When answering what size litter box does a cat need, most sources use statements like, “it depends on your cat’s preferences,” “it depends on your cat’s size,” “the larger, the better if you’re to avoid litter box problems”, and similar. Of course, they are right, it does depend on many things, yet there is also a straightforward approach.
In most cases, the desired dimensions of a cat litter box depend on your cat’s length. Take a measuring tape. The box should be at least 1.5 times longer than your cat, and its width must be approximately equal to your cat’s length.
This size provides enough movement in the box. It lets your cat dig the litter comfortably in several spots, not just in the center of the box, and it allows the cat to turn around inside the box.
Does this surprise you? Imagine a large Maine Coone. The previous rules mean the litter box must be 36 inches (0.9 meters) long. WOW, that is a lot. But okay, now, here is a more realistic picture.
We just got a ruler and measured our cat (one that was the closest at the moment). She was 20 inches (0.51 m) long. It means that the box should be 30 inches long and 20 inches wide (76 x 51 cm). But, are there boxes in pet stores that large? Well, we checked, and they are not.
Most litter boxes were close to 20 inches in length, which falls too short. And, even one box that had a sticker with the word “mega” on it was just 24 inches long, which is slightly less than recommended.
So, what’s the solution? In general, you are back to “the bigger, the better” because even if you buy the largest litter box in the pet store, you may fall short.
We loved how Pam Johnson-Bennett, a certified pet behavior consultant and an award-winning cat book author, recommends getting a large, plastic storage container and making a litter box out of it by cutting one of the edges lower.
There are two benefits to this. First, the box will be large and comfortable for the cat. Second, the litter will stay inside the box. Many cats dig ferociously, and the litter gets thrown all across the room. One way to prevent your cat from kicking litter out of the box is to get a large box with tall sides.
So, don’t go to pet stores. Go to hardware stores to get a large litter box.
Do cats really need that large of a box?
Now, many of you may already be grumping your faces in disbelief. Why would pet stores still sell litter boxes that are too small?
Well, we are not litter box manufacturers and are poor at marketing, so we don’t know. Maybe it’s easier to sell smaller boxes, rather than one that takes up half of the living room. Maybe they’re just not that well educated about cats, or, perhaps, it’s something else or a combination of many things. We don’t know. The important thing is, they are too small for most cats.
I think we hear, “But many cats still use them!”. Yes, that is true. But if your only alternative was a small WC seat, would you still use it? We bet you would! It probably would take much more before you’d choose to urinate on the carpet in your living room. While this is a bit inaccurate of a comparison, you get the point.
Cats can tolerate smaller boxes, inappropriate litter box locations, unfavorable litter, infrequent cleaning, too small of a box, and other inconveniences. Most cats would still use the box, because they are trained to do so. But, when several inadequacies add up, problems may occur. Even more so, in such a case, it becomes hard to identify the cause since there isn’t just one.
The bottom line is that, yes, if you can’t find a large box, or your house does not have space for one, go for what’s on the market. Size is just one thing, and, while it does matter, it isn’t the end of the world. However, when you look at all the things that make a litter box desirable in your cat’s eyes, make sure to get right what you can because it will make the difference for whether your cat is or isn’t using his litter box.
This article is a part of series about cat litter boxes.