Pros and cons of covered cat litter boxes

Covered, or sometimes called “hooded” cat litter boxes are very popular, and staff at almost every pet store we have visited could talk for hours about their advantages, without mentioning any disadvantage.

Covered cat litter boxBut are they telling the whole story? Are covered boxes really life savers? Do they work? Do they stop litter box odor from dispersing or litter from dropping out of the box?

As with most things, there are not only good but bad sides of covered cat litter boxes. In this article, you are going to learn about the advantages and disadvantages of hooded cat litter boxes when compared to regular ones.

Covered cat litter boxes are for humans; non-covered ones are for cats

Unfortunately for cats, all the advantages of hooded boxes are there to serve cat owners’ needs, which is why they are so popular. After all, cat owners, not cats, are the ones making buying decisions. But what about cats? There are several cons of covered litter boxes that do bother some of them a lot. Let’s take a look at them one by one.

  • Scent is both the biggest advantage and the biggest disadvantage of hooded cat litter boxes simultaneously. Why? Because the hood traps odors and keeps them from spreading from the litter box. Thumbs up from humans, because the room smells less and the sight is more appealing. Thumbs down from cats, because the litter box still stinks, only the smell is trapped and concentrated inside their toilet. Have you been in a portable human toilet lately? It can be so bad that the cat decides to avoid his litter box and urinates on your carpet instead. Luckily, at least a twice-daily scooping of the litter may help to alleviate the problem. If you find that too troublesome, here’s how to make litter box cleaning easier.
  • No sight. Cat owners often believe that providing a covered litter box would also provide their cats with some privacy. But the thing is, cats don’t crave it. Cats, in nature, love to eliminate in open spaces, because it is much safer. Think of it as an instinctive trait. If a wild animal goes to the toilet, besides when he sleeps, it’s the only time he cannot defend himself properly. Because of that, cats prefer being able to monitor a large distance when on their litter boxes. The box’s hood prevents that, just as tucking a regular box behind a corner does.
  • Litter getting out of the box. One of the best advantages that covered litter boxes have is that the floor around them is clean. If your cat is digging excessively, a covered box or one with high edges might be an answer to your misery. You will find more tips to reduce cat litter tracking here.
  • Long drying time. The hood will prevent air circulation and make the litter wet longer than without a cover. This, of course, is not a disturbance for us, cat owners. Unfortunately, the cat is the one who has to step inside a dirty, damp litter box, which, depending on his tolerance level, can vary from just displeasure to complete avoidance of the litter box.
  • Ease of usage. Covered boxes are harder to use for both owners and cats. Instead of just scooping a regular box, you have to take off the lid, scoop, and securely fasten the lid back on. From your cat’s point of view, a covered box is harder to use, too. Most hooded boxes on the market are basically too small for cats. It may cause no problem for smaller individuals, but larger cats will find it hard to maintain their posture during elimination. Especially if an older cat develops back pain, his ability to eliminate in a covered box may become challenged.
  • Kids and dogs. Kids love playing in sand, and dogs are especially attracted to cat litter boxes because of scent and taste. Yuck! A cover is a great tool to avoid, or at least, limit this problem. The cover works great for kids and medium to large dogs, but is not very helpful for small ones. You will find more advice to keep kids and dogs out of litter boxes here.

Should you buy a covered cat litter box?

So, what now? Is a covered litter box bad for cats; is forcing them to use one something only a selfish person would do? We don’t see it that way. There are several recognized cat behaviorists who advocate strongly against covered boxes, though they are not as bad as described.

Yes, if there’s  a cat peeing out of the litter box, we highly suggest that the cover be removed. In many cases, this action alone can stop the problem. However, whether your cat feels comfortable using hooded litter box depends on two things. You, and your cat.

If you place the litter box appropriately, adequately train your cat to use it, and most importantly, clean the box frequently enough, problems may be easily escaped, and the advantages of the covered box enjoyed.

In the meantime, it also depends on your cat’s preferences. For example, some cats are okay with eliminating in an enclosed space, while some are very demanding that they see what’s around them.

Older cats, timid cats, and stressed ones are usually those having problems with hooded boxes. A covered box is also more of a problem if you have more than one cat, as the box entrance can easily become an object of territorial disagreements.

And remember, the fact that you don’t see a problem doesn’t mean that there isn’t one. Many cats do use covered boxes, even though they find great discomfort associated with it. On one hand, so what? But on the other, your cat has to use it every day.

If you see that your cat is meowing or hesitating before entering the litter, digging the litter too long, peeing with part of his body outside of the box and the like, you can assume that your cat does not like something about his box.

If you are about to get a new box, why not choose one with high edges, rather than a covered one? You would reap most of the benefits of covered boxes, without forcing any of its disadvantages on your cat. If you already have a covered box, you can easily remove the hood (or even just the flap door) for a week or two and see how it changes your cat’s behavior.