The 10 Best Litter Boxes
This wiki has been updated 32 times since it was first published in February of 2015. The first time your cat saw you cleaning up his waste, he became convinced that he was royalty and you were his lowly subject, so you may as well find him a litter box that's fit for a king. The options on this list are great for controlling messes and odors, and some even manage to be inconspicuous. And if you get a satisfactory model, he might just let you pet him — for about three seconds. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
December 13, 2019:
The truth is, there is no one best litter box because cats are known for being finicky, but fortunately there are a plethora of good quality options to deal with whatever their personal issues are.
We like the Petphabet Jumbo because it's one of the largest options, and many homes have multiple cats, so even if they're small, this just allows their owners to go longer between scooping. The lid locks but is still easy for the humans to pop off.
Many of the more private options have the added bonus of high sides to stop leaks from male cats who spray the sides of their box the Modkat Flip also fits this category, as well as the Petmate Top Entry and the Iris Top Entry, but these two choices may be too difficult for older cats who don't like jumping anymore.
When Outdoors Isn't An Option
If you own a cat in this neighborhood, or any city for that matter, you're going to need a litter box.
Growing up, my family cat Esposito–named for the great hockey player Phil Esposito–was an outdoor cat. I never encountered the unfortunate aroma of the litter box until after Espo passed, a raccoon bite having carried him off. The shock of Espo's sudden departure at the hands of a rabid animal caused my mother to rethink her outdoor cat policy, and we confined our next feline friend to the indoors for its own safety. Thus, I got my first taste (or smell, more appropriately) of a litter box.
Where I live now, you couldn't dream of keeping a cat outdoors. There are coyotes everywhere of an evening. I even keep an old hockey stick in my car to chase them back up the hill when I see them lurking around people's lawns. If you own a cat in this neighborhood, or any city for that matter, you're going to need a litter box.
The good news is that the litter box has come a long way since Espo's day, as have the formulas for the litter itself, and both the smells and labors that plagued cat owners in days gone by are slowly becoming things of the past.
All but one of the litter boxes on our list has some sort of feature designed to make your life with the litter box that much easier. Many of the boxes feature full enclosures that cut down on the proliferation of that litter box smell while also providing a greater degree of privacy for your kitty.
A few of these litter boxes also perform a self-cleaning function, in which a motorized grate or scooper runs the length and width of the litter box, removing any and all clumps into a waste receptacle that you can easily remove, empty, and rinse.
A Question Of Privacy
In my experience, the more privacy you can afford your cat for its litter time, the better. For this reason, I always leaned toward the litter boxes that offered some kind of enclosure for your cat, either by way of high walls or by creating a tiny little room for them to enter. This is especially important if your place is small enough to necessitate that you keep your litter box in a more public area.
The last thing you want is for your cat to fear its own litter box.
If you're worried about the smell and the appearance of it, the enclosed boxes do a better job than the open ones at keeping any and all odors confined to the area immediately around the box, and they also make it so you and your guests don't have to look at anything your kitty might not have bothered to cover up.
The downside to enclosed litter boxes is usually their size, as they are significantly higher that their simple, pan-style brothers, and they need to be wide enough for your cat not to get too claustrophobic. Some are designed more elegantly than others, so if aesthetics are a concern, start by looking for a box that will fit in with your space and evaluate the features from there.
Then, there are the self-cleaning litter boxes, which are a dream come true in many ways, and a nightmare in their own right if you get one that's overly complicated or that's a little too noisy and rambunctious for the kitty in question. Remember: cats are skittish creatures. If you bring any device into your home that has a degree of automation to it, it might be a while before the cat can adjust to its presence.
The last thing you want is for your cat to fear its own litter box. When an automated litter box scoops itself, or rakes its grid across the litter, the sound of the motor and the movement of its arms could turn your cat off to the box for good, necessitating a return and a lot of hassle. If you know your cat to be a little more sensitive than most, these might not be the litter boxes for you.
From Sand And Snow To Salvation
If you owned an indoor cat before 1947, you had to be pretty creative about its litter. At this point in feline history, absorbent clay granules and cats had nothing to do with one another, and cat owners resorted to filling their baking pans with anything from sand, to wood ash, to shredded newspaper. They had to clean their pans a heck of a lot more often than we have to scoop litter, and even more thoroughly if they wanted to use them to bake a casserole (I sincerely hope nobody did that).
If you owned an indoor cat before 1947, you had to be pretty creative about its litter.
In 1947, when a woman couldn't reach her outdoor reserve of sand due to a blizzard, she asked her neighbor if he could supply her with some from his business, which sold both sand and clay products. He, too, was cut off from his sand pile due to the storm, but he offered her some clay granules to tide her over, and they were a hit with the cat.
Even after the storm abated, she came back for more clay, along with a gaggle of her friends, and the gentleman knew he had an opportunity on his hands. He packaged up a few bags of the granules and brought them to his local pet store, where they sold out almost immediately. From then till now, inventors and designers have worked tirelessly to maximize the effectiveness of this litter, as well as the boxes in which it works.