How To Choose The Right Litterbox

The name makes it sound so simple. A box, right? Just a box which you fill up with your choice of cat litter, right? Ha! If only it were that simple.

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First-time cat owners are often amazed at the sheer variety of litterboxes available. With such an amazing selection, what is a cat owner to choose?

Basically, litterboxes can either be open or covered. Beyond open vs. covered, there are several varieties currently available on the market, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Let's review them and see what might be a good fit for your cat.

Open Litterboxes

This is the most basic and intrinsic design for a litterbox. An open box where kitty litter can be poured for the cat to dig in and cover. It needs to be deep enough, large enough and easy to clean. It is so simple in its design that some of the members at use plain yet sturdy storage boxes such as the ones made by Rubbermaid and Sterilite.

The disposable litterbox

These are open litterboxes made of disposable materials, often cardboard or hardened recycled paper. The idea is to use them with non-clumping litter, and when it's time to change the entire contents, you just pick up the box and chuck it away. No need to wash the box itself or use liners. These boxes can be scented or may have baking soda as an additional ingredient, to help with odor control.

The high-sided litterbox

These are still open litterboxes but they come with extra-tall sides to prevent the cat from kicking litter out of the box, as some cats are prone to do. Again, you could use a regular storage box and get one that's tall enough for your cat's digging practices. Designated high-sided litterboxes usually have a u-shaped entry point, making it easier for the cat to enter the box without having to jump. It could be an important feature for older or arthritic cats. A regular storage box can be cut on one side to provide such an entry point.

The corner litterbox

This is simply a triangular-shaped box intended for use in the room's corner. It can be high-sided or of regular height and it can even be a covered box. Its main advantage is aesthetic, in case you decide to place the box in the corner of a room.

Covered litterboxes

As the name implies, the covered litterbox has a cover, or a hood, turning it into a closed box with an opening at the front. The opening is usually a flap door allowing Kitty to enter and exit at will while keeping the litterbox space cocooned within its plastic walls.

Some people like this because they think it's a way to keep unwanted odors inside the box but this is a dangerous line of thought. Essentially, it means you don't mind if the inside of the box stinks. It shouldn't. How would you like to use a dirty stinky bathroom? Your cat wouldn't either. If you opt for a covered box make sure it's just as clean as any open box would be and consider removing the flap altogether to prevent odors from being trapped inside and deterring cats from using the box. You should also make sure it is large enough for your cat to use.

The top-entry litterbox

Some covered boxes have their entries located at the top of the box. Essentially, this is a lidded box with a round hole in the lid allowing the cat to enter and exit the box. The main difference between this and an ordinarily covered litterbox is that the cat has to jump in order to enter the box. It's not a good fit for kittens, elderly cats or arthritic cats.

Automated litterboxes

Automated litterboxes are labor-saving devices. Simply put, they sift the litter for feces and urine clumps on their own. Some of these machines operate the cleaning process according to a set schedule, up to once an hour, while others use sensors to check for cat visits and clean once the cat has left the box.

Automated litterboxes can be a great solution for people who are too busy to or can't clean the box on a regular basis. They are fairly expensive though and require some maintenance. To help you choose the right one for you, we prepared this guide: How To Choose The Best Automatic Litter Box For Your Cat

So, which litterbox should I choose?

Some things are true for all boxes.

All cats prefer larger boxes over smaller ones. A kitten may do well with a smaller box but don't forget to switch to a larger box as your cat grows in size. Make sure the box is large enough for a cat to comfortably turn around in. Having extra space is always good, as it allows Kitty to find a new clean spot and avoid soiled corners in case you didn't get around to cleaning the box on time. The box should also be deep enough to allow for at least three inches of litter across the box's surface.

As for which exact type to choose, you need to find a box that's right for your cat and for you. The goal is to meet the following needs in a balanced way:

First, the box should be accessible to your cat at all times. If your cat is very young, elderly or disabled, it should not have to climb or jump in order to enter and exit the box.

Second, the box should feel safe to your cat. If there are other pets in your home, and specifically if there are bullying issues between cats at play, opt for an open box. Cats aren't as bothered about privacy as we are. What they need is to feel safe by being able to see who is approaching the box and having the ability to leave instantly in a different direction. If that is an issue for your cat - opt for an open box that's not a corner box. Place the box in a way that leaves escape routes open.

Third, the box should be easy to keep clean. Whatever fits your own needs here works. If you need a constant reminder of the condition of the box, you probably need an open box which you can see and smell at all times. Alternatively, if you're too busy to clean the box regularly, a self-cleaning automated box may prove to be a good investment.

Read More on What’s The Largest Cat Litter Box (and Why Your Cat Needs It).

Why Choose Just One?

