What’s in a Box? 2020’s Best Litter Boxes for Your Cat

Kitten in Litter Box

Why are litter boxes important? They provide a place for your cat to safely use the restroom indoors without making a mess. A good litter box ensures your cat uses it and doesn’t have accidents in the house, and also makes cleanup easier. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including enclosed entrances to keep other pets out, raised sides to keep messes in, and automatic boxes to help make cleaning easier. A guide for buying the best litter box can help ensure both you and your cat stay happy and healthy when using it.


IRIS Top Entry Cat Litter Box with Cat Litter Scoop
Our Choice

IRIS Top Entry Cat Litter Box

Comfort: High | Usability: High | Price: Average

This top-entrance litter box is both stylish and useful. It features a unique, rounded design that’s great with modern decor. The large opening and textured top help your cat get in and out while cleaning their paws so litter doesn’t track on your floor.

PetSafe ScoopFree Ultra Automatic Self Cleaning Hooded Cat Litter Box
Best Overall

PetSafe ScoopFree Cat Litter Box

Comfort: Average | Usability: High | Price: High

PetSafe makes litter cleaning easy with its removable tray and self-cleaning scoop. Load the box with a tray, plug it in, and let the box do the work. While this litter box is a bit bulkier and less stylish, it makes up for it with ease of use.

AmazonBasics No-Mess Hooded Cat Litter Box
Best Value

AmazonBasics No-Mess Cat Litter Box

Comfort: Average | Usability: High | Price: Low

If you’re looking for a no-frills basic litter box, this one is perfect. The top-load entrance keeps odors and waste contained while making it easy for your cat to get in and out. The lid easily folds open so you can scoop daily without hassle.


Litter boxes are versatile and can fit almost any style of home decor. While you have a typical open-sided box as the most basic, litter boxes also come in many styles including different colors and enclosures to match the location you place it. Openings are also important to help keep nosy pets out of the box while keeping your cat’s mess enclosed inside. Openings in the top or sides of the box make it easier for your cat to get in and out of smaller spaces, and ramps and other accessories can help make a litter box more accessible to older cats.

You can also purchase a litter box that comes with carbon filters to help reduce smell, or automatic cleaning so that odors are trapped in an easy to empty compartment. Different boxes also use different litter types, such as crystal, clay, wheat and corn, or paper-based litters, which can be more comfortable on your cat’s paws and help trap odor and liquids more effectively. Litter boxes that are automatic or have built-in scoops also make clean-up a breeze by simply emptying a single compartment.

In this handy guide, we’ll provide a list of our top litter boxes of 2020 and their features so you can learn more about the various types of litter boxes available and pick the right one to match you and your cat’s needs.

The 7 Best Cat Litter Boxes for 2020

Here are our top picks for litter boxes in 2020. These were graded on various categories such as size, box type, opening type, and the colors available. Box size, sides, and opening help determine the right box for your cat’s size and age, as larger cats will need larger-sized boxes and older cats may need low sides or openings to get in and out easier. Boxes were also divided by type, such as open, enclosed, or automatic, which helps with ease of cleaning. Finally, available colors make it easy to see at a glance which box would best fit with your home decor.

PRODUCTRATINGPRICESIZETYPESIDESOPENINGCOLORS
IRIS Top Entry Cat Litter Box Our Choice9.8Average price20.47"L x 16.14"W x 14.56"H (Large)EnclosedCoveredTopAssorted Colors
PetSafe ScoopFree Best Overall9.5High price27.5 x 19 x 16 inches (Side Open)AutomaticCoveredTop Or SideGray, Purple, Taupe
AmazonBasics Cat Litter Box Best Value9.1 priceVariesVariesVariesTop Or SideTan
Good Pet Stuff Litter Box9.0Average price19 x 19 x 20 inchesHiddenCoveredSideBrown/Clay
Pet Mate 42036 Pan8.7Low price19 x 15 x 8 inchesOpenHigh SidedTopGrey
Van Ness Enclosed Cat Pan8.3Low price18"H x 17.5"W x 21.5"D inchesEnclosedCoveredSideBlue
Van Ness CP2HS Cat Litter Pan8.2Low price17.5 x 15 x 9 inchesOpenHigh SidedTopAssorted Colors

IRIS Top Entry Cat Litter Box with Cat Litter Scoop

IRIS Top Entry Cat Litter Box with Cat Litter Scoop
: 20.47"L x 16.14"W x 14.56"H (Large)
: Enclosed
: Covered
: Top
: Assorted Colors
9.8 - ratingAverage price Our Choice

If you’re looking for a modern, stylish cat box, the IRIS Top Entry Cat Litter Box is a great choice. Available in a variety of colors to fit any design choice, its rounded design sets it apart from other boxes while still easily containing messes out of sight. The top-entry design along with a textured lid makes it easier for litter to stay put and wipes your cat’s paws when they exit the box so litter isn’t tracked in the home. The top entry also makes this a great box if you have other pets that may try to eat litter or waste.

