After hours of research and testing over 25 litter boxes with my cats, a few litter boxes have outshone the rest. The iPrimio stainless steel litter box is the go-to litter box in my household, while the Litter-Robot 4 impressed me with its consistent performance and industry-leading build quality. My cat, Forest, particularly appreciated the freshness of a box that cycled after every use.
But no one litter box is right for every cat. That’s why we’ve selected a total of 12 top recommendations spanning the cat litter box market. From easing cleaning and scatter control to boxes designed for cats at specific stages of life, our top picks met our quality criteria and performed well in our in-home tests.
In addition to reading about our favorite litter boxes in this article, you’ll learn about the different types of litter boxes and discover the one that best fits your cat’s needs.
At a Glance: 12 Best Cat Litter Boxes
- Premium non-stick coating
- Stainless steel resists odor and residue
- Generously sized with 6-inch sides
Top Picks Explained
Why Should You Trust Us?
Drawing from years of market research, thousands of customer reviews, and our own in-home testing, we’ve determined what it takes to make a great litter box. We spent several weeks testing these litter boxes for sturdiness, cat-friendliness, and effectiveness in preventing sticking, litter scatter, and odor.
In addition to research and testing, we consulted with several veterinarians to get their take on which litter boxes are the most effective and comfortable for cats.
Our Veterinary Advisors
- Dr. Danielle (Elly) Page BVSc, BCom
- Dr. Chyrle Bonk, DVM
- Dr. Caren Carney, DVM
- Dr. Alex Crow, VetMed MRCVS
The Best Cat Litter Boxes: Our 12 Top Recommendations
What to Look For in a Cat Litter Box
The best cat litter boxes are comfortable for your cat to use and easy for you to clean. They also incorporate features that help keep mess and odor to a minimum.
Dr. Danielle (Elly) Page BVSc, BCom tells us that “the best type of litter box is the plain plastic variety with tall sides and the largest you can buy.”
The larger the litter box, the more room your cat has to do their business comfortably. Imagine how it feels to use a litter box with barely enough room to move around in, forcing you to step in your own waste. For a creature as hygiene-conscious as a cat, this is a foul situation.
General cat care wisdom says that cats should use litter boxes that are at least as wide as they are long, from the nose tip to the base of their tail. For example, if your cat is 15” long from their nose tip to the base of their tail, they will need a litter box that’s at least 15” wide and 22.5” long.
A little tracking and scattering are inevitable, but low-sided litter boxes have more problems than most. Think about choosing a high-sided litter box made specifically with litter scattering in mind.
Remember that some cats, especially females, spray urine on the sides and over the edges of the litter box. If your litter box has low sides, it’s likely that the urine will go over the edge and onto the floor. High sides help to keep everything inside the box.
A running start shouldn’t be a part of your cat’s litter box entry approach. Kittens and senior cats are particularly prone to problems accessing a litter box with high sides, so choose boxes with a lowered entrance for easy access.
Consider accessibility for cleaning the litter box as well. Litter boxes with covers may require an additional step prior to scooping while open litter pans make it easy to reach right in.
Types Of Litter Boxes
The modern cat isn’t limited to a nondescript plastic pan – litter box selection is vast and varied. From sifting models to high-tech automatic cleaning machines, you have plenty of options. Let’s take a look at some of the different types of litter boxes available.
Although they don’t do all of the cleaning for you, sifting litter boxes eliminate the need to scoop out the box – they essentially scoop themselves. They are the less technologically-advanced cousin of the automatic litter box.
These litter boxes work best with clumping litter since they separate dirty clumps from clean granules. Look for a model that includes two solid pans so, after sifting, you can move the sifter to the spare solid pan and pour the clean litter into it.
Sifting litter boxes tend to be the best choice for people using pine pellet litter, which breaks down to sawdust after it comes into contact with moisture. The sifter separates the used dust from the fresh pellets, extending the life of the litter.
Over the course of about 70 years of commercial litter box evolution, the litter box has seen a few technological advances, but the standard plastic litter pan still reigns supreme. Uncovered litter boxes are usually cheap and easy to find in stores.
This is the classic litter box. It’s just a pan that holds your cat’s litter. It’s easy to clean, easy to access, and a popular choice among all types of cat guardians. Cats naturally want to keep an eye out for threats while they use the litter box, and uncovered boxes make area surveillance easy.
Covered litter boxes help to contain urine spray and curb litter scattering. Because the hood disguises the functional part of the litter box, they’re popular among people who want to minimize the appearance of a litter box in their home. The hood also captures odor, keeping it from spreading throughout your home.
