Do Cats Like Enclosed Litter Boxes?

Author: Kari | Reviewed by: Nancy George | May 14, 2023
cat litter boxes, litter boxes
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Cute tabby cat going out of a self-cleaning Litter box.
Photo by Lightspruch on iStock

Litter boxes: to enclose or not to enclose? That is one of the most common questions of cat owners, whether they bring a new feline into their home or just want to change out their cats’ existing litter boxes. There are only a few physical differences in covered and uncovered litter boxes; however, they make a big difference.

What Do Cats Prefer?

A 2013 study of domestic cat litter box preferences showed that house cats generally like both types of litter boxes—enclosed and open. The study revealed that preferences were likely based on the litter box type they were used to.

That being said, existing cat owners should stick to what their cats are accustomed to, as switching litter box types can cause stress, which can lead to avoidance of the litter box altogether and soiling the homeowner's furniture, floors or other surfaces.

For owners bringing a new cat into the home, it’s best to check with the cat’s previous shelter or breeder to find out what litter box the feline preferred. If an owner can’t track down a cat’s previous preference, it’s best to choose a litter box type based on their personal preferences and needs.

Covered Litter Boxes

Many owners choose enclosed litter boxes to give their cat more privacy. They may believe that providing some privacy helps their cat choose the litter box, over, say, the floor. However, this isn't necessarily true. According to the study cited above, cats don’t appear to need privacy to do their business. Still, some cat owners may not like to see their cats using the bathroom. Enclosed litter boxes may also help contain odor and keep litter from spilling.

Inexpensive, basic, plastic-covered litter boxes can be found at any pet store, such as this hooded litter box. But some owners may opt for more sophisticated, self-cleaning boxes—such as this model from Litter-Robot.

Uncovered Litter Boxes

Self cleaning litter box
Although they don’t contain odor as well as enclosed types, open litter boxes and pans are generally the most inexpensive option. They may also be the best option for cats who are physically challenged, as these boxes are usually low to the ground and easier to step into. Owners can even start young kittens out in shallow plastic bins as a litter box until they are big enough for larger litter boxes.

Uncovered litter boxes are found where covered ones are purchased. From this basic model, to other self-cleaning, open litter boxes, like this one from Tidy Cats, the modern cat owner has more options than ever.

Once cat owners have decided between a covered or uncovered litter box, they should make sure to keep at least two boxes in the house plus one extra for every additional cat. Litter boxes should be cleaned regularly, usually daily, unless they are self-cleaning. Once a cat has a litter box preference, owners should respect that preference to keep their feline companion happy and comfortable at home.

The Top Litter Boxes for Cats

Leo's Loo Automatic Cleaning Litter Box

leo loo cat litter box

An automatic cat litter box is a type of enclosed litter box that does the cleaning for you. The Leo's Loo litter box is one of these that can automatically detect when your cat has used it and then cycle out the waste and replace the box's litter with a fresh batch. This is a great way to eliminate litter box odors, too, and owners only have to empty the waste drawer underneath once every few days.

Catit Jumbo Hooded Cat Pan

box litter

One of the best litter boxes for larger cats, Catit's Jumbo Hooded Cat Pat comes with a roomy interior and a plastic door flap. Another great feature of this covered litter box is the carbon filter, which helps trap odors. There is also an excess litter catcher right under the door that can help catch litter when your cat exits the box, eliminating the need for even more cleaning.

Nature's Miracle Advanced High Sided Cat Litter Box

deep box

For cats that prefer an uncovered litter box, this Advanced High Sided Litter Box is a great inexpensive option. This box is designed with high walls that help keep litter inside the pan while cats dig and move around, plus it is made from an antimicrobial material that keeps litter fresher for longer. This litter pan also helps stop litter from clumping to the sides and bottom of the box.

Petmate Booda Dome Cleanstep Box

step cat

If you have a cat that tends to get messy inside the litter box, consider checking out the Booda Dome Cleanstep litter box by Petmate. This is one of the most unique enclosed cat litter boxes since it is shaped like half of a sphere and includes a set of steps that cats use to enter and exit the litter area. It's 50% larger than most other covered litter boxes, too, and it is designed to keep litter completely inside. A bonus of this box is that it comes in colors that blend in easily with home furniture too.

Omega Paw Roll n' Clean Self-Cleaning Litter Box

cave box

If you're interested in a self-cleaning litter box but aren't ready to spend on an automatic litter box just yet, try out this box that you can move and let clean itself. This litter box has a rotating inner box that you simply turn after your cat has used it, and all waste is then deposited into a tray below. This box is also roomy inside for larger cats and is virtually odorless if the tray is emptied daily.

Purina Tidy Cats Breeze System Litter Box

cat litter box

Another uncovered litter box option, this box by Purina is designed to take control of odors that usually come with open litter boxes. It includes a grated bottom that allows moisture to trickle down onto disposable pads plus specially designed litter that absorbs all other odors. It also has relatively high walls that stop litter from getting on your floor.

About the Author

Cute tabby cat going out of a self-cleaning Litter box.


Kari is a long-time pet lover and owner. She has experience raising cats, dogs, rabbits, and aquatic life. Whenever she's not writing, she's probably baking homemade dog treats or camping with her family and their own four-legged friends![...] Author Details

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