Catster is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Open vs. Closed Litter Box: Main Differences, Pros & Cons

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on June 28, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

Open VS Closed Litter Box

Open vs. Closed Litter Box: Main Differences, Pros & Cons

Your cat is an important member of your family, so you want everything to be perfect for him, from food to toys and everything in between. One of the most essential items in your feline pal’s life is his litter box.

However, the days when a litter box was just a box with litter in it are long gone. Today, you can purchase everything from self-cleaning litter boxes to boxes with their own sound systems.

The biggest debate is open or closed litter boxes—which do cats prefer? The trick is to strike a good balance between what your cat wants and what you like. Because all cat parents know if your cat doesn’t like it, he’s not going to use it.

3 cat face divider

Visual Differences

side by side Open VS Closed Litter Box
Image Credit: Left-Mila Naumova, Shutterstock / Right – McCallum, Shutterstock

Overview of Open Litter Boxes:

gray kitten sitting in litter box_Andrey Khusnutdinov_shutterstock
Image Credit: Andrey Khusnutdinov, Shutterstock

Open litter boxes are just what they sound like, boxes that have no cover in place.

It’s important to note at this point that though studies have been done with cats and open and closed litter boxes, it’s truly up to the cat as to which they prefer and the cat’s personality.

What You Need to Know


Open litter boxes leave plenty of space for your cat to use the bathroom without them feeling closed in, allowing your cat to move around more freely inside the box. These types of boxes also are easier to deal with if your kitty covers up their waste in the right way.

These types of litter boxes also don’t retain moisture the way that closer litter boxes do, meaning you’ll have fewer clumps and smells to deal with.

Since there’s no lid, it’s not as restrictive for your cat. Some cats will use the bathroom outside of the litter box because they feel restricted when they’re inside. If you have an open litter box, this doesn’t happen.


On the downside, open litter boxes are much messier than their closed counterparts, as there’s no lid to contain the litter when your cat starts scratching to cover his waste. It also circulates the smells through the air and into your home.

One of the biggest problems with open litter boxes, however, occurs if you have dogs. For some reason, dogs love to eat the waste out of cat litter boxes, and it’s easy for them to do if the open litter box is sitting there like a dinner invitation.

  • Prevents dampness
  • Allows cats to move around the box better
  • Less restriction on the cat
  • Messy
  • Odors
  • A dinner buffet for dogs
3 cat face divider

Overview of Closed Litter Boxes:

cat in litter box
Image Credit: Lightspruch, Shutterstock

Closed litter boxes come with their own set of pros and cons, but again which you choose has a lot to do with your furry friend’s personality and what works for him. Below, we’ll go into a few of those pros and cons.

What You Need to Know


Closed litter boxes certainly have their place, especially if you live in a small apartment and don’t want an open cat litter box staring you in the face everything you head to the bathroom or laundry room.

One of the significant advantages of closed litter boxes is the fact that they stop little children from sticking curious hands into the litter. Closed boxes also hide the smells and litter itself away from the noses and prying snouts of your dogs.

It’s also better for your décor, especially when living in cramped quarters because it hides the litter from sight, so you and your guests don’t have to see it when walking through your apartment or small home.

Most closed litter boxes have high walls that keep the urine inside the box instead of ending up all over your walls and the floor outside of the litter box.

Believe it or not, cats like their privacy just as much as people do, so a closed litter box will help them retain their modesty when they’re doing their business.


There are also a few disadvantages of closed litter boxes. The biggest con is that the closed lid traps odors inside of the box, which can make it unbearable for your feline companion, which means he’ll end up looking for somewhere else to go.

It’s also possible to end up with a closed litter box that’s too restrictive and too small for a larger cat. If you’ve ever owned a closed litter box, then you already know cleaning it is harder than cleaning other styles.

  • Prevents smells from entering the room
  • Keeps dogs and children out of litter box
  • Keeps waste hidden
  • More privacy
  • Traps smell inside
  • Harder to clean
  • Can be restrictive
  • Has high back walls
3 cat face divider

How Many Litter Boxes Should You Have?

Believe it or not, even in a household with only one cat, one litter box is not enough. A general rule of thumb to follow is having one more litter box than you do cats in your home. So, for example, if you have two cats, you need three litter boxes and so forth. But, of course, that’s not always possible, especially if you live in an apartment, a small house, or have quite a few cats.

It has been noted that having too few litter boxes can result in cats relieving themselves all over your home.

How Big Should a Litter Box Be?

This is extremely important because who wants to go to the bathroom in super tight quarters? Make sure that the litter box you choose is big enough for your cat. There should be plenty of space for them to turn around comfortably and scratch without having to step outside of the litter box to do so.

cat sleeping inside a litter box
Image Credit: SITI AISHAH BASIRON, Shutterstock

How to Choose Between the Two Litter Boxes

There’s just no clear and firm answer to give when it comes to choosing between the two litter boxes. You have to try each of them and see which your cat prefers. They will certainly let you know what they choose, and as a pet parent, you know to listen.

Avoid Self-Cleaning Litter Boxes

As previously mentioned, there are now self-cleaning litter boxes that many pet parents are trying out. After all, who wouldn’t want a litter box that cleans itself? The thing is that while it may be more convenient and less icky for sure, self-cleaning litter boxes make noise, and cats can be scared by loud noises.

The last thing you want is your cat getting scared of the litter box and refusing to use it, especially after you’ve dropped quite a bit of money to purchase one.

3 cat face divider

Final Thoughts

This concludes our guide on open and closed litter boxes and which one your cat might prefer. Though there have been studies done, and some of them recommend one over the other, there’s no way to tell until your cat makes his choice. We all know that cats are independent and stubborn, so take your time, purchase one or the other, and then keep an eye on your cat to see how well he does. If he’s not taking to the first litter box, then it might be time to try the other option.

Featured Image: Africa Studio, Shutterstock/ Lightspruch, Shutterstock

PangoVet Image Speak With A Vet Online

Get Catster in your inbox!

Stay informed! Get tips and exclusive deals.
Catster Editors Choice Badge
Shopping Cart


© Pangolia Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved.