Think Like a Cat When Choosing a Litter Box

So you can go back to not thinking about litter boxes.

by Cory and Jane Turner
September 28, 2021
a cat peeks out of a litter box lid

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Your cat has opinions...maybe even enough of them to leave unpleasant, non-verbal messages lying around to get your attention. We know — we’d all be relieved if we never had to think about our cats relieving themselves, much less interact with it. But our litter box preferences don’t always align with our cats’. Such is the feline condition. Since your sweet cat can quickly morph from somewhat-miffed to pee terrorist, it’s worth knowing what works for your cat and why.

Think Like a Cat

“The main rule of thumb for litter boxes is to have 1+ the number of cats, meaning: two boxes for one cat, three boxes for two cats, four boxes for three cats, and so on to decrease the potential for urinary problems and competition over resources,” says certified animal behaviorist Ruby Leslie, who recommends thinking like a cat when it comes to choosing a litter box. “It is very important for cats to have wide boxes with an easy-to-access entrance, and keep in mind that a litter box with a cover/lid can trap in smells, which could deter cats from using the box. You’ll also want to avoid pellets or anything scented and choose sand/clay litters since they mimic natural substrates cats would use in the wild like dirt or sand.”

Things Your Cat Wants You to Know

They hate dirty toilets as much as we do — maybe more.

Cats need a clean litter box like we need clean toilet paper. In fact, hygiene is one of their most natural inclinations. They want a litter box you can keep clean, with enough structure to keep all messiness contained. Pass their white glove test or they’ll simply go elsewhere.

They really don’t like surprises. 

All cats are individuals, but it’s a likely bet that the noise from an automatic scoop box will trigger their fight or flight instincts. More likely flight. Seriously, why risk getting the daylights scared out of you during your most vulnerable private time?

They don’t want you to cramp their style.

Cats want enough space to move around and get comfortable, so they need a proper-sized box to suit their size. Makes perfect sense, but not every human thinks of it. They also like to feel protected and safe during their litter box time.

We took a look at everything — from the classically efficient to the latest tech-y designs — to find solutions that work for both you and your cat, and pulled together seven litter boxes that your cat just might approve. And to paraphrase cats everywhere: if it works for your cat, it should work for you.

Btw, our editors (and their pets) picked out these products. They’re always in stock at the time we publish, but there’s a chance they’ll sell out. If you do buy through our links, we may earn a commission. (We’ve got a lot of toys to buy over here, you know?)

If you’ve been wondering when the reputation of stainless steel might influence the plastic world of litter boxes, Ohm has an answer. Turns out stainless steel is something of a dream material for litter boxes: it doesn’t absorb odors ever, it doesn’t scratch or rust, and it’s non-stick and easy to clean. Oh, and stainless steel lasts forever, so it’s good for the planet.

$50 at Amazon

Created by a cat dad/designer and his partner, an industrial designer, Modkat is exactly what you might hope for when design and personal need collide. And it’s not only good for its looks. The Flip model is sensitive to individual cat preferences with a 3-position lid — closed, half, or all the way open. If your cat prefers a top entry or simple open box, there’s a Modkat for that too. Thanks, Cat Dad.

$80 at Amazon

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cory and jane turner

Cory and Jane Turner

Cory and Jane are daughter-mother partners in just about everything including co-founding Dogly, a platform for pets and their people to live well together. They’re parents to a family full of magical rescue dogs and a bossy street cat from Shanghai who are their resident muses, testers of all things, and advisors on the meaning of life.