The Best Litter Box for Your Cat: My Recommendations

best-litter-box

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The average cat uses the litter box three to five times a day. It would make sense that something that is used so frequently on a daily basis requires that we humans put a lot of thought into it. Unfortunately, cat guardians often select a litter box for all the wrong reasons – or at least for the wrong reasons from the cat’s perspective. Choosing the wrong litter box can have dire consequences for cats: litter box avoidance is one of the main reasons why many cats are surrendered to shelters.

Keep the following in mind when choosing a litter box:

Size matters

Generally, bigger is always better. You want your cat to be able to comfortably turn around in the box. A good rule of thumb is that the box should be at least 1.5 times the length of the cat from the nose to the base of the tail. For some really large cats, even the largest litter boxes may not be big enough. Alternative boxes such as sweater storage or under the bed storage containers can make great litter boxes.

Covered vs. uncovered boxes

I don’t recommend hooded or covered litter boxes, and most cats don’t like them, either. While some cats seem to like the privacy they provide, these boxes are often too small for the cat to comfortably turn around in and do their business. What’s worse is that they can trap odors inside, making them very unpleasant for the cat to use (the equivalent of a human port-a-potty!) Dust can also be a bigger problem in a covered box, as it becomes more concentrated when cats dig.

A covered box prevents guardians from seeing how the cat acts while in the box. Knowing what’s normal for your cat and being able to detect any changes in litter box behaviors can help detect health problems early. A cat who is straining in the litter box may be on the verge of being blocked, which is a life-threatening emergency.

The bottom line: in most cases, covered boxes are for humans, not cats. If you absolutely must use a covered box, at the very least, remove the filters provided by some manufacturers. They’re designed to trap dust and odors inside the box, which may be nice for the humans, but not for the cat (see my port-a-potty analogy above.)

I do not recommend automatic or “self-cleaning” litter boxes. If the mechanism malfunctions while your cat is using the box, or even if the box goes into its cleaning action while your cat is anywhere near it, she may never use the box again.

Location, location, location

Don’t put the litter box in out of the way places. If the box is hard to get to, your cat may not use it. Don’t place litter boxes near in basements near noisy appliances such as washers, dryers, or furnaces. In a multi-level home, you should have at least one box on each level. This becomes especially important if you have senior cats who may have trouble getting up and down stairs quickly enough to reach a box. Don’t place litter boxes near feeding and watering stations. Cats don’t like to eliminate where they eat.

Don’t locate litter boxes right next to each other. Cats tend to view that as one large box, and if they don’t like to share a litter box, you loose the advantage you’re trying to gain by having multiple boxes in the first place.

How many boxes?

The rule of thumb has always been that the number of litter boxes in a home should equal the number of cats, plus one. It will depend on the personalities of the cats within a household whether you really need that many boxes, but too many is always better than too few. Some cats don’t mind sharing, while others won’t even urinate and defecate in the same box. Use the rule as a guideline and adjust according to your individual needs.

Litter

The choices for different cat litters are becoming overwhelming, and many of the new offerings are developed with the human and not the cat in mind. Most cats prefer a soft, sand-like, unscented clumping substrate.

Never use scented litter. Cats have a much stronger sense of smell than humans, and while a scented product may smell nice and fresh to us, it can be overpowering to sensitive cat noses, and it can cause cats to avoid the litter box.

Despite the availability of many good alternative litters, the best cat litter that I’ve found, and have used for many years, is Dr. Elsey’s Precious Cat. This clay litter clumps harder than any other litter I’ve tried, it has virtually no dust, and, most importantly, cats like it. If you want to experiment with different types of litters, always make sure you keep the original litter that your cats are currently using in at least one box. A word of caution: if you don’t have litter box problems, don’t tempt fate by offering different litters. You may inadvertently create a problem by confusing your cats.

Avoid using liners or grids – most cats don’t like them. Be careful about using litter mats. These mats are designed to trap litter so it doesn’t track, but the rough surface of some of these mats are hard on soft kitty paws and can lead to litter box avoidance for some cats.

Keep the litter box clean

Once you’ve chosen a box, keeping it clean will ensure that your cat continues to use it. Boxes should be scooped at least once a day, preferably several times a day. Add litter as needed. At least once a month, dump out the entire litter box and thoroughly clean it with hot water and unscented soap. Don’t use harsh chemicals or ammonia based cleaners. Replace litter boxes completely after 6 months to a year. No matter how well you clean, the porous plastic will start to break down and eventually absorb bacteria.

If you must use litter additives to control odor, use enzyme or probiotic based products with no added scent. Baking soda is an inexpensive litter additive that provides good odor control.

