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Open Vs. Closed Litter Boxes - Which Should You Choose?


A litter box is as important as food to your cat. Although some cats are more tolerate, you need to strike a balance between what you want and what your cat likes.

Your cat is an important part of your family. And, just like with other family members, you share photos of your kitty’s exceptional antics to anyone willing to listen or watch.

You also confer with other cat lovers when your pet acts out to help with behavior management. You chat about your kitty so much that looking for authoritative answers to your pet questions becomes less important.

The problem is that people’s personal beliefs when it comes to keeping cats vary. For instance, some pet owners believe that cats prefer open litter boxes. And thus are less likely to use closed, covered, enclosed or hooded litter boxes. ​Self-cleaning litter box models tend to be covered.  You can check out this Litter Robot Open Air 3 guide to see the best one on the market.


Increasingly, stories are told of cats that refuse to use covered litter boxes. And, with more studies being carried out in the field, it’s becoming more evident whether cats prefer open litter boxes to enclosed litter boxes or vice versa, whether you get cat litter from Pretty Litter or another brand.

Scientific studies are sound and use standardized methodologies to eliminate uncertainties in varied scenarios. In this case, studies have proven whether cats are fonder of open or closed/covered litter boxes.

Let’s find out which of the two types of litter boxes carries the day.

But first, here’s a brief overview of the likely pros and cons of covered cat litter boxes.

Possible Benefits Of Covered/Closed Litter Boxes

  • Ideal for use in small apartments
  • Prevent dogs from accessing the box; they’re dog-proof
  • Hides litter away in the box
  • Can improve interior décor, keeping unsightly litter away
  • Appeals more ascetically
  • Feature high back walls to keep urine within the confines of the box

Possible Disadvantages Of Covered Litter Boxes

  • Cats can feel cramped
  • Uncomfortable for the cat
  • Traps bad odors inside the box
  • Cats can feel trapped in a box with no emergency exit
  • The box can be too small for a cat to fit in
  • It’s easy to forget cleaning a covered litter box because it’s out of sight and mind

A Research Study On Open vs. Covered Cat Litter Boxes

Researchers at the Veterinary Medicine School of Ross University carried out a study in 2012 to assess the question of covered vs. open litter boxes; which one is superior to the other?

The study results were published in April, 2013 in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery.

28 cats with no history of experiencing issues with their litter boxes were selected to take part in the study. Each cat was given access to both a covered and an open litter box.

The amount of waste a cat deposited in any of the two boxes accorded to each was used to measure a cat’s preference for one of the two litter boxes over the other.

According to the study findings, about 70% of the study cat respondents had no specific preference for any particular litter box. The study found out that most of the cats under assessment were comfortable using either of the two litter boxes.

However, some of the cats under study showed a preference for a particular type litter box. But, what was most interesting is that four cats had a preference for open litter boxes while another group of four cats preferred covered litter boxes.

Check out Dr. Ernie Ward’s complete analysis of the study Ross University conducted on Pet Health Network.

Unlike pet owners’ common beliefs on open vs. enclosed litter boxes, your feline doesn’t care whether its litter box is covered or open.

But, how do litter box issues arise?

Causes Of Most Problems With Litter Boxes

Many cat owners experience various issues with their cat’s litter boxes. But, if the problem isn’t the choice between covered and open litter boxes, then what is it?

In August, 2017, a study was published in Behavioral Processes, including evidence from other related scientific research studies aimed at assessing cat’s litter box behavior.

The study focuses on how the cats responded to dirty litter boxes. It found that cats are fond of clean litter boxes. More detailed study information on cat litter boxes is available in the research report published on the same.

Cats often prefer one litter type over another. They can also show preferences for specific configurations of litter boxes.

Whichever type of litter or litter box your cat prefers, it wants it clean. Despite a single cat’s preferences for litter or litter boxes, it can’t apply to the universal preference of other cats.

What does that mean?

Your feline’s preference for a self-cleaning litter box, unscented litter or a box location near your bedroom doesn’t mean every other cat shares similar interests or preferences.

What’s true and universal about cats is that they love clean litter boxes. According to various studies, cats prefer ample-sized clean litter boxes, with every cat in your household having its own litter box, including one extra. You can check out this comprehensive so fresh litter review to read more about all the different variations available you can try for your kitty. You can also check out Kitty Poo Club to check out a disposable cat litter option.

Conclusion Based On Study Findings

The key to knowing your cat’s preferences is getting to know it well. Whenever you notice an abnormal litter box behavior, it’s important to assess the feline to ensure that the behavioral change isn’t as a result of an underlying medical condition.

Visit a vet to help with the assessment and rule out any possibility of your best friend being unwell. Nothing can substitute that.

When shopping for the right litter box for your cat or setting up your home for the arrival of a new cat, use existing scientific evidence to base your decisions. Avoid anecdotal beliefs or evidence based on assumptions and personal opinions.

Your cat wants a clean litter box that’s of proper size and offers great accessibility. The choice of an open or enclosed litter box comes down to your specific cat’s personal preferences not applicable to other pets.

Get to know your cat well to help pick a litter box it’s bound to like and love using.

Choose one that’s also functional and attractive in your eyes to improve your home décor.

Contact us to find out more information about cat litter boxes and choosing the right box for your feline.

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