The best cat litter box is an intersection of feline and human needs.
Litter boxes allow our cats to live safely, comfortably, and harmoniously within our homes.
Although the record of historical litter box use is blurry at best, we know that for most of their history with people, cats primarily lived outside. They roamed the streets or fields, ate mice, slept in barns, and used nature’s litter box.
Starting in the late 19th century as pets boomed and spent increasing amounts of time indoors, we start to hear about indoor cats using formal litter boxes. Often referred to as “sanitary pans”, early litter boxes were often repurposed enamel baking pans or galvanized iron roasting pans. Imagine how that must have felt on the claws!
After the creation of the first commercially-sold cat litter in 1947, cats started spending more time indoors and people spent more time creating and selling litter boxes. While our options have increased, the goal of the litter box remains the same. The litter box creates a healthy, clean environment where your cat is free to engage with their natural instincts.
In this article, you’ll learn what cats need in a litter box, get an introduction to the different types of litter boxes available on the market today, and discover the best cat litter boxes for your unique situation. So let’s have a look at our top picks
What are the qualities of the best cat litter box?
The best cat litter boxes satisfy your cat’s needs in a variety of ways. Let’s take a closer look at what the best cat litter boxes do that mediocre ones don’t.
The best cat litter box gives your cat space.
Litter boxes are primarily designed with human comfort in mind. That means that they’re usually small and compact enough to fit in a small room. As a result, the average litter box leaves your cat’s head and tail over the edge. Imagine how it feels to use a litter box with barely enough room to move around in and which forces you to step in your own waste. For a creature as hygiene-conscious as a cat, this is a a foul situation.
General cat care wisdom says that cats should use litter boxes that are at least as wide as they are long from nose tip to the base of their tail. If your cat is 15” long from nose tip to the base of their tail, this formula dictates that your cat needs a litter box that’s at least 15” wide and 22.5” long.
The best cat litter boxes have high sides.
Small litter boxes struggle to keep litter where it belongs. A little tracking and scattering is inevitable, but low-sided litter boxes have more problems than most. Think about choosing a high-sided litter box made specifically with litter scattering in mind.
Remember that some cats, especially females, spray urine on the sides and over the edges of the litter box. If your litter box has low sides,it’s likely that the urine will go over the edge and onto the floor. High sides help to keep everything inside of the box.
The litter box must also be easy for your cat to access.
A running start shouldn’t be a part of your cat’s litter box entry approach. Kittens and senior cats are particularly prone to problems accessing a litter box with high sides, so choose boxes with a lowered entrance for easy access.
Every litter box needs to be cleaned at least once a day. The best litter boxes make the chore easier.
Choose litter boxes with smooth inner surfaces that make scooping simple. Avoid boxes with hard-to-clean designs including inside curves, ridges, and valleys. All of these features collect waste and make your job more challenging. Avoid litter boxes with square corners, as well – these are also difficult to clean out completely. Some litter boxes have non-stick and antimicrobial coatings, which help to manage odors.
Types of Litter Boxes Available
The litter box is a straightforward product – but that doesn’t mean you don’t have options. The litter box selection ranges from nondescript plastic pans to alien-looking automatic sifting machines. Let’s take a closer look.
Uncovered Cat Litter Boxes
Over the course of about 70 years of commercial litter box evolution, the litter box has seen a few technological advances, but the standard plastic litter pan still reigns supreme. Uncovered litter boxes are usually cheap and easy to find in stores.
This is the classic litter box. It’s just a pan that holds your cat’s litter. It’s easy to clean, easy to access, and a popular choice among all types of cat guardians. Cats naturally want to keep an eye out for threats while they use the litter box, and uncovered boxes make area surveillance easy.
Our pick for the best uncovered cat litter box: Petmate Hi-Back Litter Pan, Jumbo
This popular uncovered box has a high back, helping to minimize the amount of litter and waste that goes spraying over the edges of the box. Thanks to the lowered front, this large litter box is accessible for almost every cat. It’s made with Microban, an antimicrobial coating that helps to prevent the growth of odor-causing bacteria and minimizes staining. It’s also notably more affordable than litter boxes with more complex features.
Covered Cat Litter Boxes
Covered cat litter boxes capture the smell inside of a litter chamber, minimizing the amount of waste odor that spreads through your home. In addition to odor, covered litter boxes help to curb litter scattering. Because the hood disguises the functional part of the litter box, they’re popular among people who want to minimize the appearance of a litter box in their home.
