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Best Litter Box for Cats: What to Know Before You Shop

Best Litter Box for Your Cats
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Updated November 16, 2023

A litter box is a purchase that most pet owners won’t think twice about. After all, it’s just a place for a cat to do their business—and the options out there seem to only differ significantly in terms of style. However, there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to the right litter box. 

Things to consider before buying a litter box

It is important to think about your individual cat and what they will feel comfortable using, says Dr. Kelly Fishman, DVM, in San Francisco, California. “Just like us humans, cats have strong preferences with [their] bathroom spaces. Whether your cat likes or dislikes the litter box is influenced by many factors,” she says. “This includes the type of litter, location, size and shape, and if the litter box is covered or not.” 

In addition, think about where you will locate your cat’s box. Dr. Sean Penn, DVM, who practices in Scottsdale, Arizona, says litter box use issues can be complicated—and that not only is the type of litter box relevant, where you place it may matter as well. “For example, cats are highly sensitive to environmental influences such that litter box avoidance can involve the cat being uncomfortable in the box’s location due to it being in a noisy or high traffic location,” he says. “Problems can actually have a lot to do with the location of the box.”

Your cat’s own preferences about where they feel most comfortable going to the bathroom isn’t about a pet being picky for the fun of it, but an important factor for their general health.

“If your cat finds their litter box environment unsuitable there is potential for trouble. Urinating or defecating outside the litter box and other serious medical conditions can arise,” warns Fishman. “Urinating outside the litter box is the number one reason cats are surrendered by their families.”

A cat’s size, age, and personality are all key factors to keep in mind when selecting the best litter box for them. While there’s no way to predict exactly how your cat will react to a new litter box, there are some questions to keep in mind when shopping that can help you find the best options:

How big (or small) is your cat?

You should think about the size of your cat before you commit to a litter box. 

“Size is important only in that the cat should be able to fit in the litter box comfortably,” says Penn. “Cats have a natural instinct to use a moveable substrate in which they can bury their feces.” As a general rule, the litter box should be at least one-and-a-half times the length of your cat.

In addition, cats need to be able to jump or climb up into the litter box easily so they don’t hurt themselves. A heavier cat may not be able to reach its box if it is too far off the ground. 

How old is your cat? 

Senior cats or  tiny kittens may require a shallow litter box with a low lip, making it easier for tired or uncoordinated cats to easily step in and out. “Sometimes with age and arthritis, they [cats may] have trouble getting into the box,” says Penn.

How many cats are in your household? 

Multi-cat households need a wider litter box to accommodate more than one cat—and more than one litter box. “The current recommendation for the number of litter boxes for a household is one box per cat plus one.  So one cat needs two boxes, two cats need 3 boxes, and so on,” adds Penn. 

Does your cat like privacy? Hint: Some do!  

Some cats appreciate a covered litter box for the enclosed privacy (relatable!) and some owners may want to go the extra mile by purchasing a box that blends in seamlessly with their space.

Do you work or are you at home during the day? 

Cleaning cat waste as soon as it appears is the best practice for litter box maintenance. For those willing to shell out a little more, you can even buy a model that automatically cleans the box while you’re away from home, which may be well worth the price of admission in many cases. 

Our top litter boxes for cats picks

Best “investment” litter box for cats: Whisker Litter-Robot 4 Automatic Self-Cleaning Cat Litter Box

If money is no object, the Whisker Litter-Robot 4 is easily the best cat litter box available. Its compact design makes it easy to place in small living spaces, yet its wide, bowl-like interior and large waste bin makes it optimal for homes with up to four cats. This mechanical litter box will clean up after your cat automatically, and send live smartphone alerts via its companion app to let you know how full its waste compartment is, how much litter is left, and even your cat’s weight, among other key stats. The automatic cleaning process is surprisingly quiet, and if you do find its sifting sounds to be a little annoying, you can set its cleaning schedule via the app for a more convenient time. 

One of the biggest ticks in the pro column is how well its tightly sealed waste compartment contains odors, making this a top litter box for apartments as well. And while its automatic cleaning function is this model’s top selling point, a range of little design perks—such as a textured step that catches litter when cats step out—make Whisker’s Litter-Robot 4 the all-around best litter box available.