Included is a scoop that is designed to fit the box’s size and shape perfectly so you can easily clean all corners. While it comes in a lot of convenient colors, its odd shape and bulky size may make it hard to find a spot for it in a smaller home or apartment. Cats with arthritis or that have trouble jumping may also dislike the top entrance. Overall, this box is reasonably priced for both its size and design, and is our top choice for price, ease of use, and design.

Compilation of customer opinions

Owners of the IRIS Top Entry Cat Litter Box are also raving about this box. Top reviews say their cats easily adapted to the top entry, and that almost any litter type, including pine and paper litters, work great inside. The transition from a conventional litter box is easy, and since the box itself is so light, it is easy to move for cleaning or to another room in the house. Some owners do state that the box does still track litter even with the textured lid, and some cats don’t like to use it due to having to hop into where they just went to the bathroom. The plastic may also crack easily if not properly cared for.

However, the convenient size and shape, and the ability to keep most litter contained within the box no matter how much scratching your cat does is a big perk for most people who purchased this box. With daily cleaning, even owners of larger cats found the box was easy to keep clean and their cat had plenty of room to move around and get in and out.

Key feature

  • Rounded design
  • Top entry
  • Textured cover
  • Scoop included
  • Modern looking

Pros

  • Less mess
  • Easy to clean
  • Many color options
  • Contains odors

Cons

  • Odd shape may be hard to place it in home
  • May be hard for cats with arthritis to use
  • Bulky

PetSafe ScoopFree Ultra Automatic Self Cleaning Hooded Cat Litter Box

PetSafe ScoopFree Ultra Automatic Self Cleaning Hooded Cat Litter Box
: 27.5 x 19 x 16 inches (Side Open)
: Automatic
: Covered
: Top Or Side
: Gray, Purple, Taupe
9.5 - ratingHigh price Best Overall

If convenience is what you’re after, then look no further than the PetSafe ScoopFree Ultra Automatic Self Cleaning Hooded Cat Litter Box. This automatic box makes it easy to keep your cat’s litter clean with its blend of odor-reducing crystal litter and automatic cleaning rake. When your cat uses the box, the timer automatically rakes the litter into the easy to empty tray below. Each litter tray lasts up to 30 days, so cleaning is as simple as replacing the tray. The high sides and optional top or side entrance keeps litter in place to reduce tracking.

While the box itself is convenient, the need to purchase a specific litter type and tray may put off some buyers. The loud noise may also scare more timid cats when the rake is activated, however gradual introduction to the box can reduce fear. Even with the extra cost of buying proprietary litter, and the initial high cost of the box itself, the unit pays for itself with reduced need to replace litter weekly and the ease of use and simple “plug it in and forget it” cleaning routine.

Compilation of customer opinions

Owners of the PetSafe ScoopFree Ultra Automatic Self Cleaning Hooded Cat Litter Box love how easy it is to use. There are also some alternative litters and trays that owners have found are interchangeable with this box that may reduce upkeep costs. The automatic scooping is a bonus for owners who both hate litter smells and have pets that may try to eat litter or waste left behind. For more timid cats, a week-long introduction period helped them to get used to it and start using it regularly.

However, some owners have noted that the box stops working after a few months of use due to waste matter getting stuck in the gear mechanism. With proper cleaning and maintenance during litter changes, this can likely be mitigated. Other owners found there was some leaking and loud noise during use, so keeping a litter mat and inspecting the unit regularly is a must. Overall, the benefits of automatic cleaning, reduced odor, and simple design make this box a top choice if you don’t want to deal with the hassle of scooping litter daily.