Although human interests are the primary reason people opt for using a covered litter box, sometimes misconceptions about feline preferences also play a role in their use. It’s easy to assume that because people appreciate seclusion while using their bathrooms, cats want the same privacy. Being trapped in the litter box doesn’t make cats safe – it makes them vulnerable.
The covered cat litter box has also been criticized for encouraging laziness. Critics say they make cat guardians ignorant of waste accumulation. In addition to hiding the problem, covered litter boxes trap smells inside of a small space. It’s a situation sometimes compared to a public portable bathroom – an unclean stench chamber. For an animal with an acute sense of smell and a love of good hygiene, this could be intolerable.
All this being said, many cats happily use covered litter boxes throughout their lives. This study showed that cats demonstrated no preference for open or covered litter boxes.
If you clean out the box once a day or more, a covered cat litter box can be an aesthetically superior alternative to the traditional open litter tray.
Our pick for the best covered cat litter box: Petphabet Litter Box with Lid – Jumbo Hooded Kitty Litter Pan
This covered litter box has a spacious interior, so most cats won’t feel cramped while using it. It has a transparent hood, allowing you to monitor waste buildup and allowing your cat to observe the outside world. It’s available in a range of bright colors.
Top Entry Cat Litter Boxes
Visually, top entry boxes are one of the most chic styles available. Instead of walking into the litter box from an entrance at the front or sides of the box, your cat drops down into the litter through an entrance hole on the top. This type of litter box is harder for cats to access, so it’s not a great choice for cats with mobility issues. It’s also speculated that this type of litter box may place undue stress on cats’ joints.
Our pick for the best top entry cat litter box: IRIS Top Entry Cat Litter Box
This litter box receives praise for its beautiful and minimalist design. It’s popular among people who want a sleek, simple cat toilet that doesn’t look like a litter box.
The cat entry port is built into the lid, which lifts up, allowing you to access the waste and easily clean out the box. Because it’s the first thing your cat touches after using the box, the lid prevents litter tracking in one of two ways. You can choose either a filtering lid, which allows litter to drop back into the box, or a grooved lid, which captures litter for easy disposal.
Automatic or Self-Cleaning Cat Litter Boxes
Automatic or self-cleaning litter boxes are a good fit for people who hate the process of cleaning out the litter box manually. Typically, this type of litter box has a sensor that detects the presence of a cat. After your cat uses the litter box, a sifting or raking mechanism automatically separates clean from dirty litter. The waste then enters a storage drawer, where it remains until you’re ready to discard it.
Automatic litter boxes cost more than less advanced products, and they come with an increased risk of malfunctions, but they’re a good investment for someone with a busy schedule or a procrastination streak.
Our pick for the best automatic litter box: PetSafe ScoopFree Self-Cleaning Cat Litter Box
After your cat has used the box, the rake moves across the litter surface, grabbing solid waste and dragging it into an odor neutralizing chamber. It uses silica gel crystal cat litter, which desiccates stool, absorbs liquids, and eliminates odors.
Sifting Cat Litter Boxes
Sifting litter boxes are the less technologically advanced cousin of the automatic litter box. Although they don’t do all of the cleaning for you, sifting litter boxes eliminate the need to scoop out the box – they essentially scoop themselves.
These litter boxes work best with clumping litter, since this type separates into dirty clumps and clean granules. They’re also the best choice for people using pine pellet litter, which breaks down to sawdust after it comes into contact with moisture. The sifter separates the used dust from the fresh pellets, extending the life of the litter.
Our pick for the best sifting cat litter box: Arm & Hammer Large Sifting Litter Pan
Like most sifting litter boxes, this product has a three-level design. A sifting tray is nested between two standard closed-bottom boxes. When you’re ready to clean out the box, you lift out the top pan, pour the litter through the sifter, toss out the waste, and rotate the boxes. The process is simpler and quicker than the standard scoop and toss technique. It’s a functional halfway point between an automatic box and a traditional litter pan.
What’s the best cat litter box for you?
Every household and every cat is different. Let’s figure out which litter boxes are best for you, your cat, and your home.
What’s the best cat litter box for odor control?
If your cat’s litter box has an odor problem, look at yourself first. Ensure that you’ve been cleaning out the box at least once a day. If a diligent cleaning routine leaves the litter box still smelling foul, choosing a new litter box could help.