Read our full Litter-Robot 4 review>>

Price: $699

Pros

  • Can accommodate up to 4 cats
  • Programmable
  • Self-cleaning
  • Works with any type of litter 

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Needs to be near an electrical outlet 
  • Has a rounded shape that may not appeal to cats who prefer corners
  • Step may be too high for cats with mobility issues

Specifications:

  • Dimensions: 22 inches (width) x 27 inches (depth) x 29.5 inches (height)
  • Type: Automatic
  • Material: Plastic
  • Weight: 24 pounds
Litter-Robot 4

Litter-Robot 4

Best budget litter box for cats: Petmate Litter Pan

Whether you need to outfit your home with multiple litter boxes, are looking for a box for a larger cat, or are simply not down for blowing half your paycheck on a cat toilet, the Petmate Litter Pan shows that you don’t have to spend big bucks to get a quality litter box. Available in large and jumbo sizes, this inexpensive litter box features a solid design that was made to last, and its plastic utilizes Microban technology that minimizes the growth of odor and stain-causing bacteria. The low price of this basic litter box makes it easy to outfit any home with multiple boxes, and its taller walls are especially effective at keeping litter inside, making this a value-packed deal for messier cats (you know who you are!) 

Price: $10.60

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Lightweight
  • Available in two sizes (large and jumbo)
  • Basic design makes it easy to clean

Cons

  • Can’t choose the color
  • Cats who like to dig could still kick litter over edges
  • Open design isn’t a good choice for cats that prefer privacy

Specifications:

  • Dimensions: 18.5 inches (width) x 15 inches (depth) x 5 inches (height)
  • Type: Pan
  • Material: Plastic
  • Weight: 0.85 pounds
Petmate Litter Pan, Color Varies, Large

Petmate Litter Pan, Color Varies, Large

Best automatic litter box for cats: INSTACHEW PURRCLEAN Smart WiFi Enabled Covered Automatic Self-Cleaning Cat Litter Box

Cleaning the litter box is one of the biggest—and stinkiest—downsides to owning a cat, but the Instachew Purrclean litter box goes a long way towards mitigating that. The high-tech litter box sports multiple sensors and safety features to ensure your cat is outside the box before it starts to clean itself, while the enclosed space and roomy interior offers the privacy cats need. The Purrclean’s smart app tracks how often your cat uses the litter box, their weight, and lets you know as soon as its convenient waste tray needs to be emptied. Switching over from your old litter box to the Purrclean is easy since this model is compatible with all litter types, and its integrated odor eliminator utilizes a high-pressure ozone chamber to break down cat aromas, making it one of the best-smelling litter boxes available. Sure, the Purrclean is a fairly expensive pick, but once you and your cat are used to its suite of sanitary features, it’d be hard to go back to a simple tray.

Price: $499.99

Pros

  • “Scoops” waste automatically 
  • Can control cleaning frequency via app
  • Eliminates odors
  • Can use with any type of litter
  • Optimized for multiple cats
  • Quiet operation

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Drum-style interior may not appeal to cats that like corners
  • Interior may be too small for larger cats
  • Higher up entry point may be challenging for cats with mobility issues 

Specifications:

  • Dimensions: 20 inches (width) x 20 inches (depth) x 26.5 inches (height) 
  • Type: Covered, Self-Cleaning, Automatic
  • Material: Plastic
  • Weight: 30 pounds 
Instachew Purrclean Automatic Cat Litter Box Self- Cleaning App-Enabled.

Instachew Purrclean Automatic Cat Litter Box Self- Cleaning App-Enabled.

Best multi-cat litter box: FRISCO High Sided Cat Litter Box

Between its roomy interior space, high walls, and non-stick plastic, the FRISCO High Sided extra large model is the best choice as a communal litter box. No two cats have the exact same potty habits, which is why it’s a good idea to buy a litter box with high walls, to keep spraying and litter-slinging behaviors contained. This spacious litter box is easy for larger cats to use, and gives multiple cats plenty of area to do their business. As an added bonus, this high-sided box’s low entry lip makes it easy for senior cats and young kittens alike to effortlessly walk into their shared bathroom.

