A litter box is one of those essential items that every cat owner needs, but with so many options available, how do you know which one to choose?

Every type of litter box was created with a specific purpose in mind and once you understand the pros and cons of each, it will be much easier to ensure your furry family member is more than happy with theirs.

How to Choose the Best Type of Litter Box

Your preferences are only one part of choosing the right litter box for your cat – their preferences and a number of other factors come into play too.

Here are some important aspects to keep in mind:


Your Cat’s Age

If you’ve brought home a tiny kitten or you’re currently living with a senior cat, a larger litter box with a low entry point is best. The idea is to make the litter box as easy as possible to access. 



If you’re living with a nervous cat or you’ve recently adopted a stray cat, they may have a difficult time adjusting to a litter box. This is because they’re used to doing their business outdoors where they can see their surroundings. In these situations, an open litter box is best as a covered box could be too intimidating.


Number of cats

In multi-cat households, territorial disputes are common, which is why litter boxes with multiple openings tend to be best. This way, one cat cannot trap the other one inside, leading to fights and injuries. 



Not all litter boxes are suited to every type of cat litter. It’s important to take your cat’s preferred litter into consideration before you decide on a litter box. You may even need to switch to a new type of litter if you’re set on a particular type of tray.



You know your cat best and if they’re a little messy, you may want to opt for a litter box with high walls. This will prevent excess litter from ending up on your floor and around your house unnecessarily. 



Other pets

If your cat is sharing a home with a dog or even multiple dogs, they may feel safer in a top-entry litter box. What’s more, this style of litter box will prevent your dog from getting too curious about the litter and making a mess.


Human limitations

If you’re a pet parent who has some mobility challenges, cleaning a litter box can be a much harder task. Thankfully, automatic or self-cleaning litter boxes are available.

Overall, a litter box is something your cat’s going to use for a long time, so purchasing the best quality box you can afford is highly recommended. And, if the environment is important to you, look for litter boxes that are made from recycled materials. 

Understanding the Top 5 Types of Litter Boxes

Now that you know what to consider when choosing a litter box, let’s take a more in-depth look at the different types of litter boxes.

1. Open Litter Boxes

Open litter boxes are essentially trays or containers without any covering, providing easy access for your cat to enter and exit. Open litter boxes are ideal for kittens, senior cats, as well as stray or feral cats.


  • Accessibility: Open litter boxes offer unrestricted access, making them ideal for cats who may feel confined or anxious in enclosed spaces.
  • Ease of Monitoring: With no lid obstructing the view, it's easier for cat owners to monitor their pet's litter habits and cleanliness levels, allowing for prompt cleaning.
  • Ventilation: The open design promotes better airflow, reducing odors and moisture buildup inside the litter box.
  • Size Options: Open litter boxes come in various sizes and shapes, catering to the needs of different cat breeds and sizes.
  • Affordability: Typically, open litter boxes are more budget-friendly compared to their covered counterparts, making them a cost-effective choice for cat owners.


  • Odor and Mess: Since there's no lid to contain odors or prevent litter scatter, open litter boxes may lead to more noticeable smells and mess around the surrounding area and your home.
  • Privacy Concerns: Some cats prefer privacy while doing their business, and the open design of these litter boxes may not provide the seclusion they desire, leading to potential stress or reluctance to use the box.
  • Potential Spillage: If your cat tends to dig vigorously or urinate with force, there's a risk of litter or urine spilling over the edges of the box, which will require more regular cleaning.
  • Limited Options for Odor Control: Without a cover to help contain odors, cat owners may need to rely more on litter choices and frequent cleaning to manage smells effectively.

2. Covered Litter Boxes

Covered litter boxes, also known as hooded or enclosed litter boxes, feature a cover or hood that partially or fully encloses the tray where your cat does its business. Covered litter boxes are ideal for shy, anxious, or messy cats.


  • Odor Containment: One of the primary advantages of covered litter boxes is their ability to contain odors more effectively than open ones. The cover helps trap odors inside, keeping your living space smelling fresher.
  • Privacy: The enclosed design provides cats with a sense of privacy and security while using the litter box, which can be particularly beneficial for shy or anxious cats.
  • Litter Containment: The cover helps prevent litter from being kicked or scattered outside the box, reducing the amount of cleanup required around it.
  • Aesthetics: Covered litter boxes often have a sleek and modern appearance, which can blend more seamlessly with your home decor compared to open litter boxes.
  • Options for Odor Control: Many covered litter boxes come with built-in features such as carbon filters or deodorizers to further enhance odor control and keep the litter box area smelling fresh.


  • Space Constraints: The enclosed design may feel cramped for larger cats or those who prefer more space while using the litter box, potentially leading to discomfort or reluctance to use it.
  • Limited Ventilation: The cover restricts airflow inside the litter box, which can result in increased moisture buildup and odor over time if not cleaned regularly.
  • Difficulty in Monitoring: Because the cover obstructs your view, it can be more challenging to monitor your cat's litter habits and cleanliness levels, potentially leading to less frequent cleaning.
  • Potential Startle Factor: Some cats may be startled by the enclosed space or feel trapped inside the litter box, especially if there's only one entrance/exit, which could deter them from using it.
  • Maintenance Challenges: Covered litter boxes can be more cumbersome to clean due to the additional components, such as the cover and any attached filters or mech

3. Top-Entry Litter Boxes

Top-entry litter boxes are essentially covered litter boxes, except the lid is on the top, requiring cats to enter and exit through a hole in the cover. Covered litter boxes are ideal for shy, anxious, or messy cats as well as those who share a home with dogs.



