Choosing Among Litter Box Options

Updated February 14, 2019
Cat sitting in blue litter box

Cat litter boxes may not be anyone's favorite subject, but they are essential equipment for anyone who shares their home with feline companions. As your cat's personal bathroom space and the only acceptable place to leave his eliminations inside your home, they serve a very important role. There are many litter box options on the market today, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

Open Litter Pan

An open cat box is basically a tray meant to hold a deep layer of litter material for your cat to relieve himself in. This option is definitely no-frills, but it does get the job done.

Advantages of a Litter Pan

There are a few reasons an open litter pan may be a great choice:

  • These are among the least expensive boxes on the market. Often, they cost under $10, making them a perfect choice if you're on a budget.
  • Since there's no cover to remove, this type of litter box is easy to access for cleaning and refilling litter.
  • Many cats prefer on open litter box, since it's also easy for them to access.

Disadvantages of a Litter Pan

Although this tried-and-true style of litter box has many great qualities, there are also a few reasons you may want to choose something else:

  • Some cats are resistant to use an open box since it may not offer enough privacy.
  • The open nature of the box means you'll need to clean it more often to avoid unpleasant odors in your home.
  • Some cats may accidently "miss" the box, meaning you'll need to clean up around the area more frequently.
  • When your cat his digging in the litter box, he may accidentally spray litter out of the box onto the surrounding floor.
  • If you have dogs or young children, you may prefer a litter box style that's a bit harder for kids and canines to access.

Open Litter Pan Models to Consider

If you're thinking about purchasing an open litter box for your feline friend, consider these options:

  • So Phresh Scatter Shield High-Back Litter Box - This box comes in large (18.5" x 15" x 8.5") and jumbo (24" x 18" x 10") with higher than average sides, helping to reduce litter spray and misses. It retails for about $17 for the large and $23 for the jumbo. Consumers on give it five stars, citing its value, exceptionally large size, and perfect design for larger cats.
  • Lucky Champ Litter Pan - This 25-inch by 16.75-inch by 9 inch litter pan has a handy design with a lower front rim to accommodate young kittens and older cats with mobility problems. Higher side and back walls protect your floor and walls, and handles make it easier to lift and empty. Consumers on, where this box retails for about $17, praise its smooth, easy-clean texture, easy accessibility for older cats, and large size.
Lucky Champ Litter Pan
Lucky Champ Litter Pan
  • Pioneer Pet SmartCat Corner Litter Box - This offering has an unusual, triangular design for use in a corner. The front edge of this 18" x 18" x 9-inch box is lower to accommodate cats who can't step over a high edge. The box retails for about $20. Users on Amazon praise the sturdiness and handy corner design which make it a favorite with cats and humans.
Pioneer Pet SmartCat Corner Litter Box
Pioneer Pet SmartCat Corner Litter Box

Covered Litter Boxes

Covered cat boxes have a basic tray bottom and an additional hood with an open doorway for your cat. Often, the top part of the litter box comes off to allow you to clean it.

Advantages of Covered Litter Boxes

There are several advantages to buying a covered litter box:

  • The cover helps prevent your cat from spraying urine on the surrounding walls and floor.
  • Your cat is less likely to toss litter material out of the box when digging.
  • The cover helps contain litter box odors.
  • Since the inside of the box is hidden from view, this type of litter box is more pleasant to have in your home.
  • Shy cats can have a bit more privacy and may be more willing to use a covered box rather than an open one.

Disadvantages of Covered Litter Boxes

A covered litter box isn't the perfect choice for everyone, however. These models have the following disadvantages:

  • If not cleaned frequently enough, odors may build up inside of the hood and create an unpleasant place that your cat may choose to avoid.
  • Some cats actually seem to feel a bit claustrophobic about using a covered box and will avoid using one.
  • It can be difficult to remember to clean a covered box since the cat's waste is out of sight.
  • These boxes are slightly more expensive than open litter pans, often ranging from about $20 to $50.