Our favorite litter boxes

NVR_Miss_litter_box

We think the NVR Miss litter box is the ultimate litter box, and we have used it for several years. This high-sided box prevents litter from being scattered all over the place, and it’s perfect for vertical pee-ers. It’s also nicer to look at than a homemade high-sided litter box.

I’m not sure why Ruby likes to sleep next to it occasionally – it probably has more to do with the fact that it’s right outside my office than that she actually likes sleeping next to the litter box!

You can find some of our other favorite litter boxes in our Product Guide.

*FTC Disclosure: The Conscious Cat is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to products on Amazon. This means that if you decide to purchase through any of our links, we get a small commission. We only spread the word about products and services we’ve either used or would use ourselves.

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47 Comments on The Best Litter Box for Your Cat: My Recommendations

  1. Mark
    September 10, 2018 at 8:36 am (2 weeks ago)

    The best type of litter boxes are the plain and simple ones. Nowadays we see too many litter boxes which are ‘automated’ and are supposed to make our life easy. But then again, how much time out of our day does it take to scoop things up or replace the litter? small effort no?

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      September 10, 2018 at 8:39 am (2 weeks ago)

      I couldn’t agree more, Mark!

      Reply
  2. Karen Lucas
    August 7, 2018 at 3:36 pm (1 month ago)

    I forgot to mention that we use a covered box for the kitty with EPI as he also pees standing up. We tried everything including NVR and extra large plastic crates and he is such a tall cat that nothing worked and I would tack up puppy pads at the back of the pan since that was where he peed. Then I got an extra large covered pan which is clear plastic so I can see what he is doing. He has his own room since he is very aggressive towards his younger sister. I can see what he is doing and this is working better than anything else for this particular kitty. It all depends on the cat and his preferences…have had 14 cats over the past 40 years and have learned what works and what doesn’t right along with them.

    Reply
  3. mary
    August 7, 2018 at 1:36 am (2 months ago)

    I’ve got 2 male kitties , age 3 months old, from the shelter and both like to play in the litter box before and after using it. even like to sleep in it!

    i’ve had them for 1 month now and do not know what to do?

    can someone suggest what to try?

    thanks

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 7, 2018 at 5:36 am (2 months ago)

      How many litter boxes do you have? With two kittens, you need at least two, ideally, three. Offer alternatives to sleeping in the litter box – regular boxes lined with a blanket or towel, cat beds, etc. in the vicinity of the litter box and see if that discourages them from sleeping in it.

      Reply
  4. Perry
    May 26, 2018 at 8:51 pm (4 months ago)

    I agree with some of the other comments here. I think the new systems that use PERMANENT litter like Tidy Cats Breeze or the Cat-illac (watch out if you search for this because your spell check will turn this to “Cat-lilac”) Cat Toilet should be included here. You never have to buy or change litter again with these systems!!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      May 27, 2018 at 5:44 am (4 months ago)

      I don’t recommend these types of litter boxes. No because no matter how well designed these systems may be, I believe litter needs to be completely changed out at least once a month.

      Reply
      • Karen Lucas
        August 7, 2018 at 3:21 pm (2 months ago)

        The Breeze system doesn’t recommend keeping the same litter and not changing it out – how often depends on the kitties and how firm their stools are – the pads generally last about a week – it really is a great system for kitties with no stool issues. Have one for my 13 year old as she is very healthy and nice solid small stools. I change out her litter about once a month. Her older brother however has EPI so we use Fresh Step for him as with the Breeze system we would be changing it every day. Kitties from shelters often sleep in their litter pan as there isn’t a lot of room in their cages. The kitties we adopted from an overcrowded SPCA at Christmas at age 14 slept in their litter pan since there was no other place for them to sleep. Once they came home they slept anyplace. The idea to place a box with a blanket near by is a good onel

        Reply
        • Perry
          September 10, 2018 at 9:08 am (2 weeks ago)

          Owners of Breeze or Cat-illac that want to change litter frequently are using dried beans in these systems. They are cheap and all natural so you can change the litter as often as you like and it’s much cheaper than buying Breeze pellets

          Reply
  5. Sharell
    May 11, 2018 at 7:43 pm (4 months ago)

    Just wondering if anyone has ever tried this new litter,
    “Pretty Litter?” It is sent by the couple that started the company and developed the Litter. It’s totally white in color, and you don’t “scoop” the urine, but rather mix it in with the litter. Just scoop the “poop.” It detects various problems with the kitty, by changing colors after it pees!!! Like turning purple or blue etc. Each color can mean something, ie: UTI, and so on! Very interesting actually. I’m a Nurse, so I ordered some, but have not started it yet….my kitty had some major surg. recently…Ingrid will know….Resorptive Tooth Syndrome….ugh!..we are just starting down this path!
    Thought I’d give her time to heal. Sounds interesting tho, this new litter….different, not for every cat I would guess…mine is a Tortie, like Ingrid’s, so wish me luck! Sharell

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      May 12, 2018 at 5:52 am (4 months ago)

      We’ve covered Pretty Litter here on The Conscious Cat before, you can find more information (along with feedback from readers who’ve used it in the comments) – if you type “Pretty Litter” into the search box in the sidebar, you’ll find the articles.

      Reply
      • Sharell Otte
        May 29, 2018 at 3:13 am (4 months ago)

        Thank you Ingrid…you know EVERYTHING!
        Started using it, and we both love it!
        I’ll let you all know.

        Reply
  6. melissa
    March 27, 2018 at 1:13 pm (6 months ago)

    Would you mind further explaining the term “vertical pee-er”. I can’t really figure it out in my mind. What does this physically look like? Does it mean the cat is not squatting down far enough to direct the urine into the bottom of the box and rather slightly up the side of the litter box? Thank you.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      March 27, 2018 at 3:26 pm (6 months ago)

      Ruby starts out squatting to pee, but as the stream of pee is coming out, she gradually raises herself up on all four legs, so that by the time she’s finishing, she’s peeing standing up. Since she tends to pee toward the edge of the box, this results in the urine stream starting out at the level of the litter, but gradually rising to the edge of the box (and until we had the NVR Miss, frequently over the top of the box.) I hope this helps.

      Reply
      • melissa
        March 27, 2018 at 5:35 pm (6 months ago)

        yes, that absolutely helps. I was trying to determine if my cat had the same issue. He raises up a bit but not as much as Ruby and he seems not to choose to go any higher than an inch or so but he is hitting the side of the litterbox when he does it. he doesnt do it all the time though. If it turned out my cat was on his way to being a VP I wanted to be forearmed. 🙂 Thanks very much.

        Reply
  7. ron
    January 2, 2018 at 8:56 pm (9 months ago)

    I USE ARM & HAMMER SLIDE CAT LITTER AND DONT HAVE ANY PROBLEMS WITH MY 2 CATS THEY LOVE USING IT. NO ORDER AND NO MESS. I GUESS THATS WHY THEY CALL IT SLIDE..

    Reply
  8. Ying
    December 20, 2017 at 10:52 am (9 months ago)

    I smiled at the picture of Ruby sleeping next to the litter box. My 2 cats for some reason like to sleep on the litter mat in front of the litter box. The texture of the mat doesn’t seem very comfortable to me, but what do I know?

    Reply
  9. Joyce Harasemchuk
    August 22, 2017 at 8:39 am (1 year ago)

    I buy the deep and large clear storage plastic bins from Walmart about 3 times a year when I notice they are getting scratched. They cost about 10 dollars Canadian. I too have a male Siamese who stands to pee and I got tired of the mess. These high boxes are perfect for him.

    Reply
  10. Otis' mom
    July 6, 2017 at 5:23 pm (1 year ago)

    My large male cat doesn’t pee over the edge of the litter, but he frequently leaves poo outside the box and he kicks litter ALL over the place. Do you have experience with that kind of problem?

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      July 7, 2017 at 5:32 am (1 year ago)

      In some cases, leaving poo outside the box can be marking behavior. Some cats like separate boxes for urine and stool. Try placing a second box either next to your existing one or elsewhere in the house and see if that fixes the issue. If this is a new behavior, take your cat to the vet to rule out any medical issues just to be safe.

      Reply
      • Jason
        July 18, 2017 at 3:40 pm (1 year ago)

        I was wondering if you have ever tried cat spot litter. If you have, what were your thoughts? It is a coconut based litter.

        Reply
        • Ingrid
          July 18, 2017 at 4:06 pm (1 year ago)

          I’m not familiar with that litter, Jason.

          Reply
  11. Cheri Collins
    June 29, 2017 at 6:26 pm (1 year ago)

    I ordered a NVR Miss litter box. It came while I was out, by the time I brought the box upstairs it was late. I took the NVR Miss out of the cardboard box, but left it in the hallway because I didn’t want to set it up for use right then. I turned it on its side, so nobody would think it was ready for use. Rosie slept in it. And slept in it again. I put a thick, folded bathmat in it and she’s sleeping in it every night. Cats!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      June 30, 2017 at 5:14 am (1 year ago)

      LOL Cheri! I think you should let the NVR Miss folks know – I bet they’d get a kick out of this!

      Reply
  12. Cheri Collins
    June 28, 2017 at 6:51 pm (1 year ago)

    Ingrid, maybe Ruby likes the mat under the litter box (in the photo). It looks like a Drymate? I have some of them — they make them for all sorts of uses, in various sizes — it’s a nice surface for a cat to sleep on, I think. I’m going to try putting one in one of the places my Rosie likes to sleep.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      June 29, 2017 at 5:27 am (1 year ago)

      Yes, it’s a Drymate mat. It’s possible that she likes the feel of it. But we also have a Drymate mat under our second litter box on the lower level of the house, where I rarely spend time, and she never sleeps on that. 🙂

      Reply
  13. vicky
    June 28, 2017 at 11:55 am (1 year ago)

    i have two cats and a yorkie about the same size of the cats, i have to keep their litter boxs in the basement and put a gate across the stairs. He thinks its a treat box just for him. So how can i place a cat box on the first level of my home ?

    Reply
    • Cheri Collins
      June 28, 2017 at 6:47 pm (1 year ago)

      Put a litter box up off the floor — on a table or a storage unit or a cupboard. IKEA has a lot of storage solutions you can configure to your needs, and also inexpensive tables.

      Reply
    • Ingrid
      June 29, 2017 at 5:32 am (1 year ago)

      I’d follow Cheri’s suggestion of putting the box off the floor where you Yorkie can’t reach it. If that doesn’t work, this may be one of the few situations where a covered box may be needed if your cat will accept it although I suspect the Yorkie could still get into a covered box, but it may not be as “enticing” to him/her as an open box.

      Reply
  14. Karen Lucas
    June 9, 2017 at 9:34 am (1 year ago)

    I use the Breeze system Ingrid and had no trouble transitioning the cats. They were all rescues who had been used to pellets used at shelters or foster homes. The pellets last a long time and the pads the tray holds last about 2 weeks. One cat covers his poop, the other two do not. I love the system. I wish the pans were larger as one of my cats is big so when he pees, he pees straight back. I have puppy pads tacked onto small bulletin boards behind the pans which trap his pee. The girls have no trouble and none of the cats has ever done anything outside of their litter pans. Each cat has his/her own pan although the boy uses all of them. I changed to pellets because I would watch the cats use the litter (including Dr. Elsey’s) and hop out and sit and ingest the litter when cleaning their paws and I was tired of dust even Dr. Elsey’s had a small amount of dust when the cat would scratch to get a spot ready to use or to cover up and if I could notice it then they are right on top of it. It may not be harmful but I’ve had too many cats develop chest/intestinal problems as they got older.

    Reply
  15. Christina
    June 7, 2017 at 3:58 pm (1 year ago)

    I have been using a covered litter box since my male cat pees standing up. He’s fixed, so I’m not sure if it’s the same as spraying. Nonetheless, the pee goes straight back, maybe similar to the vertical peeing you mention. Nothing at petco/petsmart has been high enough, but I do have the largest of the covered boxes they have. Definitely taking a look at the NVR box as I would prefer the open box. You make some great points on the cons of covered boxes. Thanks for the article!

    Reply
    • Cheri Collins
      June 9, 2017 at 6:39 pm (1 year ago)

      A male cat can and sometimes will “spray” after he’s been castrated. It’s urine, serving the same purpose: marking.

      Reply
  16. Maureen
    June 5, 2017 at 5:54 pm (1 year ago)

    I have 3 cats and have made huge litter boxes out of 36 gallon Rubbermaid storage boxes.I cut 9×9 openings and all I need is a box cutter.I have also used Dr. Elseys for years but, I think they have changed their formula and am trying to change the cats over to Smart Cat.It is hard because I have had 45 lbs of Dr. Elsy’s in each box. This work because I feed raw and so their stools are always small and solid and the urine of a raw feed cat does not smell. I just use a heavy duty metal scoop and if anything has stuck to the side of the box I just hit it and Dr. E clumps so well there is no small pieces. Then I clean up the sides and I am done. Such big boxes and lots of litter means urine never sinks to the bottom. That saves money . It is a system that has worked well for me.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      June 6, 2017 at 5:28 am (1 year ago)

      Sounds like a great system, Maureen. Let me know how you like the SmartCat litter compared to Dr. Elsey’s.

      Reply
  17. Sharon
    June 5, 2017 at 10:13 am (1 year ago)

    Surprised you use clumping litter. The crystals that cause the
    Clumps get on the kitty’s claws, they clean their paws and guess what? Those clumps are in their tummys. Been there with my cat. It can make them ill.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      June 5, 2017 at 3:24 pm (1 year ago)

      I’m sorry you’ve had issues with clumping litter with your cat. I realize that it’s a controversial topic.

