Litter boxes: to enclose or not to enclose? That is one of the most common questions of cat owners, whether they bring a new feline into their home or just want to change out their cats’ existing litter boxes. There are only a few physical differences in covered and uncovered litter boxes; however, they make a big difference.
What Do Cats Prefer?
A 2013 study of domestic cat litter box preferences showed that house cats generally like both types of litter boxes—enclosed and open. The study revealed that preferences were likely based on the litter box type they were used to.
That being said, existing cat owners should stick to what their cats are accustomed to, as switching litter box types can cause stress, which can lead to avoidance of the litter box altogether and soiling the homeowner’s furniture, floors or other surfaces.
For owners bringing a new cat into the home, it’s best to check with the cat’s previous shelter or breeder to find out what litter box the feline preferred. If an owner can’t track down a cat’s previous preference, it’s best to choose a litter box type based on their personal preferences and needs.
Covered Litter Boxes
Many owners choose enclosed litter boxes to give their cat more privacy. They may believe that providing some privacy helps their cat choose the litter box, over, say, the floor. However, this isn’t necessarily true. According to the study cited above, cats don’t appear to need privacy to do their business. Still, some cat owners may not like to see their cats using the bathroom. Enclosed litter boxes may also help contain odor and keep litter from spilling.
Inexpensive, basic, plastic-covered litter boxes can be found at any pet store, such as this hooded litter box. But some owners may opt for more sophisticated, self-cleaning boxes—such as this model from Litter-Robot.
Uncovered Litter Boxes
Although they don’t contain odor as well as enclosed types, open litter boxes and pans are generally the most inexpensive option. They may also be the best option for cats who are physically challenged, as these boxes are usually low to the ground and easier to step into. Owners can even start young kittens out in shallow plastic bins as a litter box until they are big enough for larger litter boxes.
Uncovered litter boxes are found where covered ones are purchased. From this basic model, to other self-cleaning, open litter boxes, like this one from Tidy Cats, the modern cat owner has more options than ever.
Once cat owners have decided between a covered or uncovered litter box, they should make sure to keep at least two boxes in the house plus one extra for every additional cat. Litter boxes should be cleaned regularly, usually daily, unless they are self-cleaning. Once a cat has a litter box preference, owners should respect that preference to keep their feline companion happy and comfortable at home.