Some litter boxes have non-stick and antimicrobial coatings that help to minimize the amount of waste that sticks to its inside surfaces. These coatings also help to minimize the growth of odor-causing bacteria. Others feature carbon filters that capture odors before they can enter the room.
Best Cat Litter Box for Odor: PetFusion Cat Litter Box Large (the BetterBox)
This litter box features a proprietary non-stick coating, helping to prevent the buildup that leads to litter box odors. According to the company behind the BetterBox, this coating reduces sticking by up to 70%. The shape of the litter box lends itself to easy and complete scooping, which is the best way to ensure that your cat’s litter box smells fresh. And because a large litter box is always a good choice, it’s encouraging to know that this litter box is over 22” long and 18” wide – a size well above average.
What’s the best litter box for kittens?
Because kittens instinctively cover up their waste and choose soft substrates rather than going on the floor, there’s no need to choose a special litter box for training.
The main concern is accessibility. High sides are out for kittens, who need a box that’s easy to climb into. Remember that you’re not necessarily looking for a shallow box. Kittens can be messy, and high sides contain the litter. Seek out litter boxes with low, easy-to-access entrances.
Our pick for the best cat litter box for kittens: Lucky Champ Litter Pan
This litter box has kitten-ready features that set it apart from the rest. It has a wide, sturdy base that won’t tip over in a room full of rowdy kittens, a high back to capture mess, and an exceptionally low front that’s accessible for tiny kittens, disabled cats, and seniors.
What’s the best cat litter box for large cats?
If you own a super-sized Maine Coon or massive Chausie, it can be a struggle to find an adequate litter box. Litter boxes are usually undersized for average cats, and the search is even more challenging for a large cat.
Covered litter boxes are out of the question for large cats. While even small uncovered litter boxes allow your cat to extend their head and tail over the edges, a covered litter box has restrictive side walls that make your cat feel cramped. Look for big, sturdy uncovered boxes.
Because huge litter boxes are rare, many large cat guardians choose to make their own litter boxes or use plastic storage containers instead.
Our pick for the best cat litter box for large cats: Nature’s Miracle Just for Cats Advanced High Sided Cat Litter Box
This large litter box measures 23 x 18.5 x 11 inches. It features high sides to keep litter contained and a low entryway that allows every cat to enter with ease. It features a non-stick surface that promotes easy litter cleaning.
What’s the best litter box for multiple cats?
In a multiple cat home, the litter box has to handle increased box activity while also facilitating healthy relationships.
The standard recommendation is that you install as many litter boxes as you have cats, plus one. One cat needs two litter boxes and twelve cats need thirteen.
In addition to accommodating your multiple cats with numerous litter boxes, choose sizable boxes that can handle heavy use. A big cat family creates plenty of waste, and it takes large litter boxes to handle that.
Remember that multiple cat households have a uniquely feline social hierarchy. As a central part of daily life, the litter box can get involved in territorial spats and social dominance games. A dominant cat may block a submissive family member inside of the litter box, forcing them to stand in their own waste. This is a frightening and humiliating experience and can send the conflict on a downward spiral.
For this reason, avoid placing your litter box in a corner and don’t use covered boxes in a multiple cat home.
Our pick for the best cat litter box for multiple cats: Petmate Giant Litter Pan For Cat
This giant litter pan is one of the largest on the market today. One reviewer said that this single box was large enough to serve all five of their cats. In addition to a large litter area that can handle over 30 lbs of litter at once, the litter box features caddies in which you can store your litter scoop and other supplies. It combines high walls with a lowered entry side, allowing large cats to comfortably enter and exit the box.
the best cat litter box to keep dogs out?
Some dogs love eating smelly little cat treats from the litter box.
This is at once disgusting to watch, unsanitary, and potentially dangerous. Choosing the right box can prevent your dog from invading the litter box. Several designs can help to keep your dog out of the litter box. One is a top entry box, which keeps small dogs from accessing the waste area. Other boxes have both an inner and outer entry, preventing larger dogs from probing into the box.
If you don’t want to give your cat a covered litter box, there are other options for keeping your dog out. If your cat is agile and comfortable jumping, take advantage of their vertical mobility and put the litter box on a counter or large shelf that your dog can’t access.
