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How to buy the best cat litter box, according to veterinarians

We consulted with experts to help you find the best litter box for your feline friends.
Pet owner feeding his two hungry cats
If your cat is a picky eater, wet cat food may be the way to go because it is often more appealing, say experts.Getty Images

While not necessarily a glamorous purchase, litter boxes are something your cat needs, and it’s crucial to find the right one to encourage proper bathroom behavior. “Most commercial litter boxes are way too small,” said Dr. Christine Calder, DVM, DACVB, owner of Calder Veterinary Behavior Services, adding that the size, depth and accessibility of a litter box can affect whether your cat uses it as intended.

We consulted with veterinarians specializing in cat behavior to help you find a litter box that fits your cats' needs. Each offered guidelines on what to look for when shopping for a litter box, including smart and budget-friendly options and those for senior cats. Based on their advice, we compiled a list of highly rated options.

Our top picks

Best overall: Frisco High-Sided Cat Litter Box ($20)

Best budget: PetMate Basic Cat Litter Pan ($12.99)

Best covered: Frisco Multi-Function Covered Cat Litter Box ($61.99)

Best for seniors: Shirley K's Senior Cat Litter Box ($73.99)

Best for larger cats: Sterilite 105 Qt. Clear Plastic Latching Box ($15.98)

Best self-cleaning litter box: Whisker Litter-Robot 3 ($549)

How we picked the best cat litter boxes

While comparing litter boxes, our experts recommended keeping the following factors in mind:

Size: Many litter boxes are too small for the average housecat. An appropriately sized litter box should be at least 1.5 times the length of your cat, and they should be able to turn around inside without touching the box's walls. You should also consider your cat's weight.

Depth: Boxes should hold 2 to 3 inches of litter with room to spare, allowing your cat to dig a hole for their waste, and the walls should be high enough to prevent material from being kicked out.

Accessibility: Cats should be able to enter the litter box easily and not have to jump in — a consideration that is especially important for older pets.

The best cat litter boxes

Using the guidelines provided by our experts, we compiled the following list of highly rated litter boxes for indoor cats. Each of the boxes are 22 inches or longer, and they’re deep enough to hold 3 or more inches of litter. You’ll need to consider your cat’s size to select the option that will be most comfortable for them.

Frisco High-Sided Cat Litter Box

The Frisco High-Sided Cat Litter Box meets all of the criteria set by our experts, and it’s a favorite among pet owners, with a 4.8-star rating from more than 2,500 reviewers on Chewy. The box is 24 inches in length, making it an appropriate size for most cats, and the walls are 10 inches high, preventing litter from being kicked out when your cat is digging and containing waste, even if your cat doesn’t fully squat while eliminating. The front wall of the litter box has a lowered entry area that makes it easy for your cat to climb in, yet the wall is still high enough to accommodate several inches of litter.

Size: 24 x 18 x 10 inches | Material: Plastic

What we like
  • Affordable
  • High sides
  • Low entry point
Something to note
Nothing to note at this time

Whisker Litter-Robot 3

If you dislike maintenance or your cat is fussy about having a clean box, an automatic self-cleaning litter box model like the Litter-Robot 3 will remove waste almost immediately after your cat goes to the bathroom. I’ve used this automatic litter box for several years with multiple cats, and while it is quite expensive, it’s made my daily routine much easier. I love that I don’t have to scoop the box every day — instead, it simply sends a notification to my phone when the lower waste drawer needs to be emptied.

While the convenience is a major selling point of automatic litter boxes, our experts explain that not all cats may take to these products. “Automatic litter boxes may work for some cats, but bear in mind they may be scary for others,” said Lilly. The carbon filter in the waste drawer helps with odor control, which is a huge plus, too.

Size: 27 x 22 x 29.5 inches | Material: Plastic

What we like
  • Automatically sifts waste
  • App tracks waste levels
  • Waste drawer reduces odors
Something to note
  • Expensive
  • May scare some cats

PetMate Basic Cat Litter Pan

I use the PetMate Basic Litter Pan as a secondary litter box for my 1-year-old cat, and it’s a popular option thanks to its low price point. This box has a simple design with 6.5-inch walls, and it’s able to contain most of the litter, though some does occasionally spill over the sides when my cat is digging. I also like that the box is lightweight when empty and easy to wash out with soap. My cat is fairly small, measuring around 14 inches from nose to tail, so the litter box’s 22-inch length is suitable for her needs, but it may be too cramped for larger animals.

Size: 22 x 16.6 x 6.5 inches | Material: Plastic

Why we like it
  • Inexpensive
  • Lightweight
Something to note
  • No entry point
  • Smaller than other options

PetSafe ScoopFree Self-Cleaning Crystal Litter Box

Suppose you’ve safely identified that your cat is comfortable with a self-cleaning litter box. In that case, we recommend trying this one from Petsafe — which is more reasonably priced than other automatic options. According to the brand, you can go weeks without scooping, sifting, cleaning or refilling. This litter box uses crystal litter, which is supposed to reduce poop and urine odor and minimize tracking.

Size: 20.38 x 7.13 x 28 inches | Material: Plastic

What we like
  • Affordable automatic option
  • Reduces odor
  • Minimizes litter tracking
Something to note
  • May scare some cats

For a great starter kit, this litter box system from Purina comes with everything you need when bringing a new cat home: a litter box with a scoop, one pack of cat pads and a bag of litter. Introduce pellets slowly to your cat, but once they get used to them, the urine passes through them and the poop stays on top (for easy scooping).

