How to Choose a Litter Box

If you own an indoor cat, then you need a litter box. Except for disposable litter boxes for travel, and a small starter box for kittens, litter boxes typically last for years, with new boxes only becoming necessary upon the arrival of a new cat. The right litter box can also mean the difference between quick litter box training and long-lasting cat box issues.

Choosing the right litter box for your cat requires careful consideration of size, shape, and features. Self-cleaning and covered boxes should also be considered to keep your cat happy, healthy, and comfortable.

How to Select the Size and Shape of a Litter Box?

Litter boxes should be as long as your cat is from her nose to the tip of her tail. This allows your cat to move around in the box comfortably. For large breeds, this may mean a box that is 36" long. The litter box width should be the length of your cat from her nose to the base of her tail.

Most litter boxes are rectangular, but some are round or oval. The shape doesn't matter to your cat, but make sure to get one that has rounded corners for easy cleaning and your pet's safety.

Basic Hooded Litter Box
Standard Tall Sides Litter Box
Rectangle Litter Box with Sifting Pan
Top Entry Litter Box
Corner Litter Box
Litter Box with Entry Point

How Tall Should the Litter Box Be?

Litter boxes between 5-7" high are sufficient for cats that do not kick litter around when using the box. However, higher walls between 8-12" are best for preventing litter from getting kicked onto the floor. Since these higher walls are hard for cats to climb in and out of, look for a box that has one wall lower than the others, or that has a small built-in door.

Kittens will struggle to get in and out of a litter box more than 5" high, but they also tend to kick litter around a lot. Look for a box with a low wall for entry and a wall or other protective barrier around the other sides. Initially, you may need to buy a smaller box and then swap it out for a larger one as your kitten grows.

Older cats with mobility issues may need an even lower box. Some litter boxes have entry openings as low as 3" high that allow less mobile cats to climb over the side easily.

Rectangular Litter Box with 4 Inch Walls
Litter Box for Senior Cats
Standard Rectangular Litter Box with 8 Inch Walls
Partially Enclosed Litter Box
Simple Litter Box

What Are Best Litter Boxes Made Of?

  • Plastic is the most common material for litter boxes. It's inexpensive, available in a variety of designs, and low maintenance.

  • Stainless steel is a little more expensive and isn't available in as many designs. However, it is the best option for owners who want a box that is resistant to scratches and damage.

Hidden Litter Box with Decorative Planter
Top Entry Litter Box
Litter Box with Tall Sides
Jumbo Litter Box
Rectangular Litter Box
Standard Oval Litter Box

Should I Choose a Covered or Uncovered Litter Box?

Self-cleaning litter boxes can be a good investment for busy cat owners. They filter out unclean litter regularly, allowing cats to have fresh litter daily. All owners have to do is take out the separated dirty litter and occasionally refill the clean litter. This can be especially helpful for older owners who don't want to bend down and clean a litter box daily.

Some self-cleaning boxes use a lever to pull a screen across the box, sifting out used litter. These boxes are less expensive than fully automatic boxes but still provide added convenience for owners.

In rare cases, cats can be startled by the noise and movement of an automatic self-cleaning box. Make sure to get an automatic box that is very quiet and has excellent motion sensors, so it doesn't clean while your cat is in or around the box.

Automatic Litter Box
Hooded Litter Box
Stylish Litter Box Enclosure
Litter Box With Sifting Pan
Automatic Cleaning Litter Box

What Features Should You Look For In a Litter Box?

  • Flaps can help hide odors and increase cat privacy, but they trap ammonia and other harsh chemicals even more than boxes with regular covers. Make sure to clean boxes with flaps daily, even if you can't smell the dirty litter.
  • Some automatic and manual self-cleaning boxes use disposable inserts. Owners need to buy disposable insert refills occasionally, but they the ideal low-maintenance option for busy cat owners.
  • Attached or detachable ramps are excellent for cats with or without impaired mobility. Some even have textured steps that can help remove litter from cats' paws to keep you home clean.
  • Storage compartments and hooks can help keep track of litter scoops and other supplies.

How Many Litter Boxes Are Necessary?

Some litter boxes are very large and designed for multi-cat homes. Although many cats are willing to share a litter box, one box is typically enough for a single cat home. Vets recommend you have enough litter boxes for every cat in your home plus an additional box for variety.

If you have a large house, it's wise to put litter boxes in separate locations and train the cats to know where they are. When adding a new litter box, take a small amount of used litter from the old box and put it in the new box so your cats will recognize it.

Owners who take overnight trips should invest in one extra litter box for the cats. While cat-sitters are necessary for trips of two nights or more, an extra litter box and serving of dry food should keep the cats happy during an overnight trip.

Quick Tips:

  • Litter boxes should be at least as long as your cat is from nose to tail-tip. For width, look for boxes as wide as your cat's body and head length.
  • Plastic is common and durable, but stainless steel is even tougher.
  • Boxes should have at least one wall between 5-7" for easy entry but can have higher walls for preventing litter spray. Older cats and kittens may need even lower entry points.
  • Cats sometimes prefer covered boxes, and covered boxes need to be cleaned daily to avoid irritating cats' lungs. If you get a covered box, get one with a cover that's easy to remove.
  • Self-cleaning boxes come in manual and automatic varieties. They can be helpful for owners but get one that doesn't startle your cat.
  • Ramps, storage hooks, and other extra features can be a nice finishing touch on litter boxes, depending on owner preference and need.

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