Our pick for the best cat litter box to keep dogs out: Modkat Litter Box, Top-Entry
While top entry litter boxes like this one are often the most difficult for your cat to access, they’re a lifesafer for people dealing with coprophagic dogs. This one has a beautiful, highly functional design featuring an easy-to-remove reusable liner, locking swivel lid, and comes with a litter scoop. The dog-proof design and on-trend design comes at a cost – you’ll pay over $80 for this popular litter box.
What’s the best disposable cat litter box?
While permanent litter boxes become stained and can accumulate odors over the years, disposable boxes can go into the trash at the first sign of staining and bacterial buildup. You may use a disposable box independently or as a liner inside of your standard litter box.
Disposable litter boxes run small, so it’s important to look for large, deep disposable boxes that can contain all the litter and provide a comfortable experience for your cat.
Our pick for the best disposable cat litter box: Nature’s Miracle Disposable Litter Box for All Litter Types
This disposable litter box is made from recycled paper. It’s spacious, with depth to satisfy heavy diggers and large cats. It’s infused with baking soda, which absorbs odors, plus the breathable material encourages healthy airflow.
What’s the best cat litter box for small apartments?
Having a small home doesn’t mean you need to cut back on litter box space. Instead of saving space by choosing a small box, choose one that can multitask.
Litter box furniture enclosures double as storage areas and shelving, allowing you to maximize your space. Because these pieces make functional decorative accents, they have more placement options than the average litter box.
What’s the best place for a litter box in a small apartment?
While it’s usually a good idea to place your litter box in the bathroom, laundry room, or other discreet area, multifunctional boxes can go almost anywhere. Regardless of how limited your space is, try to place the litter box in a low-traffic area where your cat will have a stress-free elimination experience.
Best Cat Litter Box for Small Apartments: Good Pet Stuff Company Hidden Cat Litter Box
Here’s a clever concept for small homes.
This is a fully functional litter box that looks like a potted plant. Because it doubles as a decorative accent, the hidden cat litter box fits into unconventional spaces – like your living room, mudroom, or foyer.
The concept is fantastic for people living in small apartments and houses, but it does have a few problems. The synthetic plant is cheap and unmistakably artificial. Reviewers note that you can easily replace the original plant with one that’s more realistic and attractive. Check out the customer images on Amazon to see how people improved the look of this litter box.
What’s the best cat litter box furniture enclosure?
Unlike the standard utilitarian plastic box, litter box enclosures contribute positively to your home decor scheme. They can also minimize tracking and scattering.
Cat litter box enclosures are a great way to disguise the appearance of a cat litter box in your home, but choose carefully. Enclosures aren’t right for every cat, every litter box, or every home. Choose an enclosure with good ventilation and carbon filters to minimize odors. Like any covered litter box, these enclosures can trap odors and potentially upset your cat.
Remember that insecure cats may become reliant on the enclosure as a hiding place. It’s never a good idea for your cat to enter a vicious cycle of hiding in the litter box – a place where a cat normally wouldn’t stay for more than a minute – feeling increasingly anxious.
Our pick for the best cat litter box enclosure: Refined Feline Refined Litter Box
This cat litter box enclosure keeps your cat’s toilet discreetly confined within an attractive wood cabinet. It has a spacious interior and features carbon filters to encourage odor control. The litter box is equipped with a functional drawer that’s perfect for holding your cat’s toys and treats.
Common complaints revolve around the cheap construction of the cabinet. Don’t expect finely-crafted furniture – this is a lightweight decoy cabinet, not an heirloom piece.
Still haven’t found a litter box that works for your cat and home?
You might need to make your own or choose a product not specifically designed for cats. Some people prefer the size and price of under-bed storage containers, which are just about the perfect size and cheaper than equally large boxes made for cats. Others prefer to use larger plastic storage containers and create their own unique doorways.
This video shows you how to make three different types of litter boxes using plastic storage containers.
Choosing the best litter box isn’t complicated. Pick one that’s comfortable, the right size for your cats, and which fits into your home. If you can’t find one in stores, make your own.
Remember that regardless of quality, your litter box can’t do its job if you don’t fill it with great cat litter. Not sure how to find the perfect cat litter?
About the author
Mallory Crusta is a writer and adventurecat enthusiast on a mission to make cats’ lives extraordinary. She’s one of the founders of Wildernesscat – a site for happy, healthy, and adventurous cats who are fueled by nature. Visit Wildernesscat for radically natural cat nutrition, home remedies, and lifestyle inspiration.