While this litter box style helps minimize the proliferation of odor, it doesn’t necessarily eliminate it. It creates a situation sometimes compared to a public portable bathroom – an unclean stench chamber. For an animal with an acute sense of smell and a love of good hygiene, this could be intolerable.
All this being said, many cats happily use covered litter boxes throughout their lives. This study showed that cats demonstrated no preference for open or covered litter boxes.
And Dr. Alex Crow, a practicing vet at the Buttercross Veterinary Centre in Nottinghamshire, England, agrees that the difference between covered and uncovered litter boxes is not as big as you might initially think. He says that “most cats simply want a clean place to use the bathroom, and the hood is only really convenient if you don’t want other animals or children to get into it.”
Automatic or Self-Cleaning
Veterinarian Dr. Chyrle Bonk, DVM comments that while some cats “prefer the privacy of a covered litter box, others will get scared by one.” Similarly, the noise and activity produced by an automatic litter box may be frightening to some, though Dr. Bonk suggests it may be the best choice for fastidious cats.
Automatic litter boxes are pricey but they’re a good investment for someone with a busy schedule or a procrastination streak. Equipped with sensors and a sifting or raking mechanism, these litter boxes detect your cat’s presence and automatically separate clean from dirty litter after they use the litter box.
Visually, top entry boxes are one of the most stylish designs available. Instead of walking into the litter box from an entrance at the front or sides of the box, your cat drops down into the litter through an entrance hole on the top.
This type of litter box does a great job containing urine spray and litter scatter but can be harder for cats to access. It may not be the right choice for cats with mobility issues. It’s also speculated that this type of litter box may place undue stress on cats’ joints.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the best cat litter box for odor control?
If your cat’s litter box has an odor problem, look at yourself first. Ensure that you’ve been cleaning out the box at least once a day. If a diligent cleaning routine leaves the litter box still smelling foul, choosing a new litter box could help.
Some litter boxes have non-stick and antimicrobial coatings that help to minimize the amount of waste that sticks to their inside surfaces. These coatings also help to minimize the growth of odor-causing bacteria. Others feature carbon filters that capture odors before they can enter the room.
Do cats prefer open or closed litter boxes?
Every cat has their own unique preferences in terms of litter boxes, but there are some benefits to choosing an enclosed versus an open litter box.
Enclosed litter boxes provide a higher degree of privacy, with the added benefit of containing odor and litter scatter better than an open box. The downside is some cats may find an enclosed box too cramped. Large breeds in particular may be more comfortable in an open litter box.
Though there are pros and cons for each option, limited research suggests most cats don’t really have a preference when it comes to open or closed litter boxes. Researchers at the Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine completed a study in 2012 that revealed that 70% of cats showed no preference for one kind of litter box over the other.
What’s the best litter box for multiple cats?
In a multiple cat home, the litter box has to handle increased box activity while also facilitating healthy relationships.
The standard recommendation is that you install as many litter boxes as you have cats, plus one. One cat needs two litter boxes and twelve cats need thirteen. In addition to accommodating your multiple cats with numerous litter boxes, choose sizable boxes that can handle heavy use. A big cat family creates plenty of waste, and it takes large litter boxes to handle that.
Remember that multiple cat households have a uniquely feline social hierarchy. As a central part of daily life, the litter box can get involved in territorial spats and social dominance games. A dominant cat may block a submissive family member inside of the litter box, forcing them to stand in their own waste. This is a frightening and humiliating experience and can send the conflict on a downward spiral.
For this reason, avoid placing your litter box in a corner and don’t use covered boxes in a multiple cat home.
What’s the best cat litter box to keep dogs out?
Some dogs love eating smelly little cat treats from the litter box.
This is at once disgusting to watch, unsanitary, and potentially dangerous. Choosing the right box can prevent your dog from invading the litter box. Several designs can help to keep your dog out of the litter box. One is a top entry box, which keeps small dogs from accessing the waste area. Other boxes have both an inner and outer entry, preventing larger dogs from probing into the box.
If you don’t want to give your cat a covered litter box, there are other options for keeping your dog out. If your cat is agile and comfortable jumping, take advantage of their vertical mobility and put the litter box on a counter or large shelf that your dog can’t access.
What’s the best cat litter box for small apartments?
Having a small home doesn’t mean you need to cut back on litter box space. Instead of saving space by choosing a small box, choose one that can multitask.
Litter box furniture enclosures double as storage areas and shelving, allowing you to maximize your space. Because these pieces make functional decorative accents, they have more placement options than the average litter box.
While it’s usually a good idea to place your litter box in the bathroom, laundry room, or other discreet area, multifunctional boxes can go almost anywhere. Regardless of how limited your space is, try to place the litter box in a low-traffic area where your cat will have a stress-free elimination experience.