      Reply
  18. Janine
    June 5, 2017 at 8:43 am (1 year ago)

    We had a trial and error period with one of my cats. In the end it was a bigger box that she needed and that’s why she was pooping over the edge. At the time the big boxes were hard to find. I ended up finding it on Ebay. Plus litter was a concern. She only like original clay.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      June 5, 2017 at 3:25 pm (1 year ago)

      Your kitty is not alone, Janine. I’ve found that clay litter seems to be preferred by many cats – my guess is it’s because it’s the most like the sand they’d use in nature.

      Reply
  19. Jennifer
    June 5, 2017 at 8:10 am (1 year ago)

    Dear Ingrid:
    I have purchased many of your recommended products over the last few years and have always been very happy with them.

    But the NVR Miss Litter boxes have been a litter box “game changer” for my household.

    As the former executive director of an animal shelter in Northern Michigan I still have a house full of kitties that were not adoptable, as do my parents who were my go to kitten/hand feeding foster parents.

    As you can imagine, there are a lot of kitty personalities in play.

    As of today I have purchased four (4) of the NVR Miss boxes and I will continue to purchase them until all the litter boxes in my home are replaced with the NVR Miss boxes.

    Also, the company is very responsive and caring. The owner/designer of the box sent me a lovely email note stating that if I still had any problems with cats urinating over the edge he would send out additional panels for the sides at no charge. He mentioned that he created this box because it broke his heart that so many cats are surrendered to shelters due to litter box issues. I will say that my kitties have never wet over the edge of this fabulous box.

    Reply
  20. Sue Brandes
    June 5, 2017 at 8:05 am (1 year ago)

    We have the NVR Miss Litter box and we like it. Thanks for the post.

    Reply
  21. J.Leaman
    June 5, 2017 at 6:57 am (1 year ago)

    Blake (my Apple face siemese) comes and gets me if he thinks his litter box is dirty. He watches me to make sure I do a good job!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      June 5, 2017 at 3:26 pm (1 year ago)

      Allegra and Ruby occasionally supervise my cleaning efforts, too!

      Reply
  22. Cheri Collins
    June 5, 2017 at 4:13 am (1 year ago)

    Perhaps I should add, I scoop the litter boxes twice / day. I keep them clean. I’m using Smart Cat litter now. One of the boxes has a lower entry at one end. The 13 yr-old cat has arthritis for sure, and could have trouble getting in the box if there weren’t a lower place in the wall for entry.
    The best litter catcher mat I’ve found (and I’ve tried a lot of them) are Toftbo bathroom rugs from IKEA.

    Reply
  23. Cheri Collins
    June 5, 2017 at 4:02 am (1 year ago)

    Three cats live with me. We only have two litter boxes as we have a smallish apartment and there simply are not places / spaces for more. But the youngest cat (6 yrs old) likes to be outdoors a lot, so she doesn’t use the litter box much. The oldest, Boo is about 15. He was feral when I made friends with him (earned his trust slowly, over nearly a year of spending time with him every day). He didn’t know what a litter box was for, initially. I got him to try it one day by putting a layer of potting mix for plants over the litter in the box, and putting it just outside the back door.
    He developed a unique style of using the box. He puts both front feet outside the box, one back foot in the box and the other on the rim. He appears to have arthritis now (we have an appointment with his vet coming right up), and I think the angle of the hips in this position has changed. He often pees outside the box. I’m dealing with it by putting puppy pee pads under and around the large box he uses. But I keep wondering, if I found a different style litter pan / box he would use, if that could help? I’ve been very reluctant to try a style which would force him to get into the box, simply because he’s 15 and has always used this posture when using the box to pee. I’m wondering if you have any ideas or suggestions? Any recommendations or opinions?

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      June 5, 2017 at 5:06 am (1 year ago)

      Since you have two boxes, maybe change one to one of high sided boxes with a low entry and see whether he’ll use that, Cheri? I have to be honest, though, since your set up with the pee pads seems to work for you, I’d be hesitant to change anything since he has such a unique way of using the box you have!

      Reply
  24. Terry
    June 5, 2017 at 3:16 am (1 year ago)

    The best litter box I ever found, and still have, is a huge stainless steel pan from and institutional buffet table. I got it for $2 at Salvation Army. It is 22″ by 13″ by 8″ deep.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      June 5, 2017 at 5:07 am (1 year ago)

      Great idea, Terry!

      Reply

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