Key feature

  • Automatically scoops litter for you after each use
  • Crystal litter reduces odor
  • Disposable tray for easy cleaning
  • Available in top or side entry
  • One tray lasts up to 30 days

Pros

  • Convenient, less cleaning means more free time
  • High sides reduce litter mess and tracking
  • Easy to plug in, set, and forget

Cons

  • Uses proprietary litter so you have to purchase a specific product
  • Stops working if there is no power source
  • Loud cleaning rake may intimidate more timid cats

AmazonBasics No-Mess Hooded Cat Litter Box

AmazonBasics No-Mess Hooded Cat Litter Box
: Varies
: Varies
: Varies
: Top Or Side
: Tan
9.1 - rating Best Value

Another no-frills option, the AmazonBasics No-Mess Hooded Cat Litter Box comes in a variety of styles to make picking the right one for your cat easy. This box comes in both a side and top-entry design, and an optional door can be added to the side entry to keep messes contained. A triangular-shaped box is also great for placing the unit in a corner out of sight. The large opening and textured lid on the top-entry box helps clean paws when your cat exits and reduces litter tracking while containing mess and odors. The neutral color also fits well with any home decor.

However, the box may be a bit difficult to clean in the top-entry design as the back portion has a spot where litter can become trapped. The box top may also be too flimsy for very heavy or large cats, or may open unintentionally when entering or exiting. That said, the overall low price, large number of design choices, and ease of use make this a great basic litter box that will fit nearly every household.

Compilation of customer opinions

Highly-rated by owners, the AmazonBasics No-Mess Hooded Cat Litter Box is overall loved by many. Owners of cats that like to scrape or miss the sides of traditional litter boxes enjoy how this box keeps litter and waste contained. The quality is also excellent for the price point. Owners of multiple cats also liked that the large size of the box worked great for both small and large cats, and didn’t deter multiple cats from using it.

Some owners have noted that the hinges and lid are flimsier than the box and that they can break over time. Inspection and cleaning of the hinges at litter changes may reduce the chance of breaking. Very heavy cats may also increase wear and tear on the hinges. Other owners noticed the design of the top-entry box may some areas hard to clean, but switching to the side entry box makes it easier to just remove the top and scrub when needed. The ability to use liners and any litter type is also convenient for reducing odor and speedy cleanup.

Key feature

  • Available in multiple sizes and entry points
  • Enclosed to reduce mess and odor
  • Top is removable for cleaning
  • Large opening
  • Textured top to reduce litter tracking

Pros

  • No frills, but offers lots of variety to customize to your cat’s needs
  • High sides and enclosure reduce litter mess
  • Lid hinges open easily
  • Low price

Cons

  • May be hard for older cats to climb into
  • Curves in box design may be hard to clean
  • Lid may be flimsy and come off easily with rambunctious cats

Good Pet Stuff Plant Hidden Litter Box

Good Pet Stuff Plant Hidden Litter Box
: 19 x 19 x 20 inches
: Hidden
: Covered
: Side
: Brown/Clay
9 - ratingAverage price

Looking for a completely unique take on litter boxes? The Good Pet Stuff Plant Hidden Litter Box is a master of camouflage. The heavy-duty plastic design mimics a clay planter, and the included fake plant makes this litter box perfect for hiding in plain sight. The large opening and enclosed sides make it easy for your cat to get in and out while still keeping litter and odors enclosed within. This box is also convenient for smaller apartments or studios where owners may not be able to hide a box in a room out of sight.

However, the large size and design can make it a bit difficult when it comes to cleaning, as it needs to be taken apart to scrub, and litter may get stuck inside and stain/corrode the interior without a liner in place. With a litter liner and litter types such as pine, tracking and odor are reduced while making cleaning much easier. While the price is a bit higher than most basic litter boxes, the attractive look sets it apart, earning it a high rating overall.

Compilation of customer opinions

Owners of the Good Pet Stuff Plant Hidden Litter Box absolutely love it in their smaller apartments and studios. Many have found their guests don’t even notice a litter box is present in the room! The large size is also great for larger cats while the opening is wide enough for older cats to get in and out with ease. The plastic is also easily paintable, so it can be customized to fit different room decor and colors without reducing durability.

Some owners were worried about the decorative plant and straw provided, especially those with young kittens and cats that like to chew on objects. Replacing it with cat-safe plants or making sure your cat can’t access the top can reduce the chances of ingestion. Other owners found the box hard to clean, but the addition of a litter liner and clumping or pine litter can reduce how often the box needs to be scooped and keep the inside stain and mess-free. Overall, the box is an attractive choice for owners looking for a balance of convenience, price, and attractiveness.

