You’re going to buy a litter box and you want to know whether you should buy one which is open or covered. This is my advice. Twenty-eight cats participated in a study. The scientists concluded that: “Overall, there was no significant difference between use of the two box styles. Eight individual cat did exhibit a preference (four for covered, for four uncovered).”
I take that to mean that in general the majority of cats don’t mind whether they use a covered or uncovered litter box. However, a minority of cats have a particular preference and it seems to be split down the middle between uncovered and covered.
In terms of buying a new litter box you therefore have to buy what you think you like and check whether your cat likes it. There is certainly an element of human preference here particularly as you won’t know whether your cat likes or dislikes a certain type of litter box and in general, they don’t mind. This seems to me to put the emphasis on personal human choice. Jackson Galaxy might disagree with this method.
Covered litter boxes are useful in one respect in that you contain the litter dust. You get less mess around the litter box; a minor benefit perhaps. Another benefit is that it helps to keep the odour inside the box. And it looks better as you don’t have to gaze at the poop. Perhaps the last point is the most pertinent.
Jackson Garry, the well-known American cat behaviourist, says in his book Total Cat Mojo: “I’m not a huge fan of hoods on boxes”. He thinks that people buy covered litter boxes because they believe that their cat wants privacy. But this is a human concept because when cats go to the toilet outside, they don’t seek privacy. He also believes that a lid “can lead to ambush zones and dead ends, especially in a home with dogs, kids and other cats”.
He also states that “long-haired or larger cats can get a static shock from touching the sides of the hood as they enter or exit”.
These are all good points. They seem to be points which the scientists did not investigate. What I’m saying is that a cat might not have a preference between covered or uncovered litter boxes but when they use a covered litter box, if they are a large cat, they might develop a disliking for it for the reasons stated above.
I guess playing safe you would buy an uncovered litter box. And you might make the same choice if you have a large, long-haired cat. But by and large either will do.
Would you like to know the 10 litter box commandments of the Cat Daddy? These are they (verbatim):
- Thou shalt have one box per cat +1
- Thou shalt have multiple, well-placed stations
- Thou shalt not camouflage the king of scent soakers
- Thou shalt observe the law of litter common sense
- Though shalt not mindlessly fill the box
- Thou shalt honor the right box
- Thou shalt not cover
- Though shalt not use a liner
- Though shalt keep the litter box clean
- Though shalt allow your cat to covet another box
Got that? 😊 I think most of them don’t require an explanation. The law of litter box common sense according to Jackson Galaxy means that the litter material itself i.e. the litter substrate should be the simplest of kinds. He says that “The fancier the substrate, the more that can go wrong”. He also states that you should think what cats use as cat litter in the wild: earth. This is quite a soft material. And he doesn’t like scented litter because the litter material needs to smell of cat poop which makes it more attractive to a cat and it encourages them to use the litter.
As to the size of the box, I have a page on that (click here) but Jackson Galaxy says that “the length of the litter box should be at least 1.5 times the body length of your cat. He should be able to turn around, do plenty of digging, and find a clean place to go without coming face-to-face with the wall of the box”.
He is a great fan of having one litter box per cat in a multi-cat home plus one extra. He strongly recommends this guideline which means that if you have one cat “you will want two litter boxes; two cats, three litter boxes and so forth”.
The litter box should be located “where it works best for your cat, not you”. What he saying is that you should necessarily tuck away litter boxes in the garage or in the basement. He remarks that one customer of his in a multi-cat home put four litter boxes side-by-side in the garage to create “not four litter boxes but one huge litter station”.
Study referred to: Litter box preference in domestic cats: covered versus uncovered (First Published October 26, 2012).
SOME MORE ON LITTER BOXES AND TRAYS:
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