Price: $19

Pros:

  • Large area for multiple cats
  • High sides help prevent litter and waste from escaping

Cons:

  • Only available in blue
  • Open design may not appeal to cats who prefer privacy
  • Extra large size requires a bigger space 

Specifications:

  • Dimensions: 24 inches (width) x 18 inches (depth) x 10 inches (height)
  • Type: Pan
  • Material: Plastic
  • Weight: 2.9 pounds
Frisco High Sided Cat Litter Box, Extra Large, Navy, 24-in

Frisco High Sided Cat Litter Box, Extra Large, Navy, 24-in

Best litter box for kittens: Van Ness Cat Litter Pan Size Small

Anyone searching for a temporary litter box until an uncoordinated little kitten is able to use the grown-up version should consider the small, inexpensive, and portable Van Ness Cat Litter Pan. It’s compact and extremely affordable, making these little blue litter boxes easy to place all over the home as needed to help with potty training. The odor- and stain-resistant design adds up to easy maintenance. 

Price: $6

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Low sides make it easy to step into

Cons:

  • Small dimensions
  • Not designed for durability
  • Open design may not appeal to kittens who like privacy

Specifications:

  • Dimensions: 14 ¾ inches (width) x 10 ¾ inches (depth) x 4 inches (height)
  • Type: Pan
  • Material: Plastic
  • Weight: .25 pounds
Van Ness Cat Litter Pan, Blue, Medium

Van Ness Cat Litter Pan, Blue, Medium

Best odor control cat litter box: PetSafe ScoopFree Original Automatic Self-Cleaning Cat Litter Box

The convenient design of PetSafe’s ScoopFree Automatic Litter Box is only topped by its innovative odor-controlling crystal litter. If you value a virtually odor-free litter box area, its unique, blue, crystalized litter traps cat box smells up to five times better than traditional clumping or clay litter. (Just note that one crystal litter-filled tray, designed especially for use in this litter box, lasts between 20-30 days for one cat; refills are around $70 for a pack of three.) This means that not only does it smell far better than the average model, its litter lasts five to ten times longer than normal litter, too. With its greatly reduced smell and handy automated cleaning cycle that activates 20 minutes after your cat leaves the box, this durable and fairly priced model is easily the best option for keeping your home fresh.

Price: $199.95

Pros:

  • Eliminates odors from waste
  • Automatic cleaning rake
  • Durable

Cons:

  • Can only use the specialty crystal litter tray refills designed for this unit
  • Open design may not appeal to cats that like privacy 
  • Expensive

Specifications:

  • Dimensions: 19.1 inches (width) x 27.6 inches (depth) x 6 inches (height)
  • Type: Automatic
  • Material: Plastic, Silicone
  • Weight: 18.64 pounds
PetSafe ScoopFree Complete Plus Self-Cleaning Litter Box

PetSafe ScoopFree Complete Plus Self-Cleaning Litter Box

Best top entry litter box for cats: IRIS Round Top Entry Cat Litter Box Scoop

Cat parents who are tired of cleaning up litter trails won’t know how they lived without an IRIS Round Top Entry Cat Litter Box. This box’s large, bucket-like enclosure delivers the privacy that cats need, and eliminates spray, waste, or those grody litter trails that tend to follow cats outside of the box. In addition, its grooved lid scrapes off lingering litter particles that may have stuck to their paws on the way out, and it’s a snap to remove for quick and easy cleaning. When you consider the rugged lid’s ability to hold cats weighing up to 20lbs, its extra-spacious interior, and three available color options, this is easily the most versatile top entry litter box out there.

Price: $39.99

Pros

  • Easy to clean
  • Supports all litter types
  • Available in 3 colors

Cons

  • Top entry may be challenging for seniors, kittens, and cats with mobility issues
  • Scooping requires taking off the top lid
  • Top lid is an additional element to clean

Specifications:

  • Dimensions: 16.14 inches (width) x 20.47 inches (depth)  x 14.56 inches (height)
  • Type: Top entry
  • Material: Plastic
  • Weight: 4.85 pounds
IRIS Round Top Entry Cat Litter Box Scoop

IRIS Round Top Entry Cat Litter Box Scoop

Best sifting litter box for cats: Arm Hammer Sifting Cat Litter Pan

Most sifting litter boxes simply focus on convenience, but the Arm & Hammer Sifting Cat Litter Pan sports a specialized design that lessens lingering cat box odors. Cleaning this litter box is as easy as lifting the top sifter pan and watching as it effortlessly filters out the waste while dropping the clean litter back into the pan beneath. Again, there are other sifting litter boxes on the market, but Arm & Hammer’s antimicrobial-infused plastic actively eliminates odor-causing bacteria, which goes a long way toward making your cat’s litter—and the room itself—smell fresher for longer.