Key feature

  • Unique hidden box design
  • Large size
  • Durable
  • Odor resistant
  • Natural design makes it easy to hide in shared rooms

Pros

  • Enclosed sides help reduce litter tracking and odor
  • Great for small apartments or studios where a box needs to be hidden
  • Beautiful to look at

Cons

  • Litter may get stuck to sides and stain without a liner
  • Has to be taken apart in order to clean thoroughly
  • May be hard to move easily

Pet Mate 42036 Arm & Hammer Large Sifting Litter Pan

Pet Mate 42036 Arm & Hammer Large Sifting Litter Pan
: 19 x 15 x 8 inches
: Open
: High Sided
: Top
: Grey
8.7 - ratingLow price

If you’re looking for a basic box that still offers easy cleaning at a reasonable price, then the Pet Mate 42036 Arm & Hammer Large Sifting Litter Pan is a great choice. Its simple design, durable plastic construction, and stackable sifting trays make it a nice addition to any pet household. The high sides help keep some litter contained, but are still low enough for older or very young cats to get in and out of the box. The box is easy to scoop daily simply by lifting the sifter portion, dumping waste, and placing it under the next.

This box is very low-maintenance without any extras such as a hooded lid or mechanisms that need cleaning. That said, waste material may get stuck to the sifters, requiring additional scrubbing to remove debris. The lack of a cover may also be a problem for cats that like to scratch or kick up a mess as litter may go over the sides or be tracked outside of the box. For the price, ease of use, and neutral design, this box is still an excellent choice for someone who doesn’t mind daily scooping, but doesn’t want to spend hours with a tiny scoop cleaning it manually.

Compilation of customer opinions

The Pet Mate 42036 Arm & Hammer Large Sifting Litter Pan has rave reviews from owners. This box is highly recommended by owners in multiple cat households as it makes owning and cleaning multiple boxes a breeze. The box can also use any litter type, which owners agree is perfect for picky felines. Some found the box a bit on the small side, so owners of larger cats may find their cat has trouble using the box or miss the box entirely when using it.

Even if litter does get trapped in the sifter, many owners have found it is easy to scrape right off into the garbage and continue using without much hassle. Owners of kittens and senior cats also found the lower front entrance a bonus for getting in and out of.

Key feature

  • Simple design, no frills or strange mechanisms
  • Built-in sifter for easy cleaning
  • Low side entrance
  • Durable plastic
  • All-in-one system

Pros

  • Easy to scoop daily just by sifting pans
  • Neutral colors make it a good fit for any home decor
  • High sides keep litter in place, but still make it easy for older cats to get in and out

Cons

  • May not contain odors easily as enclosed boxes
  • Minimal odor and mess mitigation
  • Waste matter may get stuck to sifter, reducing its ability to clean

Van Ness Odor Control Extra Giant Enclosed Cat Pan with Odor Door

Van Ness Odor Control Extra Giant Enclosed Cat Pan with Odor Door
: 18"H x 17.5"W x 21.5"D inches
: Enclosed
: Covered
: Side
: Blue
8.3 - ratingLow price

Looking to contain your cat’s mess? Look no further than the Van Ness Odor Control Extra Giant Enclosed Cat Pan with Odor Door. This basic box is made deluxe with its odor-trapping door, replaceable odor control air filter, and large size. Great for bigger cats, the low entrance allows older cats or more timid ones to still get in and out easily, while the door and hood keep messes contained. The lid also easily detaches from the base, making regular scooping and cleaning more convenient.

The blue color may not fit every household, so this box may be a better fit for a bathroom or garage where it is kept out of sight. The door flap may also be off-putting to some cats or scary for kittens that aren’t sure how to use it. The included sifter may also need to be replaced for a more robust one, and the lid locks need to be carefully handled to avoid snapping off. However, the box maintains an incredibly low price while still offering a variety of convenience and odor-control features, making it an attractive budget option.

Compilation of customer opinions

Those who purchased the Van Ness Odor Control Extra Giant Enclosed Cat Pan with Odor Door love the size, especially owners of larger breeds such as Maine Coon cats. They also found the box was less scary for timid cats if the door was first removed and then replaced once the cat was comfortable using it.

Some owners found the box a bit flimsy when picked up by the handle, but found that sliding the box into place instead of lifting it reduces the chances of a spill. The filters are also a bit pricey for some buyers, but are not necessary for the box to be used and cheaper alternatives are available. Most cats easily picked up on how to use the box and owners in multiple-cat households and rescues found purchasing multiple boxes made cleanup and use a breeze without reducing their functionality. Overall, most owners of this box enjoyed the combination of durability, size, and price to be worth any drawbacks.

