Do Cats Prefer Open or Closed Litter Boxes?

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The idea of litter boxes is a lifesaver itself. For cat owners, this works like a blessing at times. If you can train your feline to take their dump on a litter, half of your cat problems will be solved. Cats are already self-cleaning animals, so you don’t have to worry about that.

But the question is which litter box you should go for? There are so many options out there. Here, we will be discussing do cats prefer open or closed litter boxes. Making that choice isn’t very easy for cat owners. Because your cat might like something and your preferences might be something else.

Before we get right into the preference of cats, let’s check out the two different litter boxes. That will help you make a choice on which one do you prefer.


Types of Cat litter boxes

There are various ways to classify litter boxes. Here we will just stick to the two types. They are open litter boxes and enclosed litter boxes.

Open litter boxes

There is a common belief that cats actually prefer open litter boxes. But we will get to that later on. Let’s go through why they might prefer open litter boxes. Well, first of all, open litter boxes are spacious. Even the smaller sizes feel spacious due to the openness. A cat can fit better in an open litter box than in a closed one. But when you choose an open litter box, you will need to go through some trouble as well.

With the open litter boxes, you will have to go through cleaning daily. Otherwise, there will be stenches and smell all around the litter box. And one specific thing about cats is that they like self-cleaning litter boxes which are of proper sizes.

Enclosed Litter boxes

From the owner’s perspective, this is the litter box you would want. A closed litter box is the best litter box option for use in small houses. You can put it anywhere without having to worry much. If you have a dog along with a cat, this one can be helpful as it won’t fit larger sizes of animals other than your cat. This one is able to hide away litter deep into the box. Doesn’t get smelly or stench very quickly. Doesn’t require constant cleaning either.

Apart from all these, they are aesthetically appealing. They come with a high wall in the back which keeps the urine confined in the box. But there are some drawbacks to closed litter boxes. First of all, your cat might feel stuck or cramped inside the box. You might completely forget to clean the box because you won’t be getting any smells coming from it. Your cat might feel trapped inside sometimes.

But these aren’t the problems of every cat. Your cat might be different and enjoy a closed litter box. Actually, it all comes down to the preference of your own cat. There were researches done on this topic. Let’s get through the research for a clearer vision of this.


Research on Cats’ Preferences for Open or Closed Litter Box

Some people at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine had done this research back in 2012. Their purpose was to know the general preference of cats for their litter boxes. They wanted to know if the cats preferred open litter boxes or closed ones.

In the research, 28 cats were considered as subjects. These cats didn’t have any problems regarding litter boxes, neither any abandonment issues. The researchers set up both open and closed litter boxes for each of the cats there. They used to check how frequently a certain litter box was used. The determination mostly came from the amount of waste dumped in a litter box.

Surprisingly they found out that the cats weren’t actually focused on the open or closed litter boxes. Almost 70% of the cats had no preference for litter boxes in terms of them being open or closed. Most of them were comfortable using both the litter boxes.

The rest of the 30% of cats were also divided equally. Half of them preferred the open litter boxes and half of them preferred the closed ones. So, you can’t determine just one type of litter box that all cats prefer.

Some facts regarding this research are that all the cats participating in the study were of different ages. Some were male, and some were female. Some of them were already using the covered ones, and some of them were using the uncovered ones. All these litter boxes were cleaned daily and with the same cleaning routine.

So, from this whole research, they came to a clarification that cats don’t have a preference for closed or open litter boxes. But what they do prefer is a clean litter box. Now if your cat doesn’t like the litter box you have, then there might be something else. Let’s go through the other reasons for your cat not using the litter box you have.


Why Your Cat Doesn’t Like the Open or Close Litter Box?

You have already gone through the cats’ preferences of closed and open litters. There they really don’t have a preference. Then what might be the cause that they are rejecting the litter box? Well, there are quite several problems you might be facing.

First comes a dirty litter box. Cats always prefer clean litter boxes. They are always looking for cleanliness. So, if the litter box is dirty or has got bad smells, they will ultimately reject it. If you are having this issue, then you must maintain a cleaning routine of the litter box. Make sure to keep the litter box clean so that your cat can use it according to their preference.

Then comes the size factor. At times your cat might grow so big that you wouldn’t even notice. As a result, it won’t fit in the old litter box anymore. To fix this issue, you can simply change the litter box and bring a bigger one for your feline friend.

If these two are checked, then you will need to go deeper. You will need to look at the litter material type you have. For example, you might have scented litter that your cat doesn’t like. Not all cats will want the same thing; that’s just how it is. Other than scented, it might be the clumping or non-clumping issue, or maybe the material you are using might be affecting the cat. The solution here is fairly easy to try changing the litter type and see which one your cat feels comfortable with.

Next comes the location of the litter box. That entirely depends on your cat. You just have to try putting it in different places and see where your cat follows. Don’t keep it in one place if your cat is avoiding the litter. Change its location to find a suitable place for the litter.

The last and final cause of litter problems might be within the cat. Your cat might have some kind of disease, and it might be relating that pain with the litter boxes. This is why it is avoiding litter boxes. If you have checked all of the problems mentioned above and the solution and still find your cat rejecting the boxes, then this can be the reason. Take your cat to a professional vet to find out what the problem is. They will suggest better solutions based on your cat’s problem.

One thing you will always need to keep in mind is that your cat has an individual nature. You can’t generalize their problems and solutions or preferences. Every other cat is different, and they have different choices, as well. The generalized favorite of cats is that they all want a clean litter box and they love cleanliness over anything else.



From all the information we gathered the conclusion is cats don’t care if the litter box is open or enclosed. They just have a preference for clean litter boxes. So, the whole point of the question that, “Do cats prefer open or closed litter boxes?” is pointless because there is no generalized preference of an open or closed box.

We suggest being close to your cat and knowing their preference. You will need to know what they are feeling, what comforts them and what discomforts them. Then you can understand what is bothering them and act accordingly.

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