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.
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 TheCatSite.com 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.
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 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.
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.
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