When it Comes to Your Cat’s Litter Box, Simple is Better


After receiving and turning down the umpteenth pitch to feature or review yet another “innovative” litter box, I feel compelled to share my views on litter boxes, which is pretty much summed up in the headline of this article: simple is (usually) better!

Most of the new litter boxes are designed to either make cleaning the litter box easier, or to hide the litter box. Neither of these two reasons have anything to do with what cats want or need, and everything to do with human sensibilities.

Cleaning the litter box is part of the responsibility of living with cats

I’m all for making life easier when it comes to cleaning in general, but I simply don’t understand why so many cat guardians feel that keeping the litter box clean is such a chore. It’s just part of sharing your life with cats!

My routine is simple. I keep doggy waste bags under the kitchen sink. Since I work from home, I pretty much scoop as soon as Allegra deposits something in the box (having the litter box right outside my office sometimes makes immediate scooping a necessity!,) I then deposit the filled bag in the trash can in the garage. We have a litter box on each of our two floors, so sometimes, scooping involves going up and down stairs – but I consider that a bonus (extra exercise for me!)

Once every three to four weeks, I dump out all the litter, and thoroughly clean the litter box with hot soapy water, using a non-scented dish detergent. This is probably my least favorite task, but it’s not that big a deal and takes all of ten minutes, if that. Every six months or so, I replace the litter boxes. No matter how well you clean, the plastic will start to break down and eventually absorb bacteria.

Boxes designed to make cleaning easier

Automatic litter boxes, sifting litter boxes, so-called self-cleaning litter boxes – they’re all designed to let humans avoid scooping the litter box. They’re expensive, and they simply don’t make sense to me. If the mechanisms in these boxes malfunction while your cat is using the box, or even if the box goes into its cleaning action while your cat is anywhere near it, she may never use the box again.

A monthly box of fun toys, healthy treats, and other goodies for your cat!

Litter liners and litter mats

Liners and mats are usually designed with the human in mind. Avoid using liners or grids – most cats don’t like them. Be careful when choosing a litter mat. These mats are designed to trap litter so it doesn’t track, but the rough surfaces of some of these mats are hard on soft kitty paws and can lead to litter box avoidance for some cats.

Covered or hidden vs. uncovered boxes

Most cats prefer open litter boxes. While some cats seem to like the privacy hooded or covered litter boxes provide, these boxes are often too small for the cat to comfortably turn around in and do their business. What’s worse is that they can trap odors inside, making them very unpleasant for the cat to use (the equivalent of a human port-a-potty!) Dust can also be a bigger problem in a covered box, as it becomes more concentrated when cats dig.

There’s another reason why I really dislike covered boxes: they prevent guardians from seeing how the cat acts while in the box. Knowing what’s normal for your cat and being able to detect any changes in litter box behaviors can help detect health problems early. A cat who is straining in the litter box may be on the verge of being blocked, which is a life-threatening emergency.

The bottom line: in most cases, covered boxes are for humans, not cats. If you absolutely must use a covered box, at the very least, remove the filters provided by some manufacturers. They’re designed to trap dust and odors inside the box, which may be nice for the humans, but not for the cat (see my port-a-potty analogy above.)

Be careful about making any changes to your litter box set up

If your cats are using the litter box they way they’re supposed to, don’t ask for trouble by changing anything just for the sake of your convenience. Cats are creatures of habit and changes, especially around crucial resources like litter boxes, may lead to behavioral issues.

Our favorite litter box

We think the NVR Miss litter box is the ultimate litter box, and we have used it for several years. This high-sided box prevents litter from being scattered all over the place, and it’s perfect for vertical pee-ers. It’s also nicer to look at than a homemade high-sided litter box.


Ruby sometimes liked to sleep next to the NVR Miss. She was the reason we got it in the first place, since she was a vertical pee-er, and the NVR Miss was the only box high enough to contain everything.

You can find some of our other favorite litter boxes in our Product Guide.


This post was first published November 2018 and has been updated.

