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Covered or uncovered: do cats really care?

Covered or uncovered: do cats really care?

Open or closed? What's your cat's preference?

People may prefer covered litter boxes. We want to minimize smells and unsightly lumps. Covered boxes can help us feel comfortable sharing even the tiniest living space with our cats.

But what about cats? Do they really like a covered box better? Or would they prefer to pee in full, uncovered glory? 

Do cats prefer open or closed litter boxes?

Today, we're digging for the answer.

 

What research says about covered or uncovered litter boxes.

We would never dare give you our opinion about your finicky feline's favorite bathroom style.

But we would like to share how scientific researchers have answered the question.

A leading veterinarian, Dr. Ernie Ward, DVM has authored more than 65 articles in veterinary journals. As a vet, he's been featured on CNN, Today, Nightline, NBC Nightly News, Good Morning America, and Animal Planet.

In a recent column on Pet Health Network, Dr. Ward took a look at research published by experts at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. 

Here's what Ward found:

  • Cat parents are majorly concerned about inappropriate elimination. In fact, it is the number one reason people relinquish cats to shelters. It also tops the list of behavioral reasons cats show up at the vet's office. 
  • Common sense litter box solutions can clear up the most persistent case of inappropriate peeing.
    • Clean the box regularly.
    • Use the right litter — many cats love planet-friendly litter options like   grass seed, walnut shells, or paper pellets.
    • Furnish enough litter boxes of the right size in the right locations.
    • Ask your vet to check for a medical condition such as a UTI, kidney infection, or bladder stones.
  • Cleanliness matters. When given a choice, cats tend to select the cleanest litter box. Our pets prefer pristine bathroom conditions with little regard for the box's color or style.

Ross University's research team evaluated 28 cats. Each cat had access to a closed litter box and an open litter box during a two-week period. Only 59% of the cats studied had used a closed litter box before.

In the study, both boxes contained the exact same litter. Cat parents cleaned both using the same technique. 

 

The results? 

According to Dr. Ward, "When individual cats were assessed, 70% showed absolutely no preference (i.e. used both boxes equally), 15% used the covered litter box more significantly, while 15% used the uncovered more than the covered. Pretty even results."

 

What's the scoop on covered cat boxes?

According to this study — the only scientifically designed study on this question we know of — the answer is:

Most cats don't care.

Anecdotal evidence agrees. Sure, few individual cats like to do their business out in the open. A few urinary introverts insist on privacy while doing business. Most cats, however, seem to wander into whichever litter box suits their taste at the moment of decision.

Unless your cat is one of the finicky few who exhibits a strong preference for a certain litter box style, you can go with the box that looks best in your home. Just make sure it feels right for both your animal and human family members.

 

If a cover doesn't matter much, what's most important to a cat?
  • For cats, cleanliness really is next to godliness with regard to the bathroom. Practice a cleaning regimen that includes daily scooping, weekly washing with soap and warm water, and a twice-weekly litter change. You can add baking soda or activated charcoal for a fresher scent.
  • Cats need enough space to turn around. Ever had to use a bathroom so small you couldn't do business properly? If so, you know how irritating it is. Cats feel the same way. They like to turn, position themselves, and dig in the litter. Make sure your pet has the space she needs.
  • Keep the box accessible. Senior pets and cats with disabilities usually appreciate a box that opens in the front. These guys also need an easy-to-locate box with plenty of extra room to maneuver.
  • Remember the rule of thumb: one litter box per cat plus one extra. Don't make your cat wait while his housemate takes her sweet time in the can.
  • Find the right space for your cat's box. Avoid putting it near anything loud or overly warm such as a washer or drawer. Keep it in a well-lit, social space — out of both the dark basement and the heavily trafficked hallway.

 

Final thoughts.

Cats love a clean, accessible, and comfortable-to-use box filled with fresh litter. As long as you've met these criteria, your cat should be delighted with whatever style box you choose — covered box, uncovered box, or Flip.

And so should you.

 

Shop the Modkat litter boxes and accessories to freshen up your cat litter area today!