do cats prefer open or closed litter boxes

Most cats prefer an open litter box. Most cat owners prefer a covered litter box. Covered litter boxes may trap odors and make the human environment smell better but for those reasons they may not be as desirable for the cat. If boxes are not cleaned regularly, the odor may be aversive to them.

Dr. Ernie Ward looks into the advantages of covered vs. open litter boxes. For more from Dr. Ward, find him on Facebook or at www. drernieward. com.

Does your cat prefer a covered or uncovered litter box? That is the question veterinary researchers from Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine examined in a study published in the April 2013 issue of the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. The answers they found may surprise you. Inappropriate feline elimination – cats urinating on furniture, rugs, and elsewhere in the house – continues to be a major complaint of cat owners. Urinating outside the litter box is the number one behavioral problem seen by veterinarians and the leading cause of cats being relinquished to shelters. This is a serious and sometimes deadly issue for cats. Even if the issue begins with an infection, the pain associated with urinating may be enough to trigger an aversion to the litter box in the future. The cat connects pain with the litter box and avoids it, resulting in urinating on your sofa. The most common litter box solutions for cat owners experiencing this problem include 1) cleaning the litter box(es) daily, 2) changing the type of litter (unscented, clumping, fine-grained, etc.), 3) adding litter boxes (the rule of “number of cats plus one” for number of litter boxes), 4) bigger litter box(es), 5) changing location of box(es), and 6) type of litter box (uncovered or covered). Of course, these are only typical suggestions; your veterinarian will provide specific recommendations based on your cat’s problem. The Ross researchers wanted to find out if cats exhibited a preference for open or uncovered boxes versus litter boxes that were covered or “hooded.” They evaluated 28 cats with no history of elimination problems within the previous year. Each cat was given access to two litter boxes during the two-week study period. In multi-cat households, the study cats were kept separated from other cats. Owners used the same type of litter and cleaned the boxes daily using the same cleaning regimen. The cats ranged in age from 3 months to 15 years with an average age of 3.1 years. 56% were female and 44% male cats. 78% of the study’s cats were currently using an uncovered litter box and 59% had used a covered box at some point during their life. No cats went outside the litter boxes during the study period. Now it’s time to scoop some poop and get the results. In this study, no overall preference was seen for covered versus uncovered litter boxes. When individual cats were assessed, 70% showed absolutely no preference (i.e. used both boxes equally), 15% used the covered litter box more significantly, while 15% used the uncovered more than the covered. Pretty even results. It seems cats tend to think inside the box – as long as it’s clean. The veterinary researchers concluded that using a large box, cleaning it daily, and using a fine-grain clumping litter were likely the most important litter box factors in preventing many elimination problems. I agree. In my clinical experience, most owners don’t clean the litter box often enough, use smallish boxes, and may place them in locations the cat doesn’t find appealing. I’ve also found that some cats object to scented litter or a litter texture that may feel uncomfortable or displeasing to the individual. This study determined that cats don’t seem to care if their box is covered or not. What they do care about is a clean spot to potty. Have you cleaned your litter boxes today?

Your veterinarian is your best resource for ensuring the health and wellbeing of your pets, so you should always visit or call them with any questions or concerns.

4. Helps With Odor Control

Odors are kept contained in enclosed litter boxes, preventing them from spreading throughout your house. It is undeniable that cleaning helps keep the odors at bay, but you still need to maintain it.

The 3 Cons of Enclosed Litter Boxes

In actuality, a lot of cats prefer open litter boxes to ones that are enclosed. This is due to a number of factors, some of which are controllable and others of which are inherent to the enclosed design.

FAQ

Do some cats not like closed litter boxes?

In this study, no overall preference was seen for covered versus uncovered litter boxes. When individual cats were assessed, 70% showed absolutely no preference (i.e. used both boxes equally), 15% used the covered litter box more significantly, while 15% used the uncovered more than the covered. Pretty even results.

Do vets recommend enclosed litter boxes?

Unfortunately, while these attributes make covered boxes a preferred choice for cat owners, they are not preferred by our feline friends. While urinating or defecating, cats are in a vulnerable position. Their natural behavior is to visualize every direction while eliminating, to ensure no “predators” are approaching.

Should cat litter be open or closed?

Both types of litter boxes have their pros and cons when it comes to hygiene. Covered boxes contain odours and dust, but they can also harbour bacteria if not cleaned regularly. Open boxes are easy to clean and access, but they may not be as effective at masking unpleasant smells.

What kind of litter box do cats prefer?

Most young cats will use anything that is large enough to accommodate them and deep enough to allow them to dig. Kittens and older cats prefer a shallow pan because it is easier for them to get in and out. So a wide, shallow pan is best for all ages.