Key feature

  • Replaceable air filter reduces odor
  • Ties keep top secured to litter tray
  • Door and hood reduce litter tracking
  • Large size for multiple or large cats

Pros

  • Easy to take apart for cleaning
  • Door and lid contain messes and reduce odor
  • Large size and low entrance great for older cats
  • Convenient pricing

Cons

  • Blue color may not be everyone’s choice in design
  • Some cats may be intimidated by using door
  • Need to buy replacement filters for continued odor control

Van Ness CP2HS Large High Sides Cat Litter Pan

Van Ness CP2HS Large High Sides Cat Litter Pan
: 17.5 x 15 x 9 inches
: Open
: High Sided
: Top
: Assorted Colors
8.2 - ratingLow price

Simple, basic, and inexpensive accurately describe the Van Ness CP2HS Large High Sides Cat Litter Pan — and that’s not a bad thing! If you’re looking for a basic, durable, no-frills box, this is the perfect choice. Its simple design fits in well with any household, and the large pan size and deep box are great for larger cats that love to dig or kick up a mess.

The box is basic so if you’re looking for top odor control, fancy sifters, or automatic cleaning, this isn’t the box for you. Older cats may also have trouble getting in and out of the deep design without a ramp or step. Since there aren’t any special sifters or gizmos, any litter type can be used within which is great for picky cats or those that need a specific litter type. For the price point, the deep sides and durable plastic design make this a great choice for those needing basic litter control, multiple boxes for multiple cats without breaking the bank, or just a simple box without any hassle.

Compilation of customer opinions

The Van Ness CP2HS Large High Sides Cat Litter Pan is a highly-rated box by owners across the board. The box’s large size easily handles any size cat and mess. Other owners found the plastic to be durable and scratch-resistant, holding up to hard use from even the messiest of cats. The deep design holds a large amount of litter so the box may only need to be scooped once daily.

Some drawbacks found by owners included issues with the sides still not being tall enough for very large cats, and the lack of a lid or door allowed some litter tracking to still happen. Some owners were also put off by the “assorted color” available, as that meant they didn’t get to pick the color of their choice. For most owners, the benefits and simplicity of design outweighed any negatives, and the ability to add any litter and easily scoop the box daily was a plus.

Key feature

  • Deep box for cats that love to dig
  • Odor and stain resistant
  • Keeps litter in place
  • Variety of colors available

Pros

  • Excellent price for a no-frills box
  • Deep design contains messes
  • Simple, basic, convenient design

Cons

  • Tall sides may be hard for some cats to get in and out of
  • No additional odor or mess mitigation
  • Lack of a lid may not keep out curious pets

How Do I Decide What Litter Box Is Right for Me and My Cat?

Cat in Litter Box

Now that you’ve looked at our top cat litter boxes for 2020, you may be wondering how to pick the best one for you and your cat. What do you look for in a box? Does type matter? Does litter matter? Read on to learn more about the variety of boxes and litters available for you and your cat and how to both pick the right one and introduce it successfully to your household.

The Different Types of Cat Litter Boxes

Cat litter boxes come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The most common boxes on the market include open boxes, enclosed boxes, sifting boxes, automatic boxes, disposable boxes, and hidden boxes. Each has its own pros and cons that can help you decide what works best for you.

Open Boxes

An open litter box is a basic box that has four sides, but does not include a lid or door to get in and out of. These are the most basic of boxes, but are useful when budget is an issue, or additional features aren’t needed. They’re a good starting box to use if you’re unsure of what to get or aren’t sure what your cat will like. However, these boxes don’t do a very good job of containing messes or odors.

Pros
  • Inexpensive
  • Come in a variety of sizes and shapes
  • Most cats will use an open box without issue
Cons
  • May not contain messes well
  • Do not contain odors
  • May fall apart more easily

Enclosed/Top Entry Boxes

Cat in Enclosed Litter Box

An enclosed or top-entry box is one that has both sides and a top. These lids can either snap onto a base open box, or have hinges that open and close. Often, there are openings on either the side of the box through a door, or in the case of top-entry boxes, an opening on the top of the lid. These boxes are excellent for containing messes and odors, however, they may be harder for older cats or very young kittens to get into and can be harder to clean if there are sharp curves or areas the opening blocks.

