Do Cats Prefer Open or Closed Litter Boxes? The Surprising Truth

Last updated: 23 Mar 2024

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Do cats prefer open or closed litter boxes

As a cat owner, you want to do everything you can to ensure that your furry companion is happy and well-treated. One aspect that often causes a headache is what type of litter box to use. So, what do cats actually prefer?

To answer this question, we need to consider the natural behavior of cats. In the wild, cats usually bury their waste to cover up the scent and protect themselves from potential predators.

Domestic cats have retained this instinct, which is why they prefer to use a litter box. Yet, there are differences between open and closed litter boxes that may affect a cat’s preferences.

open litter box vs closed litter box

Open litter boxes

Open litter boxes are exactly what they sound like—a box with no top or sides. Some people prefer them because they are easier to clean.

One potential downside is that they do not offer much privacy for the cat. Some cats may feel exposed and vulnerable when using an open litter box. This can lead to stress and may cause the cat to avoid using the litter box altogether.

Closed litter boxes

Closed litter boxes, on the other hand, have a larger profile than open litter boxes with an access opening for the cat. Some people prefer them because they offer more privacy and containment for their cats.

One potential benefit is that they may help reduce the amount of litter tracked around the house. They also do a great job at containing odors.

But at the same time, some cats may feel unsafe while using a closed litter box. These are the same cats that like to have a clear vision of their surroundings all the time to escape any potential threat.

Do cats prefer open or closed litter boxes?

The answer depends on your cat’s preferences. A study was conducted and published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery regarding this subject. The main objective was to assess whether cats had some preference toward a certain type of litter box (open vs. closed).

Surprisingly, only 8 of the 28 cats in this study displayed a preference (4 for covered and 4 for uncovered litter boxes). The rest of the cats showed no preference in this regard. This shows that it’s entirely up to your cat to determine what type of litter box it prefers.

Final Note

Some cats prefer the privacy and containment of a closed litter box, while others feel more comfortable using an open litter box. One way is to experiment with both types of litter boxes and observe your cat’s behavior. If your cat seems to prefer one type over the other, you may want to stick with that type.


Frequently Asked Questions

What size litter box for a large cat?

According to the 2022 ISFM/AAFP Cat Friendly Veterinary Environment Guidelines published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, the litter box should be 1.5 times the length of your cat from the nose to the tip of the tail. Whereas the width should be equivalent to your cat’s length, the tail is not included. A cat that is about 18 inches long needs a litter box that measures 27” long by 18″ wide. A litter box that most likely doesn’t exist out there. That is why it is best to select the largest and nicest litter box for your beloved cats.

How deep should a cat litter be?

It is recommended that you use a maximum of 2 inches to 4 inches of litter in your litter box. If there are numerous cats using the litter box, you’ll need 3 to 4 inches of litter to absorb all that urine and clump around.

In fact, anything less than 2 inches will cause unpleasant odors to develop as well as a high probability of inappropriate elimination. On the other hand, too much litter will lead to a mess since most cats will simply kick it outside.

How often to replace cat litter?

If you have one cat at home, you’ll most likely need to change clumping cat litter every 2–3 weeks. However, if you’re using a non-clumping litter, you’ll have to change the litter completely twice a week.

How often should you clean a cat litter box?

If you have an automatic litter box, you can perform a deep cleaning once a month. Unless, of course, there is a problem of feces scattering or building up inside the litter box. You will need to clean it more often in that case.

If you have a manual litter box, the litter should be scooped and cleaned at least twice a day.

Where to put the cat litter box?

Cats love to have their cat litter boxes in a corner that is calm, private, and accessible. You’ll also need to keep food away from this spot in order to leave this space dedicated to sanitary activities.

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