Covered Litter Box Models to Consider

The following models are popular with consumers:

  • Booda Dome Covered Litter Box - Available from Petco, this 17.5-inch diameter round litter box has a charcoal filter to reduce odor, and the cover removes for easy cleaning. It retails for about $32. Consumers who purchased this litter box from Petco love that it keeps the mess inside the box and fits easily in most areas of the home.
  • Catit Jumbo Hooded Cat Litter Pan - Featuring a swinging door, carry handle, easy-to-remove lid, charcoal filter, and affordable price tag, this 22.4" x 18.3" x 20" covered box is a best seller on It retails for about $30. Consumers praise its bag lock feature, which makes it easy to scoop litter directly into a bag through the swinging door. They also love its generous size and easy-clean design.
Catit Jumbo Hooded Cat Litter Pan
Catit Jumbo Hooded Cat Litter Pan
  • Nature's Miracle JFC Corner Litter Box - This triangular box fits perfectly into tight corners, keeping it out of the way. A lower front entrance accommodates cats with mobility problems, and a non-stick surface is easy to clean. This box retails for about $19 on PetSmart's website, where users praise its easy cleaning design, leak-proof performance, and lower entrance. The dimensions are 26" x 23" x 20".

Self-Cleaning Litter Boxes

Self-cleaning cat boxes typically employ a motion sensor and a raking system to drag soiled and clumped litter into a receptacle after your cat has left the box. Some models seem to work better than others, and while they do remove basic eliminations from the litter, you will still need to completely wash the box on a regular basis.

Advantages of Self-Cleaning Litter Boxes

There are several important advantages to self-cleaning boxes:

  • You don't have to crouch down and scoop the cat litter out, making it perfect for the elderly or those with limited mobility.
  • The mechanical part of this box does the nasty job for you.
  • If you travel, this litter box cleans itself and can be left for weeks.

Disadvantages of Self-Cleaning Litter Boxes

Self-cleaning boxes also have a few major and minor disadvantages:

  • You often need to buy special litter, pans or liners, and other supplies for this type of box, making it an ongoing expense.
  • Self-cleaning boxes are much more expensive than other types, often between $90 and $300.
  • Some models can be noisy.
  • Cats can be put off by the movement and noise and may not use the box.

Self-Cleaning Litter Box Models to Consider

These models are popular with fans of self-cleaning litter boxes:

  • Scoop-Free Ultra Automatic Self-Cleaning Litter Box - This model allows you to forget about cleaning your litter box for up to 30 days. It has a privacy hood and adjustable timer for raking as well as a monitor to let you know how often your kitty uses the box. Those who've purchased this model from love the hooded design and the fact that it minimizes litter box duty. It's priced around $170.
  • Littermaid Self-Cleaning Cat Litter Box - At about $80, this is one of the least expensive automatic litter boxes you can buy. Featuring extra-high sides and a battery backup for power outages, this classic choice has been popular for years. At Chewy gave this box three stars, noting that it does help to keep odors down but many highlighted malfunctions.
  • Litter Robot Automatic Self-Cleaning Litter Box - At the opposite end of the price spectrum, this 24.25 by 27 x 29.5-inch model retails for about $450. It has a unique, rakeless design to prevent jamming, and it deposits litter right in a regular kitchen trash bag. It also has an 18-month warranty. Users say it is well worth the price, since it never jams and doesn't require special cartridges, pans, or litter.
  • PetSafe Simply Clean Automatic Litter Box System - Using a quiet conveyer system instead of a rake, this model has constant cleaning action instead of turning on and off. It's smaller than other models and is recommended for cats 12 pounds and under. It sells for around $100. Users on praise the quiet operation, effective cleaning, and convenience, although they say it does not work well for large cats or multiple cats and breaks down.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Among Litter Box Options

No matter which type of litter box you're thinking about buying, there are a few important factors you should keep in mind. Ultimately, the right litter box for your cat is the one that fits your individual needs.

Size of Litter Box

A nice, roomy box provides your pet with plenty of space to find a fresh spot. A cramped box forces your pet to step around old eliminations, and unless you scoop frequently, this may become so unpleasant that your cat avoids its box altogether and looks for a new soiling spot elsewhere in your home.

Number of Cats in Your Home

Do you have more than one cat? Then you just might need more than one cat box. Some cats will absolutely refuse to use a particular box if they smell another cat's scent there. This can lead to mishaps around the house. If your pets show a reluctance to share, try providing each with a litter box in separate areas of the house.

Your Cat's Preference

Perhaps the most important factor is your cat's personal preference. Some cats don't like change in their routines, so switching litter boxes isn't always an easy transition. You may be better off staying with the same type you currently have. In addition, cats have varying needs for privacy, and some may prefer a covered box for this reason. If your cat won't use the litter box, it doesn't matter if it was a great deal or is easy for you to clean.

Perfect for Your Pet

At best, litter boxes should be enticing to your cat, yet still relatively easy for you to maintain. With all the options on the market, there's a litter box out there that's perfect for your pet.

Choosing Among Litter Box Options