Do Cats Prefer Open or Closed Litter Boxes?

do cats prefer open or close litter box

When you are preparing to take new cats into your home, there’s a good chance that you will quickly realize that there are countless different cat-themed products that you can purchase to make your new pet’s life the best possible. There are a variety of food bowls, water dishes and dispensers, and both toys that are automated and toys that are “powered” by your cat playing with them. There are also more than a few different litter boxes and litter box styles out there. Because litter boxes are one of the biggest aspects of your cat’s life, it will be important for you to put a fair amount of both time and research into choosing one that works for your cat.

You might believe at first that the litter boxes and their various designs are more for your convenience than anything else and there are a few cases where this is absolutely true. For instance, your cat doesn’t get any benefit from using a self-cleaning litter box as only the person who has to clean the litter box really gets the benefit from that.

However, there are other litter boxes where the difference in design can actually mean quite a lot to your cat. Another good example of this would be the difference between most standard litter boxes and top-down litter boxes (where your cat enters from the top).

It can go without saying that one of the biggest debates in litter box picking is always going to be whether or not you should get an open or a closed litter box. Open litter boxes can be summarized as just the bottom portion of most litter boxes as in there is just a tray for your cat’s litter and no cover for it. Closed litter boxes are the standard litter boxes that you see with coverings spanning from a couple inches up to keep kicked litter inside the box to complete coverings going over the top.

There is a lot of debate between the balance of what owners like and what cats prefer. When you are planning to purchase a litter box, this is something that you are also going to have to pay attention to.

Which Would a Cat Prefer? Why?

Going strictly by what a cat would choose, barring any of the problems that come with either of the litter boxes for the end of the cat owner, most cats will almost always choose the open litter box. Open litter boxes are closer to what a wild cat would use as there are no coverings on the box and nothing to obfuscate the scent. One of the reasons why cats tend to prefer these litter boxes is the exact reason why many owners hate them. Open litter boxes, by nature, are very bad at keeping the smell confined to one place. After all, there are no covers to keep the smell of the litter from drifting across the room and into the rest of the house. Most cats appreciate this as it allows a cat to mark its territory more effectively.

On the contrary, closed litter boxes will usually trap the smell of the cat’s eliminations in the box, which is why they are some of the most common litter box designs out there. Cats do not appreciate this as when a cat goes to eliminate, it is going to get a big whiff of how the litter box smells. That is exceedingly unpleasant to a cat’s sensitive nose. To some cats, especially those who are feral or have spent a long time without human ownership, a closed litter box can even be intimidating as it looks as if it could “trap” the cat in a small, enclosed space. While people tend to prefer the closed litter boxes, many cats would naturally prefer the open litter box.

The Problems with Litter Boxes

Unfortunately, both sides of the litter box debate have their own issues. There are problems with open litter boxes and there are problems with closed litter boxes. Trying to find the perfect litter box is going to involve some detailed balancing of the benefits and drawbacks of both.

For instance, the biggest problem that people have with open litter boxes is the smell. Nobody except the cat wants the smell of the litter to waft through the house. There are ways that you can try to lessen the smell for yourself, such as purchasing odor-eliminating products, but if you have the choice to purchase a litter box that won’t have this issue, you would be more likely to take that opportunity instead. While the odor that comes from an open litter box is one that can be combated relatively easily, there are other problems with it that you may not expect.

Another common problem with open litter boxes is that cats are going to be much more likely to kick the litter out of them. When there are no high sides to physically stop the kicked litter from exiting the box, the litter is going to get onto the floor. Depending on the room the litter box is located in, this litter can travel quite far, meaning that it can get into some rather unpleasant locations in the house. The way that you would go about fixing this is purchasing some higher sides to go on top of the open litter box. This allows the top of the litter box to be open, as cats like, but for the sides to be higher to prevent the cat from kicking out as much litter.

With closed litter boxes, one of the many problems that you will encounter is the fact that cats will repeatedly scratch on the surface of the box when they bury their litter. It is not natural for most cats to have complete coverings to their litter so it would make sense that they scratch on it when they are burying. They also have a tendency to scratch on the surface of litter boxes to try and hide the smell, which will be amplified inside of the closed litter box. This can be quite annoying for most cat owners to hear and there really isn’t much that you can do to dissuade your cat from doing this, aside from purchasing a brand-new litter box.

These are just some of the aspects that you will need to consider when you are purchasing a litter box for your cat as you will want to make sure that it has a box that it prefers to use, but you are also going to want to be comfortable within your own home.

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