Price: $14

Pros

  • Easy to sift litter
  • Antimicrobial plastic minimizes odor
  • High sides help contain excess litter

Cons:

  • Only available in large
  • Open design may not appeal to cats who prefer privacy

Specifications:

  • Dimensions: 15.2 inches (width) x 18.9 inches (depth) x 7.9 inches (height)
  • Type: Sifting/pan
  • Material: Plastic
  • Weight: 2.29 pounds
Arm Hammer Sifting Cat Litter Pan

Arm Hammer Sifting Cat Litter Pan

Best hidden litter box for cats: Good Pet Stuff Hidden Cat Litter Planter

Even dedicated pet parents would rather not make a litter box the focal point of a room, especially if they have to place it in a smaller, shared area, so it’s easy to see the appeal of the Good Pet Stuff Hidden Cat Litter Planter. This deceptively roomy, covered litter box is shaped and textured like a clay plant pot, with a realistic artificial fern on top to complete the illusion. Spacious enough for larger cats and multi-cat homes, it’s a snap to disassemble for cleaning. As an added bonus, its innovative venting system works surprisingly well to keep dust and odors from escaping. Best of all, though? It’s a plant your cat can’t actually destroy.

Price: $75

Pros

  • Doesn’t look like a litter box
  • Covered design

Cons:

  • A little pricey
  • Fake plant may not be the most convincing
  • Have to take apart the unit to clean it
  • Cats who like corners may not like the round design

Specifications:

  • Dimensions: 19 inches (diameter) x 36 inches (height) 
  • Type: Covered
  • Material: Plastic
  • Weight: 8 pounds
Good Pet Stuff Hidden Cat Litter Planter

Good Pet Stuff Hidden Cat Litter Planter

Best litter box for senior cats: KittyGoHere Senior Cat Litter Box

Sometimes, the best solution for an older kitty with less spring in their step, or an otherwise mobility-challenged cat, is the simplest one. Available in three colors and two sizes, the KittyGoHere Senior Cat Litter Box’s low, 3” entry lip makes it comfortable for any cat to simply walk into the box to do what they need to. This pan-style litter box is a must-own for cats with joint, muscular, and skeletal issues that make jumping and landing painful, as well as disabled or recovering cats who need a little extra help.

Price: $39.99

Pros

  • Available in three colors (tan, green, and lavender) and two sizes 
  • Low entry point
  • Durable

Cons:

  • Easy for cats to kick litter outside of box
  • Open design may not appeal to cats that like privacy

Specifications:

  • Dimensions: Large is 20 inches (width) x 24 inches (depth) x 5 inches (height); small is 15 inches (width) x 20 inches (depth) x 5 inches (height)
  • Type: Pan
  • Material: Plastic
  • Weight: 2.4 pounds
KittyGoHere Senior Cat Litter Box, Sand, Large

KittyGoHere Senior Cat Litter Box, Sand, Large

Best litter box for large cats: Lucky Champ Cat Litter Pan

With its spacious interior and curved walls to block litter and dust from being carelessly (dare we say, occasionally maliciously?) kicked out, the Lucky Champ Cat Litter Pan is the best pick for larger cats. Big cats will certainly enjoy the extra space to move about this sizable box, while the low-lying front lip makes it easy for kittens and older cats to use too, making it  a solid long-term investment. The Lucky Champ’s especially durable plastic design is stain and odor resistant, and its rubberized handles help to make this bigger litter box easy to empty and clean as needed.

