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Cat Litter Box - How to Select the Best Cat Litter Box

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Choosing the right cat litter box is important to you and your cat. There are several styles, materials, features, and sizes to choose from. To help you shop, consider these factors.

Features to Consider in a Litter Box

  • Materials
  • Style (hooded or unhooded)
  • Vents (vented/unvented/odor control pads)
  • Size
  • Opaque vs. see-though
  • Durability
  • Depth
  • Ability to clean
  • Attractive to the cat
  • Automation
  • Cost
  • Guarantee (important for self-cleaning boxes)

    Ideal Choice for a Cat Litter Box

  • Formost, the ideal cat litter box needs to be appealing to your cat, thus one he or she will use! It also needs to be compatible with your choice of litters. For example, the automated litter boxes, such as Littermaid®, requires scoopable litter. The ideal cat litter box should also be easy to clean, durable and offer good ventilation and visibility. The size may be determined by the number of cats you have but more likely, the number of cats should affect the number of cat litter boxes, not the size. You may want to choose a more shallow depth for kittens (about 3 inches) and a deeper variety for adult cats (at least 6 inches).

  • The ideal choice for a cat litter box is a heavy plastic durable material box placed in an area that is quiet, appealing to your cat and easy to clean.

    Shopping Tips for Buying a Cat Litter Box

    Most cat litter boxes come in one of about five different basic designs. Each of these basic designs may vary with the materials and other small features. The preference of the cat is variable but we will try to indicate general pros and cons of the different designs.

  • Basic flat box (alternative with rim) – The basic flat cat litter box is a traditional simple rectangular plastic pan. It is the least expensive, comes in a variety of sizes and depths. This style is simple to clean as you don't have to remove the lid or cover to scoop or clean. Many cats prefer this design. This basic design may have an additional feature of a “rim” that can help hold kitty box liners in place. The liners are secured under the rim of this design.

  • Hooded or covered boxes – Some cat litter boxes come in a traditional rectangular shape but include a hood that covers the box. There is an opening on one end that allows the cat to enter and exit and is generally high enough for the cat to stand and eliminate comfortably. The benefits are that they offer more “privacy” to some cats and may help contain litter pieces that may get pawed out of the basic flat box. Some cats like the privacy and other cats may feel “trapped” if other cats come into the room when they are using it as they only have one “escape” route. However, hooded models can be very smelly due to their poor ventilation. Some boxes have a ventilation panel at the top that can hold a filter to help trap odors. Most cat owners do not change the ventilation filter often enough for it to make a big difference. When looking at hooded models, choose a model that is large enough to accumulate your cat, has an easy to maneuver the hood which is important for when you have to scoop or change the litter, and one with big vents.

  • Self-cleaning box –Several companies have come out in recent years with electric “self-cleaning” cat litter boxes. These work by having a timed sensor that is activated a few minutes after your cat leaves the box. The sensor activates the cleaning cycle at which time a rake slides along the litter and scoops urine and feces into a well. This is a nice feature as it keeps the litter box clean for your cat, however, it should not be substituted for good litter box hygiene. Sometimes the rake does not get every morsel of urine or feces so you may need to occasionally use the manual scoop. The rake itself can also become clogged which may require cleaning. These generally work with scoopable litter products. Some cats really like this as they are often open, roomy and clean. Other cats don't care for the mechanical action if they happen to see the box in action. These are the most expensive boxes and may only have a 1 year guarantee which isn't all that long. You need to empty the receptacle when full, or every couple days.

  • Designer or “hidden” boxes – there are some new designs of cat litter boxes that masks the box as a piece of furniture or a plant. They can be attractive and live anywhere in your home. However, cats often prefer a quiet safe area for their eliminations. Placed in a high traffic area may not be the ideal situation for your cat. Most of these units are covered and can also be smelly. Some of the containers are small and not extremely comfortable for some cats. Look for designs that are big, open as possible, and have good ventilation. Place the box in an area that is appealing to the habits of your cat.

  • Sifting boxes – There are a few different models but the basic one consists of two basic rectangular pans and a “sifter tray”. The two cat litter boxes stack on each other and the sifting tray rests inside the top pan. Litter is poured on top of the sifting tray. To clean the box, you separate the two litter boxes, lift out the sifting tray which removes the wastes but leaves the litter. You then put the sifter into the empty box and pour the litter on top. After you dump the waste, you again can store the empty litter box on the bottom of the unit.

    Shopping Tips when Buying a Cat Litter Box

  • If you are unsure which type of box your cat prefers, offer both and watch his or her habits. If your cat uses both, then you can keep using both pans. If your cat prefers one over the other, either remove the hood or add a hood.