Pros
  • Contains messes and odors
  • Durable construction
  • Hides messes out of sight
Cons
  • May be hard for very young or very old cats to get in and out of
  • There is a learning curve for some cats if there is a door or top opening
  • Hinges or lids may break with improper use

Sifting Boxes

A sifting litter box is a box that comes with a grate or multiple stacked boxes in one package. Sifting boxes are designed to be pulled apart daily and allow litter to sift through while leaving behind clumped litter and waste material. You can then dump the waste into the garbage and replace the sifter back in the box. These boxes eliminate the need to use a scoop and make cleaning easier. Sifting boxes can come with additional features such as lids or hoods and odor control in addition to the sifting function. However, litter and waste may get stuck in the sifter, needing additional cleaning.

Pros
  • All-in-one system makes daily scooping easy
  • Can come with additional features such as a lid or odor control
  • Most cats use these box types as easily as a basic box
Cons
  • Debris may get stuck in sifter
  • Sifter can break down over time, reducing effectiveness
  • Sifter may not be able to remove very small particles, leading to dirty litter that needs to be replaced more often

Automatic Boxes

Cat in Automatic Box

An automatic litter box is designed to automatically rake and remove waste from the litter once your cat has finished using it. These are plugged into a wall socket and have a metal or plastic rake that sweeps across the litter on a timer, depositing the waste material into a container that can then be removed and tossed. These boxes are great for owners that don’t want to scoop daily, however, the loud noise and motion of the rake may scare some cats into not wanting to use the box. Automatic litter boxes can also have a high initial cost of purchase due to their more complex mechanics. They can also come with lids or hoods to contain messes.

Pros
  • Easy to “set and forget” so no daily cleaning required
  • Keeps litter fresh longer, reducing the need to replace it
  • Removes odors quickly
Cons
  • Loud noise may scare some cats away from using it, leading to accidents
  • Rake can become caked with debris or waste get stuck in mechanism
  • Sometimes requires purchase of specific litter or odor control/compartments which increases costs

Disposable Boxes

A disposable box is a box that is designed to be used short-term and then tossed or recycled. These are often made of cardboard or other biodegradable materials and may come with their own litter or need litter to be added. Disposable boxes are useful for travel when a permanent box may be too bulky or troublesome to bring. They’re also great for owners who don’t want to deal with a box getting smelly or damaged over time, as they can be tossed weekly or monthly and replaced with a fresh box, eliminating the hassle of cleaning. However, because they are made of less durable materials, they may not hold up to tough use, and will start to leak if used for too long.

Pros
  • Easy to bring on trips without hassle
  • Simply set up, add litter, and use
  • Can be tossed when done without needing to clean
Cons
  • May not control messes or odors very well
  • Can leak if used for too long
  • Higher cost if used for a long period of time due to constant replacement

Hidden/Camouflage Boxes

Cat in Enclosed Litter Box

A hidden, or camouflaged litter box is one that has been designed to look like regular furniture or home decor. These can be boxes hidden inside a cabinet, ones designed to look like plant pots, or ones with decorative fabrics or other materials to cover them up. Hidden boxes come in a variety of designs and price points so they can be tailored to fit your home’s needs. They can also be enclosed, or have odor-reducing properties in addition to being camouflaged, however, this will depend on the individual box.

Pros
  • Perfect for small spaces where the box needs to be out of sight
  • Can fit almost any home decor
  • Makes litter box less of an eyesore
Cons
  • May be hard to take apart and clean
  • May not easily trap odors or messes depending on design
  • Cat may not recognize it as a litter box, leading to accidents

What to Look For in a Litter Box

Even if you have a type of box in mind, there are still many factors to take into consideration when picking out the right litter box for you and your cat. Some factors to consider include the design of the box, such as its size, height, and shape. Other factors include convenience items such as how easy it is to clean the box, what litter can be used, and if it needs to be scooped daily, as well as its durability depending on the material it’s made from and the number of cats using it.

  • Design (Size, Height, Style, Shape): These features are important, especially if you have a larger cat that needs a large box or a space in your home that is an odd shape such as a corner. You want to find a box that your cat can comfortably turn around in without hitting the sides, and that they can squat and bury their waste in without missing over the edge. Shape is also important for fitting into corners or small spaces.

    If your cat is very young, or older and experiencing health issues, design is very important. Sides that are too high or litter boxes that require jumping to get into may be too painful for an arthritic cat to use, or too tall for a very small kitten to get to, leading to accidents around the house. In these circumstances, choosing a box that has a lower opening or ramp into it may make getting in and out easier.