Size: 21 x 16.5 x 10.5 inches | Material: Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene

What we like
  • Good for a starter system
Something to note
  • Non-clumping litter

Some cats prefer an enclosed litter box for privacy, and the Frisco Multi-Function Covered Cat Litter Box is a large option with high walls and a hinged lid. It’s nearly 30 inches in length, making it suitable for larger animals, and the entry point is 6 inches high, allowing you to fill it with 3 inches of litter or more. This litter box comes with a plastic litter scoop, as well as a removable scoop holder that you can hang off the side of the box, and the lid swings open, providing easy access to the interior for daily maintenance and cleaning.

Size: 29.73 x 17.5 x 17.64 inches | Material: Plastic

What we like
  • Spacious
  • Low entry point
  • Scoop and holder included
Something to note
  • Hinges can break

Shirley K's Senior Cat Litter Box

The Shirley K’s Senior Cat Litter Box has a large 30- by 30-inch form that will give your cat plenty of room to take care of their business. The front wall of the litter box has an entry point that’s just 3.5 inches high, making it more accessible for older cats or those with limited mobility, and the other walls are 9 inches to trap material that’s kicked around. Overall, the design is basic and easy to use, and while it is more expensive than other options, it’s also one of the largest and high-sided litter boxes we found.

Size: 30 x 30 x 9 inches | Material: Plastic

What we like
  • Extra-low entry point
  • Spacious design
Something to note
  • Litter can't be as deep
  • Fairly expensive

Sterilite 105 Qt. Clear Plastic Latching Box for Extra-Large Cats

It can be challenging to find a litter box that’s big enough for a large cat, and in these cases, our experts recommend making one from a plastic storage container. “They come in a better variety of sizes and heights, and you can cut an opening in them,” said Dr. M. Leanne Lilly, DVM, DACVB, assistant professor at Ohio State University’s Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences. If there are sharp edges after cutting, you can file or sand them down for the safety of your cat.

The Sterilite Plastic Latching box is more than 32 inches long and 19 inches wide, making it a suitable option for big cat breeds. Not only is it larger, but it’s also more affordable than many jumbo litter boxes, which is beneficial if you need to set up multiple bathroom locations throughout your home.

Size: 32.125 x 19.125 x 13.75 inches | Material: Plastic

What we like
  • Inexpensive
  • Good for large/multiple cats
  • Customizable
Something to note
  • Requires modification

How to shop for cat litter boxes

There are a huge number of litter boxes available today, including options in all shapes and sizes. However, litter boxes aren’t a one-size-fits-all product, and the best box for your home will depend largely on your cat’s size and bathroom preferences. Our experts recommend looking at the following factors to find a litter box that’s well suited for your pet:

Size: The most important factor to consider when selecting a litter box is its size, which should be correlated to the size of your cat. Lilly explained that a litter box’s longest side should be at least “1.5 times the length of your cat from tip to tail because the cat should be able to enter, turn around, scratch, eliminate, cover and/or turn around again without feeling cramped.” You may need to measure your cat to figure out the appropriate dimensions for their comfort, and our experts noted that many commercial litter boxes are too small for a fully grown domestic cat. For large cats, they recommend using a plastic storage bin as a litter box. You’ll need to cut an opening for your cat to use as an entry point, and it’s important to file or sand down any sharp edges.

Depth: Litter box depth is another important consideration. The box should also be deep enough to hold at least 2 to 3 inches of litter: “The cat should be able to dig a hole without reaching the bottom as part of normal eliminating behavior,” said Lilly. If your cat kicks up a lot of litter while going to the bathroom, you may want to look for a box with higher walls to keep the material contained.

Accessibility. It’s important to select a litter box that your cat can enter easily. According to Lilly, cats should be able to walk into their litter box without jumping. “This becomes increasingly important in older cats who may have concurrent arthritis and be even less tolerant of acrobatics required to get into the box,” she said.

Cleaning. Litter boxes should be scooped daily to remove solid waste and litter clumps, and it’s also important to wash them in between litter changes. Boxes made from plastic are generally lightweight and easy to wash using soap and water, but they can absorb odors over time. Stainless-steel litter boxes are another worthwhile option, as they are easy to clean and don’t absorb odors. However, they’re more expensive and heavier than plastic ones. You also want a litter box that is compatible with clumping litter (as opposed to non-clumping litter).

Meet our experts

At NBC Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and without undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.

Dr. M. Leanne Lilly, DVM, DACVB, is an assistant professor in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at Ohio State University. Her areas of research include veterinary behavior education, as well as low-stress veterinary handling.

Dr. Christine Calder, DVM, DACVB, is a board-certified veterinary behaviorist and the owner of Calder Veterinary Behavior Services in Portland, Maine.

Why trust Select?

Camryn Rabideau has been covering pet products for more than six years, and she’s lived with four different cats over the past decade. While researching this piece, she consulted with two veterinarians who specialize in animal behavior, and she sorted through dozens of popular litter boxes online to find options that best fit criteria suggested by the experts. She’s personally used two of the litter boxes included in this list, as well as a variety of other models that she doesn’t recommend.

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