 2) distributed weight of the kitty litter that holds the box in place.
Shape-wise Tailio works with rectangular, square and some round litter boxes, as long as there is no a ramp that touches the floor.
My cat Clyde is 17 and in pretty good health however I'm struggling to find a good cat litter for him that doesn't get stuck in his paws. I use clumping litter and clean it every day but he's not able to clean his back paws very well and if he's peed a lot during the day it can get stuck inbetween his pads. I want to try and use a litter that doesn't get smelly too quickly, absorbs everything well but doesn't clog up his paws. Not a lot to ask for! Any ideas as to what would suit a cat of his years? Cheers!
Dr Mark here: Has the urination volume of your cat changed recently, or has this been a long time issue? If this is a recent change, I recommend seeing your vet. If this has been a long term issue, I would look for litter that is chlorophyll infused to control the scent. With regards to litter getting stuck in his paws, this is not unusual, especially in long-haired cats. Look for litter of greater size, so that individual pieces of litter don’t get stuck in between his pads.
Is it useful for a multi cat household? I have 2 cats and wondering if data is skewed in any way due to weight fluctuations in the litter.
Yes, Tailio is designed to work in households with multiple cats and one or multiple litter boxes / one or multiple Tailio devices.
Weight fluctuations in the litter do not affect or skew data.
Sometimes one of my cats goes on visits to my parents' house. Is there a way to tell Tailio that he's going on kitty vacation so it doesn't freak out and send notifications that he hasn't used the litter box in days? On a similar note, can it handle cats who come and stay for a while but then leave, such as foster cats?
Absolutely! In the app settings, you can let Tailio know that your cat is going on vacation/away from home, so you don’t get any alerts. Also, you can take Tailio with you, as long as the place you’re staying has a working wi-fi connection.
(In response to your question about foster cats in your house)
Yes, Tailio can handle cats who come and stay for a while but then leave. In the app settings, you can add/remove cats to your account.
Dr. Mark notes, however, that if you are introducing cats in your household for a short time where there are other cats, it’s best to keep them separated. If the new cats coming in are over 6 weeks, please be sure that they are vaccinated, and that the existing cats in the household are also vaccinated.
By the time this ships, will the app for iOS be native?
Looking at the video demo, it's extremely slow to respond and appears to be one of the "webpage" apps that have disappointing performance, and also kill your battery because of it.
Absolutely, we're making a native app for iOS/Android, which will be on the app store/google play in April when Tailios ship for our Kickstarter backers.
For those people out there who have cats that don't always do their business IN the litterbox but (usually) give it their best approximation and then kick everything everywhere, will there be any sort of protection for the buttons/ports?
I'm asking, you know, for all those people who might have cats who do this. Not that my family does. :|
Absolutely, the Tailio device is designed to be splash-proof and cat friendly. The buttons are protected with a solid rubber panel. The charging port has a protective rubber plug.
Indeed, we know of cats that tend to do this. :)
I have two cats, a male and female, both strays that I took in, and less than a year old. While I know you can't truly offer pet medical advice, are there any common reasons for cats, especially females, to stop using the litter box?
One more.. If you were to introduce this product to a bunch of little old ladies, what would you highlight for product features?? With the realization that they're probably not your target audience.
Dr. Mark here: 1)Common reasons for cats to stop using the litter box, could be a medical issue, behavioral issue, or a combination of both. For example, cystitis is a medical reason, fighting for dominance among other household cats is a behavioral reason. I would encourage you to consider a second litterbox, and discuss these findings with your veterinarian to rule out any medical reasons.
Alex here: 2) I would highlight the fact that our product is easy to use. All you have to do is turn the device on, connect it to wifi, and download the app. You don’t have to reset the device, even when you change the litter. Tailio will help them and their veterinarian recognize the existence of potential medical issues with their cats at an early stage, relieving their cat of unnecessary suffering.
How many ways are there actually, to skin a cat..?
Ha! There are certainly many ways to approach the issues of monitoring cat health and analyzing the resulting data, but we feel that with Tailio we’re on the right track.
Let's say, hypothetically, I have a few too many drinks and mistake the litter box for the lavatory. Will the Tailio tell me anything useful like my BAC?
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