  • Convenience (Cleanability, Scoops, Litter Type): While a box may look pretty, if you can’t easily scoop your cat’s waste from it, it can quickly become a hassle. Some boxes also only allow a proprietary litter to be used which may increase the cost of the box over time. You want to find a box that is easy to clean — such as being able to take it apart or scoop it daily — or that uses a litter type your cat will accept. Some cats may prefer clay litter only, while cats that have sensitive paws may prefer paper or pine based litters that are softer underfoot.

  • Durability (Materials, Number of Cats): Durability is also important, especially if you have multiple cats or one that is rough on boxes. You want a box that is durable enough to meet your needs. If you’re looking for a long-term box, one made of heavy plastics or other materials that are scratch and stain resistant will reduce how often you need to replace it. If you’re looking for a disposable option, strong cardboard or other moisture-wicking materials will help prevent the box from leaking until it’s time to replace it. Very heavy cats that like to scratch, or a box that is used by multiple cats should also be durable enough to hold up to daily use.

What to Look For in a Litter Box

You’ve picked out the perfect litter box for you and your cat, but what goes inside it? Litter type is just as important as the box itself, especially if your cat has sensitive paws or the box uses a specific type of litter to function correctly. Below are the most commonly used litter types including clay litters, paper and pine based litters, crystal litters, and naturally sourced litters.

Non-Clumping Litter

Non-Clumping Litter

Non-clumping litter is a clay litter that doesn’t clump when your cat urinates or defecates in it. These litters are designed to have a high level of absorption, and then to be completely tossed and changed when they are at capacity. Non-clumping litters are often very cheap to purchase and are beneficial in places such as clinics or shelters where the box needs to be disposed of daily. Non-clumping litter is also good for picky cats.

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Tolerated by most cats
  • Easy to just toss and replace with fresh litter

Cons

  • Hard to keep clean and odor-free long-term
  • Requires complete replacement during litter changes
  • May kick up a lot of dust leading to respiratory issues

Clumping Litter

Clumping Litter

Like its non-clumping counterpart, clumping cat litter is a clay litter type. This type of clay is designed to clump into hard balls when moisture is added, making it easy to scoop out waste and debris, and also reducing odors as the waste matter is dried out. Clumping litter can often be disposed of by flushing the litter or tossing it into the garbage. Clumping litters are more expensive than non-clumping, and the granules may be uncomfortable for some cats.

Pros

  • Low cost
  • East to scoop daily
  • Provides excellent odor control

Cons

  • May be uncomfortable to some cats
  • Can kick up dust, leading to respiratory issues
  • Needs to be scooped daily

Gel/Crystal Litter

Gel Litter

Silica gel, or crystal litters are a specially formulated litter designed to have long-term odor control and moisture absorption. These are common litters used in systems such as automatic litter boxes as they do not need to be replaced as often while still providing odor control. They are also softer underfoot and may be better tolerated by picky cats. The litter is also lighter and easier to carry when buying in bulk compared to clay litters. However, this litter type is more expensive than clay liters, which may increase costs over time.

Pros

  • Excellent odor control
  • Longer lasting so litter can be changed less often
  • Lightweight and soft underfoot

Cons

  • More expensive than traditional litters
  • May increase cost over time for proprietary litter boxes
  • Toxic if ingested

Paper/Pine Litter

Pipe Litter

Paper and pine litters are a natural alternative to clay clumping litters. These types of litters offer excellent odor control by absorbing moisture as they break down over time. Pine and paper litters can be more expensive than traditional litter, but can also easily be purchased in bulk from farm stores. They are also more comfortable to picky cats and do not kick up as much dust as clay litter. However, they may not be usable in some boxes such as automatic litter boxes, and do not clump, leading to more difficulty in daily scooping.

Pros

  • Great absorption and odor control
  • Comfortable for picky or sensitive cats
  • Easy to purchase in bulk

Cons

  • More expensive than clay litter
  • Does not clump, making scooping more difficult
  • May not work in some types of litter boxes

Corn and Wheat Litter

Corn Litter

Corn and wheat litters are another natural alternative to clay litter. It can be more comfortable underfoot and reduces dust kicked up in comparison to traditional litter. Corn and wheat litter has good odor control and moisture absorption, and many will clump like traditional litter, making cleaning easier. However, these litter types are more expensive and may irritate pets or people that have allergies to corn or wheat.

