New Pet Owner

Choosing a Litter Box

Bringing A Baby Into A Dog’s World

Choosing a litter box may not seem complicated, but with dozens of different styles and models on the market, you might wonder exactly what your cat really needs. Here's the low down on choosing the right potty spot for Fluffy:

  • Size – A small box is okay for kittens and a one-cat household, but if you have a large cat or multiple cats, get the largest litter box available.
  • Materials – The basic box is rectangular and made of plastic. It should be light enough to pick up easily. Plastic is easy to clean, but it does retain odor after a while, so you may want to invest in litter box liners.
  • Rimmed – Some boxes are equipped with a removable rim so that Fluffy can't easily kick litter out. This is a nice option and comes with most inexpensive boxes.
  • Covered or open – Most cats prefer a covered box. You can purchase a box with a hood, and there are even fancy covered boxes that look like a piece of furniture. Hooded boxes give the cat privacy and prevent litter from being kicked outside of the box. Some hooded boxes have a swinging door—your cat may or may not accept this feature, so watch to make sure that Fluffy is using the box. If he doesn't like the door, you can always remove it.
  • Depth – Usually, a depth of three to six inches or so will do—you may need a deeper box and more litter for larger cats, male cats, or multiple cats.
  • Color and opacity – Color depends on your taste. The opacity of the box's hood, however, is up to your cat. Some cats prefer more privacy than others, so you may have to experiment a bit with the type of hood that your cat will tolerate.
  • Vented – Some boxes come with vents that contain replaceable odor-controlling filters and pads. This is a nice feature if you have an odor problem or if the box is going to be in a public area of your home.
  • Electronic – There are several self-cleaning boxes on the market, and consumers seem to like them, especially for multiple cat households. These units usually have a sifter that's activated by the motion of the cat leaving the box. Waste is collected in a receptacle for easy clean up. Just make sure that the unit's noise doesn't scare Fluffy and makes him refuse to use the box. Find out what the return policy is before you purchase this type of box.
  • Sifting box – This type of box is really two boxes in one—one that's solid on the bottom and one that acts as a colander on the top. When it's time to clean the box, simply remove the top box, sift it gently, and toss out the waste.
  • Disposable – Disposable boxes are really convenient and some even come with a fold-up hood and odor-control features. When the litter becomes soiled, simply pick up the box and toss it. Most come with the litter already included.

The best litter box is the one that your cat prefers. If he doesn't like one type of model, get him another. The right litter box for you is the one that your cat will consistently use.

Nikki Moustaki, MA, MFA, is a dog trainer, bird care and behavior consultant, and a freelance writer in New York City. She is the author of more than 26 books on pet care and training and is the host of