Cat Litter Box Styles: What To Know Before You Pick

If you’re going to take care of a cat, you can’t forget the litter box. Other than food, they’re the top essential item for your pet. 

At the most basic, litter boxes are usually rectangular-shaped, plastic boxes filled with moisture and odor-absorbing litter that cats can comfortably and safely pee or poop in.  

The keywords here are comfort and safety— the primary considerations when choosing the best litter box for your feline.

What to Consider When Buying a Kitty Litter Box

Cats rub their scent on their territory so they can feel safe, and there’s nothing more pungent than their pee and poo.

Considering comfort and safety, a kitty litter box, therefore, should be:

  • spacious enough to allow your cat to get on, turn, and dig
  • made of high-quality materials that are easy to clean
  • won’t topple over
  • located in a stress-free environment with low foot traffic
  • in a well-ventilated space, if possible, to avoid accumulation of odors
  • placed away from your pet’s food and water
  • easily accessible with a low entry especially for kittens, elderly, injured, overweight, or disabled cats
  • scooped daily and thoroughly cleaned weekly.

The most common box sizes in the market are 14” x 18” inches, too small for the average-sized cat. Go for the larger-sized ones also to avoid litter spillage.

Note the configuration, too, if you have felines with special needs. Top entry boxes are not ideal for disabled or elderly cats. Neither are those with flaps that can trap your pet inside.

Are Lids Okay?

Cats have been doing their business out in the open for as long as they’ve been in existence. That attests to the fact that they don’t need privacy.

Open boxes give your cat the advantage of scanning the area for threats, especially in their vulnerable state. It also allows you to observe their feces to assess their health.

Let’s face it: lids are mainly for the convenience of the human and not the cat. We cover what we don’t want to be seen and smelled (but your cat can!).

If you do choose a lidded box, just continue being responsible. Studies show most cat owners with lidded litter boxes forgo daily scooping which isn’t healthy for you and your feline friend.

How Many Litter Boxes Should You Buy?

One litter box is not enough even if you have just one cat.

The number of litter boxes should correspond to how many cats you have plus one. That means if you have one cat, you need two litter boxes. If you have three cats, you need four litter boxes, and so forth.

These can be placed side by side or on different floors of the house. Your cats will like it if they have options.

What About Automatic Cat Litter Boxes?

Various innovations have been made to the kitty litter box in the pursuit of convenience. These range from manual sifting systems to highly automated robots that are connected to your toilet for direct flushing (please note that not all states in the US allow cat waste to be flushed).

Automated boxes have self-cleaning features— like a rake or a rotating globe— that eliminate or significantly reduce the amount of scooping you need to do. All that’s left to do every few days is to empty the repository where the waste drops.

Additional features include out-of-litter indicators, carbon filters, and odor control systems that help keep the space fresh and clean. There are even some with the ability to monitor changes in cats’ weight and toilet habits to warn the carer of a possible health problem.

And while all of those advanced features are advantageous, be warned that moving parts may startle your cat. Also, boxes with enclosed designs warrant closer monitoring of your pet. With any machine, there’s the danger of malfunction that can lead to trapping or pinching your poor feline. Expect your box to be feared and avoided if that happens.

That being said, some litter boxes with their pros stand out on the market, such as rotation for automatic filtering, infrared sensing, and smart apps, and have the most positive reviews for automatic boxes in the market. They’re pricey but well worth it for some, notwithstanding some reported sensor and motor issues.

Automatic boxes present significant advantages to some cat carers who are disabled or in pain and find it hard to constantly scoop. These are the people who find pressing a button a relief.

Basic or automatic, the debate about these litter boxes is never-ending. Again, it’s all a matter of preference. What’s the most beneficial to both you and your cat given your budget?

Litter, Litter, On the Floor

Long before they were domesticated, outdoor cats have been doing their business on sand or dirt. But indoors, deodorization is essential.

And so businessman Ed Lowe invented kitty litter in 1947 using moisture-and odor-absorbing industrial clay. It was an instant hit but wasn’t perfect as it tracks on floors and creates a mess.

Today, variations of the litter are available to suit preferences and needs. But we recommend the unscented variety so as not to irritate your cat.

In the same vein, avoid products like sprays and fragrances since these irritate your poor kitty’s sensitive sense of smell. Air purifiers work better since they combat those unpleasant scents instead of merely masking them.

There are also sustainable and eco-friendly options such as wood pellets and biodegradable litter. If your cat finds them too rough on their paws, we recommend the finer, but low-dust, clumping variety instead.

Use about 3 inches of litter for every box, a little more if you have multiple cats to avoid refilling too often. Automatic boxes have a level indicator.

Introducing Changes

If you’ve introduced a system and your cat likes it, congratulations!

But if modifications are necessary, know that going cold turkey rarely works. If your cats have gotten used to a routine, a sudden change might be jarring for them. Don’t remove the old box until your pets prefer the new one.

Introduce a new variety of litter slowly by, (a) adding a new box with the new litter on it and, upon proving that your pet likes it, (b) slowly adding that litter to the old boxes until the old litter is completely changed.

The same goes for moving. Relocating a box should be gradual to avoid litter box aversion.

If your pet doesn’t want to use the litter box no matter what you do, check changes in its diet. Your cat may associate the box with pain caused by constipation or diarrhea. You can also look for distractions or irritants. It might be that new scratchy mat or that new deodorizer you tried. The location might be too near a noisy washing machine or a vent that’s spewing cold air.

So The Best Is

There’s no single litter box or system perfect for every cat. Every carer is different, too. Costs and convenience may be your priority, but as long as the comfort and safety of your cat are on your mind, things should be fine.

No matter what you choose, give your cat time to acclimate; observe and make little tweaks until that comfort and territorialism are in place. Remember, you’re the “Hooman”, and you’re still in control.