Price: $28

Pros

  • Extra-wide pan
  • Low point of entry (3.5 inches at the lowest point)
  • Built-in handgrips

Cons

  • Only available in one size
  • Open design may not appeal to cats that like privacy

Specifications:

  • Dimensions: 16.75 (width) x 25 inches (depth) x 9 inches (height)
  • Type: Pan 
  • Material: Plastic
  • Weight: 3.31 pounds
Lucky Champ Cat Litter Pan

Lucky Champ Cat Litter Pan

Best litter box for a small apartment: Kitangle Corner Kitty Cat Litter Box

The Kitangle Corner litter box is tall, discrete, and neatly fits into any corner, making it a top pick for apartment living. Cats will appreciate the sizable interior and the enclosed privacy it provides, and since it features a low entry point, this designer litter box easily accommodates senior cats and little kittens, as well. Owners will appreciate how simple its lid is to remove for quick cleaning, as well as how the Kitangle Corner’s enclosed design keeps litter, spray, and waste inside, and its overall design helps disguise the box’s purpose. Sure, the Kitangle Corner is a premium pick, but if you’re looking for a versatile, compact, and well-designed litter box for a small space, it’s worth every penny.

Price: $127

Pros

  • Covered design allows the litter box to blend in with your home
  • Corner design saves space
  • Entrance height (6 inches) is designed to allow seniors and kittens to get into the box with ease

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Have to remove the lid to clean the litter box

Specifications:

  • Dimensions: 17.75 inches (depth) x 25 inches (width) x 16.5 inches (height)
  • Type: Covered corner
  • Material: Polypropylene, Plastic
  • Weight: 9.09 pounds
Kitangle Corner Kitty Cat Litter Box

Kitangle Corner Kitty Cat Litter Box

How we chose the best litter boxes for cats

As you’ve seen, there’s a huge variety of cat litter boxes available, ranging from simple plastic pans to advanced, smart automatic self-cleaning models, but the best litter boxes are the ones that stand out from the crowd. Price, features, durability, and convenience are the key aspects we look for when comparing litter boxes. For instance, there are multiple automatic litter boxes on the market, but the Whisker Litter-Robot 4’s smartphone connectivity, extra-large size to accommodate multiple cats, and impressive smell-reducing feature, overshadowed the competition. Likewise, there are extremely simple litter boxes that are little more than a basic plastic tray, but the best ones are especially durable, affordable, and are offered in multiple sizes to accommodate different household needs.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Do cats prefer covered or uncovered litter boxes?

Believe it or not, a study from the Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine actually explores this question, and the results suggest that cats will use covered or uncovered litter boxes equally without a preference. Since cats don’t really seem to care, it’s up to you to pick the litter box style that best suits your situation.

Some cat owners appreciate the simplicity of cleaning an uncovered pan-style litter box without having to remove the cover each time, while others appreciate how a covered litter box helps to keep litter from being kicked onto the floor. Both are equally valid options, but keep in mind that there are plenty of other varieties available, too, such as sifting, top entry, and smart automatic litter boxes.

How do I keep my litter box from smelling in the house?

There are multiple techniques for preventing a cat’s litter box from leaking its stench all over your house. The obvious step of cleaning the litter box daily will only get you so far, so look out for kitty litter varieties with pleasant fragrances, or a brand with odor-absorbing properties to minimize the smell between cleanings. Automatic litter boxes are usually designed with compartments that store cat waste until you’re ready to dispose of it, which helps to reduce the smell. If the litter box continues to stink despite it being “clean,” it may be time to replace its contents with all-new litter. 

While keeping an air purifier or scented air fresheners close to the cat box are tempting ideas, they only mask odors, and removing the source of the smell is always the best way to deal with the problem.

Where should I place the litter box?

A cat’s litter box should be set in a calm, quiet, and private place that allows them to take care of their business in peace. This place should be easily accessible, and set away from loud appliances that may frighten them.  They should also be far away from their food and water bowls. Not only should there be a cat box per cat in your home, there should be a cat box on every level of your home, so the cat has easy access to it at a moment’s notice. If you have small children or pets that may be tempted to get into the cat’s litter box, consider installing a small baby fence in the doorway to keep them out, one that allows cats to easily bound over as needed.

How often do you need to clean your cat’s litter box?

You should remove the waste from your cat’s litter box once or twice a day, but if you own multiple cats and have set up additional litter boxes, you will likely need to clean your litter box even more frequently to keep it under control. Not only will this practice make your space smell much better, a clean litter box will encourage your cat to use it, as opposed to finding other, cleaner places around your home to do their business (like, for example, your laundry hamper). Some cats will only use a dirty litter box as a last resort, and may develop painful urinary conditions from holding in their urine if faced with a filthy tray.

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