14 Comments on When it Comes to Your Cat’s Litter Box, Simple is Better

  1. I have 2 cats. In addition to 2 NVRs, I have a Litter-Robot (self-emptying). We are sometimes away for a few days and I find the L-R to be very helpful. They have 3 boxes to choose from and when the NVRs are their idea of full, they can continue to use the L-R until we get home. We also have automatic feeders. I find this both to be helpful because it is not easy to get friends (they all work) to come to your house to feed the cats and clean litter boxes. They will stop in and check on them, but it is at their convenience. My husband will not allow me to hire someone because he doesn’t want strangers in our home.

  2. I bought a NVR box, and my senior girl walks into it and pees — can’t seem to figure out that she can turn around, move around. The shape seems to puzzle her, too unlike what she’s used to now. But it won’t go to waste (sorry couldn’t resist the pun), my cousin has 3 cats.

  3. I have 3 of the NV Litter Boxes and we all like them! Plan to get 2 more. They really help when one of the Furkids starts digging to China!! Most of the litter stays inside.

  4. I coudn’t agree more! We do the same thing here, right down to the doggy waste bags. The NVRmiss litter boxes are truly the BEST. Katie and Waffles have never, ever, had any problems using the box.

  5. I ordered the NVR litter box but it didn’t work for my cat. Sides were high but inside was too small for her to move around. I went to home depot and bought the smallest plastic cement mixer which was recommended by a cat rescue. This works perfectly! Lots of room for her to move and no more pee over the sides of the box. A bonus…. it cost 5.99.

    • What is a plastic cement mixer?

      I am fastidious about keeping the litter box clean, and I have found that with the Cedarific brand of litter, I rarely need to clean the whole thing or throw out the entire litter because the pee stays contained in just one spot. But then my cat is a fastidious peeer and just goes in and out with no scratching. I can usually tell it has been used by some footprints in the litter.

      • Plastic cement mixer trays are flat trays you can get at any hardware store, Silvia.

        • My cement mixer is not a flat tray at all. The sides are as high as a litter box. Just measured mine and it’s 10 inches high on all sides and 28 inches length. It works much better than any standard litter pan i have tried for cats who need room to move around and it’s much cheaper.

  6. I have a rather large male cat who is also a vertical pee’er, and unfortunately he would go right over the top of the NVR Miss litter box. I’d been converting giant plastic storage containers into litter boxes for several years (unattractive but effective), but recently I found the Jackson Galaxy/Petmate jumbo litter box, which is the first commercial litter box I’ve found that is uncovered and has high enough sides to prevent my cat from spraying urine over the top. If anyone out there is in a similar situation with a vertical pee-er, I recommend giving this box a try. As someone who’s always on the lookout for litter box recommendations, I thought I’d pass this one along.

  7. Does the NVR Miss litter box website give a Conscious Cat discount?

  8. I mostly use covered pans (one is in a cabinet made for litter pans). My cats seem to like the privacy. They also seem to like oversized pans, plenty of room to turn around and higher in the back(helps keep down the mess). I also use unscented litter, years ago I had a cat that would break out in a facial rash and determined it was from the scents in the litter and it seems the cats prefer it. I keep the bags my newspaper is delivered in if they don’t have holes. They are long and I can scoop and tie the top and the plus is they don’t cost me any extra money. I also have doggy bags on hand since I have a dog. It just becomes a part of being a pet owner and you just make make it a part of your daily routine, no worse then changing a messy baby diaper.

  9. I wish I had known about the NVR Miss box. Our new kitten Lulu is a vertical pee-er too. We ended up buying covered boxes and modifying them to have high sides but no top. Luckily all of the cats seem to be ok with them and Lulu can do her business standing up and doesn’t make messes on the walls anymore.

  10. I agree wholeheartedly!
    PS Cats love to be protected on 3 sides, so Ruby may feel this spot (litter box, back wall, and side wall) provide that feeling, with extra security provided by you so close nearby.

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