  • Litter Containment: Top-entry litter boxes are excellent at containing litter scatter. The lid helps trap litter inside the box, reducing mess and keeping the surrounding area and your home cleaner.
  • Privacy: The enclosed design provides cats with a sense of privacy while using the litter box, which is ideal for shy or anxious cats.
  • Odor Control: The lid helps contain odors inside the litter box, keeping your living space smelling fresher compared to open litter boxes.
  • Space-saving: Top-entry litter boxes typically have a smaller footprint compared to traditional open or covered litter boxes, making them ideal for homes with limited space.
  • Prevention of Digging: Some cats have a tendency to dig excessively in their litter boxes, which can lead to litter being kicked out. The top-entry design discourages this behavior, resulting in less litter being scattered outside the box.


  • Accessibility: Top-entry litter boxes may not be suitable for all cats, especially those with mobility issues or older cats who may find it challenging to climb in and out of the box.
  • Learning Curve: Some cats may need time to adapt to using a top-entry litter box, particularly if they are accustomed to a different style. Encouragement and positive reinforcement may be necessary during the transition period.
  • Potential Startle Factor: The enclosed nature of top-entry litter boxes may startle some cats, especially if they are not used to entering through a hole in the lid. This could deter them from using the box initially.
  • Limited Ventilation: Similar to covered litter boxes, top-entry litter boxes may have limited ventilation, which can increase moisture buildup and odor over time.
  • Maintenance Challenges: Cleaning a top-entry litter box can be more difficult due to the need to lift and remove the lid, as well as potentially needing to reach deeper into the box to scoop waste.

4. Sifting Litter Boxes

Sifting litter boxes consist of multiple trays or layers, typically three, that stack on top of each other. The top tray holds the litter, while the bottom tray collects waste. The convenient nature of these litter trays is what makes them so popular. 


  • Efficient Waste Removal: Sifting litter boxes streamline the process of cleaning the litter box. To remove waste, you lift the top tray with the clean litter, allowing the clean litter to sift through the holes into the bottom tray while trapping clumps and waste on top.
  • Reduced Litter Waste: By separating clean litter from waste, sifting litter boxes helps preserve clean litter, reducing the amount of litter that needs to be replaced during cleaning.
  • Convenience: The sifting mechanism simplifies scooping and cleaning, making the process quicker and more efficient. It also minimizes the need to dig through the litter to find and remove waste.
  • Odor Control: Regularly removing waste from the litter box helps control odor more effectively, keeping your home smelling fresher between cleanings.
  • Cost-effective: Sifting litter boxes can be cost-effective in the long run, as they reduce the need to replace litter as often and may use less litter overall compared to traditional litter boxes.


  • Initial Cost: Sifting litter boxes may have a higher upfront cost compared to traditional litter boxes, as they typically come with multiple trays or layers.
  • Complexity: Some sifting litter boxes may have a more complex design, requiring assembly or disassembly for cleaning. This could be a pain point for some cat owners, especially those looking for a simpler solution.
  • Space Requirements: Some sifting litter boxes may take up more space than traditional litter boxes due to their multi-layered design.
  • Litter Tracking: Despite the sifting mechanism, some litter may still track outside the box, especially if your cat is particularly enthusiastic about digging or covering its waste.
  • Compatibility with Litter Types: Certain types of litter, such as lightweight or non-clumping varieties, may not work well with sifting litter boxes, as they may sift too easily or not clump as effectively.

5. Automatic/Self-Cleaning Litter Boxes

Self-cleaning litter boxes are automated devices designed to remove waste from your feline’s litter box without the need for manual scooping. However, as convenient as these litter boxes are, they come at a higher cost. 



  • Convenience: Self-cleaning litter boxes automate the process of waste removal, eliminating the need for daily scooping. This can be especially beneficial for busy cat parents or those with mobility issues.
  • Odor Control: By promptly removing waste from the litter box, self-cleaning litter boxes help control odor more effectively, keeping your home smelling fresher between cleanings.
  • Reduced Litter Tracking: Some self-cleaning litter boxes come with built-in ramps or mats designed to reduce litter tracking outside the box, helping to keep your floors cleaner.
  • Multiple Cat Household Friendly: Self-cleaning litter boxes are often suitable for multi-cat households, as they can handle frequent use and maintain cleanliness more effectively than traditional litter boxes.


  • Cost: Self-cleaning litter boxes tend to have a higher upfront cost compared to traditional litter boxes, as they incorporate electronic components and automation technology.
  • Maintenance Requirements: While self-cleaning litter boxes automate waste removal, they still require regular maintenance, including emptying the waste receptacle and cleaning the litter box components. Neglecting maintenance can lead to malfunctions or odors.
  • Noise: Some self-cleaning litter boxes produce noise during the cleaning cycle, which may startle sensitive cats or disturb household members, especially if located in a quiet area.
  • Size and Design Limitations: Self-cleaning litter boxes may have size or design limitations that make them unsuitable for certain cats or households. Additionally, they may require specific types of litter to function properly.

Final Thoughts

Now that you have a view of the pros and cons of the most popular types of litter boxes, you should already have a clear idea of what will work for your home as well as your furry family members.

Keep in mind that if you’re switching to a new type of litter box or your cat is not used to using one, you may need to be patient during the transition process.