As our guide titled "How Many Litterboxes Should You Have?" says, having at least two litterboxes in a household is a good idea. If you have more than one cat, there's no reason to stop at two boxes. The rule of thumb is: The number of litter boxes should equal the number of cats plus one. They don't need to be identical though. Having several litterboxes gives you a chance to experiment and see if your cats have any preferences. If one of the boxes stays unused for a long period of time, your cats are probably asking for a replacement. Otherwise, keep the boxes varied to suit their various needs.

Read More on Litterbox Problems.

Comments? Leave them using the form below. Questions? Please use the cat forums for those!

7 comments on “How To Choose The Right Litterbox

SirCatsAlotz mom October 29, 2022
I'd love a photo of your bins!
MrsNic2 June 14, 2020
I had stumbled across this you tube video about 2 years ago You use the Breeze litter system, wood pellets and puppy pads. The pellets break down to sawdust when exposed to urine, which sifts right through to the puppy pad. The breeze scoop is just the right size to let the pellets through when scooping the solid waste. I can get the pellets from pet stores or delivery through Chewy, but have found the farm supply places are the cheapest. A 40 pound bag of pellets cost me $6.99 and 100 puppy pads around $25 at Walmart or Sam’s. The pellets never need to be changed only added to. And the pad lasts around a week depending on how many cats you have. I used this for about a year until I had to buy more supplies (2 adult cats and trained 4 foster kittens plus I had to keep one of them. She was just too darn cute!). Very economical, the cats took to it right away and no smell because the sawdust is a natural deodorizer. Check it out. Many times you can find the Breeze systems at garage sales as a lot of cats don’t like them.
    SirCatsAlotz mom October 29, 2022
    So you just scoop the poop? I need a new method for my 3 yo cat and fast!
SuefromTN July 21, 2018
Ok .. I’m at a loss.. We are trying to understand our new 1 year old we just adopted 2 weeks ago. He initially took to the Breeze system and goes very contently in it, in fact, he loves to pee there, but then he has started to poo in random places, so we added a 2nd box using the regular Tidy Cat system, right next to his.. and it’s hit or miss. He used it this morning but later used the bathroom/laundry room floor to poo just awhile ago. We have the additional extra 2 more boxes downstairs in our studio for when we’re working. I hate to isolate him down there..but may have to. He’d be all alone- but lots of windows.. so.. you’re thoughts?
omahamike May 17, 2016
Well, this is a subject I can speak about with some expertise!!! I have been a cat lover all of my life (I am 75 years old now) and I am alone now and living on a farm. At the moment I have 7 cats, all spayed or neutered. They are my life, actually! Most of the farmers out this way just shoot the barn cats when their numbers get too large, so some of them escape and end up here, looking for a safe place to live, I imagine. There are a lot of predators out here, foxes, coyotes, badgers and even stray dogs, so I try to get them all inside every night, and I'm usually successful, I might add. But back to the litterbox subject... over the years I have tried every single type and style of commercially made litterbox, but there were inherent problems with each and every one of them, depending on what cats I had at the time and how many! What I ended up doing is getting ahold of a couple of plastic 55 gallon barrels that had had food coloring in them originally and cut them with a sabre saw to the height I thought would be accessible for the cats and a deeper cut as an entry point for them. No more litter on the floor around the box and no "oversprays" either! I have  2 of them in 2 rooms. Granted they're not for everyone because of their size, but now that I'm alone, I have an extra room for a "Cat room". One caution I might add if you're considering this option... BE SURE THE BARREL DIDN'T EVER CONTAIN CHEMICALS THAT MIGHT HARM/KILL YOUR ANIMALS. Boiler chemicals and insecticides do come in plastic barrels now, and should be avoided! I have seen 30 gallon and 55 gallon barrels, and like I said, mine had food coloring in them. Granted, they might not be so pleasing for your decor, but they are large enough for the largest cat and depending on how high you leave the sides, even the most aggressive litter scratcher can't get the litter out of it!! It takes a lot of litter to fill it deep enough for the cats, but that's a one-time thing! I NEVER change the whole box, I just add more litter as I remove the "clumps" that the urine and feces make in the clumping litter. I wouldn't recommend using the clay (non-clumping) litter, because then you would have to change it periodically. I also have not tried the new "light weight: litter either, but I if it ain't broke, don't fix it!  I scoop it out once a day, sometimes twice a day, and everybody is happy with that schedule. Any cat will start using a "cleaner" place to do their "business" if the litter box is full of clumps or is stinky! I have asked ALL of my friends to tell me if they can tell there's a cat in the house, and no one except a stepson with cat allergies who swells up after 10 minutes here has ever told me the house smells! I'd certainly want to know!! So, I give him a Benadryl and we can continue to visit!!   E-mail me for some suggestions on obtaining those barrels if you're having problems finding them. By now there is probably a return deposit on those barrels that wasn't in effect when I...
queen sparkle April 3, 2016
I love this article it has been really useful

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