Pros

  • Great natural alternative
  • Excellent odor and moisture control
  • Works well in any litter box that requires clumping litter

Cons

  • Can be more expensive than traditional litter
  • May cause irritation to those allergic to corn or wheat
  • Can be heavy to lift large bags

Picking the Right Box

When choosing the right cat litter box and litter type, there are some things you should keep in mind:

  • Consider your cat’s needs. This is important as every cat has individual needs. An older cat with arthritis or joint issues may need a box that has a low entrance or ramp into it to make it easier to go in and out. Very large or heavy cats will need a box that is large enough for them to turn around and go in without missing over the edge. Cats that have had surgeries on their feet may need a box that allows for softer litter so that digging and burying waste isn’t uncomfortable.

  • Choose the right litter. Litter type is just as important as box type. If your cat doesn’t like the litter being used in the box, they are more likely to have accidents, leading to big messes to clean up. Litter type depends on many factors, including how soft it is underfoot for your cat, how well it contains odors, and how much dust it kicks up. Most cats like their litter to be clean, which means scooping daily and replacing weekly, so picking out a litter type that is easy for you to clean and replace without being overly expensive is also important to consider.

  • Make sure the box works in your household. A round box in a corner, or a box that doesn’t fit in your utility room is going to quickly become a hassle. If you have trouble bending over or reaching, a box that doesn’t open for easy cleaning may also be a problem. You want to pick out a box that fits well in the space you have picked out for it, and one that is easy for you to clean daily and scrub weekly. Take design into consideration as well, especially if you’re in a small apartment or studio where you may have to look at the box out in the open.

Top Tips for Getting Your Cat Used to Their New Box

Once you’ve picked out the perfect litter box and cat litter, you will need to get your cat used to using it. Often, this includes a transition period, where you will have both your cat’s old box and litter and the new box or litter present. You will want to transition over a period of a few days to weeks, to allow your cat time to get used to any new smells, sights, or sounds of the litter box.

  • Keep your cat’s old litter box next to the new one for several days to give them the option of using both. This will help prevent accidents.
  • Let your cat observe the new box — run the cleaning mechanism in an automatic box several times while they watch and you give them treats so they get used to the sound.
  • Let your cat sniff and explore the box before adding litter. Encourage them to climb into a box with higher sides or a lid, and feed them a few treats or toss a toy inside while they explore.
  • If the box has a tall hood or door, try letting your cat use the box with the hood or door removed for a few days and then reattach the door once they are used to going in and out.
  • If you’re only replacing your cat’s litter, do so over a period of a week or two to let them get used to the feel of the new litter. At every scooping, add in some more of the new litter while keeping the old litter mixed within. This will both attract them to the new litter, and prevent accidents from a sudden change.
  • If your cat is having accidents, move the box to a different location where they have the accident. Your cat may be having trouble getting to the box, or may want a more private (to them) location to go.
  • Multiple cat households should have at least one litter box per cat. This will help prevent fights over a shared box and accidents if a cat can’t access one box in particular.
  • If your cat refuses to use any litter box at all, a vet visit to rule out any health issues is a good idea.

Tricks for Keeping Litter Clean

Clean Litter Box

Here are a few tips to ensure the litter within your cat’s litter box is kept clean. Clean litter will help keep your cat using the box instead of causing an accident elsewhere.

  • Scoop daily. Daily cleaning helps remove odor and debris that may keep your cat from using the box.
  • Find a preferred litter, and stick to it. Constantly changing litter may be confusing to your cat, and the wrong litter type can be uncomfortable to use. If you find a litter your cat enjoys, stick with it.
  • Replace all litter and scrub the entire box clean at least every other week. This will help prevent breakdown of the litter box, and keep the litter clean enough for daily use. You will also want to replace the box yearly if you notice damage.
  • Adding baking soda to litter can help reduce odors. Add in a small amount each time you do a full replacement of litter.
  • Use an enzymatic cleaner on any messes outside of the box. These cleaners are designed to break down urine and stool enzymes, reducing your cat’s chances of having an accident there again.
  • Use a litter tray or mat underneath the litter box. This makes it easy to sweep up any litter or messes that may fall over the edge of the box, and reduces tracking of litter to the rest of the house.

With the above tips and tricks, and careful comparison of litter box types, you’ll be ready to purchase the perfect box that fits the needs of you and your cat.