  • Plastic open boxes are easy to clean, durable but offer more ventilation than hooded models.

  • When using a hooded model, never store anything on the hood such as extra litter or the rake. These can fall off and scare you cat preventing future use. After scooping, always make sure the lid is secure on the box.

  • When deciding where to scoop your waste, consider a small 16 to 20 inch sealable lidded kitchen-type trash can. These are often available at kitchen or office supply stores. The ideal model has a foot pedal which allows your hands to be free to scoop. It should be tall enough to store your scoop and seal well thus containing the smells. Line the trash can with a plastic bag and replace the bag before it is smelly or when it is full. You can have this near the litter boxes for convenient use.

  • Don't abruptly change boxes. If your cat is using a box, you can add one but don't change and remove their current one suddenly if possible. You can add a new one and when you are sure your cat is using it fine, then remove the old one.

  • When selecting a litter box, make sure it is large enough for your cat to maneuver comfortably. Some commercial litter boxes may be too small or too low for cats that want to “spray” or urinate on the side of the litter box. In these cases, consider plastic storage containers. The clear storage containers work well because they are big, have high sides (which does a great job of holding in urine and litter), and are appealing to most cats. Most cats feel vulnerable when they eliminate and having a unit with clear sides can help them determine if any perceived “treats” are near. For cats that have difficulty entering/exiting a higher box, you may use a sharp knife to carefully cut and opening.

  • Successful litter box use depends on several factors including the type of litter box, LOCATION of the litter box, the type of litter you use, how and how often you clean the box, and the personality and behavior of your cat.

  • Cats generally don't like to eat and eliminate in the same spot so place the litter box in a quiet area away from where the food and water bowls are located.

    More Tips on Using a Cat Litter Box

  • Carefully choose the cat litter box location. It is important that cats maintain optimal litter box experiences to ensure their continued use of the box. Make sure the area is appealing and quiet. Minimize locations that are dark, damp, or noisy, (such as out of the way basements) or in spots where they can be startled by people or other pets. Avoid any negative experiences around the box such as loud noises, surprising your cat while in or near the box. Keep boxes away from air ducts, furnaces, and loud appliances that can turn on and startle your cat while using the box. Make sure the access to and from the box is comfortable. If the litter box is in a separate room, make sure the door does not close either preventing access or trapping your cat. As you can see by all these rules, we want to avoid anything that can cause litter box aversion.

  • When you decide where to place the cat litter box, make sure it is in a spot that is easy for you to clean.

  • Scoop at least daily. Some cats will not use a dirty litter box!

  • Plastic pans will eventually pick up odors that won't come out no matter how much you scrub them, so they should be replaced periodically. When you look for a replacement box, find something similar if possible to minimize any unappealing changes to your cat.

  • Avoid harsh cleaners such as bleach or ammonia products on the cat litter box. They can offend cats and cause them not to use the box. Use a generally soap to clean and rinse REALLY well.

  • Remember, you should have at least one cat litterbox per cat plus one or one litter box per floor (or whatever is more)! For example, if you have 2 cats, you should have 3 litter boxes. If you have one cat and 2 levels in your home, you should have two litter boxes.

    Users' comments about this Buyer Guide
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    Looking for a new box
    by Jewell, Saturday, November 01, 2008

    Comment: I am adopting 2 new cats. My husband cannot stand the smell of any type of litter. So I was looking into the new boxes with the built in air purifier. I was wondering if anyone had tried these or know a little bit more about them.

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    Litter box problems
    by, Thursday, October 16, 2008

    Comment: I have a cat that is 12 years old and will not squat when he goes into the litter box. I am looking for a litter box that doesn't have a lid and that is tall enough that I don't have to worry about his urine going out the back of the litter box.
    It w...

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    The Best LitterBoxes
    by r3english, Saturday, April 19, 2008

    Comment: Its a hard decision some are too cheap in both price and quality of plastic. Others are too expensive and too complicated. The more mechanical the more they can break down or possibly injure your cat. I've seen this litterhouse litterbox at stores and trad...

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    The Best Litter Box is The LitterHouse
    by Barb, Monday, March 10, 2008

    Comment: I have purchased many litter boxes and the best one I have found to date is the LitterHouse. I never have to vaccum and the cats love it (2 of them). Best of all I don't have to look at that disgusting, dirty litter pan again. My litter box is now in its...

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    Purforma Automatic Litter Box
    by JaneDoe, Tuesday, December 11, 2007

    Comment: This brand (or any other self cleaning box) may be good if you only have one cat. I have 2, one of which is diabetic. I spend more time cleaning out this box than I did when I had a regular cat box. Especially with a diabetic cat who tends to urinate more ...

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