Covered Cat Litter Boxes – Advantages and Disadvantages

If you have gone to a pet store to buy a cat litter box, then you will already know a couple of things that typically happen. The first is that you will know there are a wide range of cat litter boxes available.

The second thing you may notice, is that the staff in the store will try and push a particular type of litter box. In this article I want to focus on the most popular type of litter box sold, and that is the hooded, covered or enclosed litter box.

Just so as you are aware litter boxes usually divide into two very basic types:

  1. The open litter tray or pan
  2. A pan with some form of lid on it making it a covered enclosed or hooded box

The big question I guess is which type of litter tray or box is the best for your cat? The genuine answer is that a covered litter box is best for humans and your home, but an uncovered litter box, normally called a litter tray is the better choice for your cat.

Now some cat owners may disagree with this but that will be based on information that they have picked up from people wanting to sell them a more expensive litter box. It is however very fair to say, that each type of litter box has its advantages and disadvantages.

That is what I am going to take a look at in this article and try to show you my reasons. That way you can make up your own mind which type suits you best.

cat litter tray

A basic litter tray usually costing less than $10

covered litter box

A basic covered litter box costing around $30

Just above you can see an image of a typical inexpensive cat litter tray, and one of a covered or enclosed litter box which is usually anything between 3-4 times the price. The main difference as you can see is that one has some form of lid, and the other one is simply an open pan or tray.

There are of course other litter box types such as:

However the vast majority of boxes sold are either the humble litter tray, or some form of enclosed box.

Why Do Cat Owners Buy a Covered Litter Box?

We the cat owners of this world are the people who pull out our hard earned cash and buy a litter box or two for our cat. Our cats can’t talk and they don’t have to part with any cash so we have to make the best decision for them.

Many cat owners take great pride in their home and they also want to love and care for their feline friend. If you are that type of person, then having an open litter creates a few issues:

  • It is unsightly for a visitor to walk into your home and see a cat poop planted right on top of a litter
  • It is also not that pleasant to watch a cat peeing or pooping when you are trying to have a cup of coffee or eat a meal
  • An open litter also allows the smells of both pee and poop to waft up and into the environment without restriction
  • Litter is also easily kicked out of a pan or tray when kitty decides to cover up their business
  • If you have dogs they have easy access to cat poop which for them is a tasty snack, horrible as that may sound
  • If you have children in your home, then you have to be careful that they don’t view the cat litter as a play sand area

So as you can see to avoid some or all of these “human or home style problems” many cat owners will buy a covered litter box. Who can really blame them, but what about the cat? Just below I have included the disadvantages of owning a covered cat litter box for both humans and cats.

Disadvantages of Covered Litter Boxes

You seldom here what the real disadvantages of covered litter boxes really are, so I thought I should include those. There are disadvantages for both cat owners and cats.

  • Smell control – it is true that a covered box helps control the smell of the environment where it is located. That is good and a BIG advantage for the cat owner, but not so great for the cat as the smell gets trapped and to a cat that does stink. The cat may stop using the litter box if it gets too strong, and that of course is bad news for you. Daily cleaning is required to help keep the smell down for the cat.
  • Privacy and cats – You may have read or been told that cats need or like privacy. The reality is that is one of the biggest myths used by people trying to sell a covered litter box. Watch a cat outside and they very happily do their toilet business in a wide open space. They can see all around them and they feel safer. If anyone tells you that a cat likes to private when going to the toilet, that is not true. They like being left alone when going to the loo but that has nothing to do with privacy.
  • Hard to Use – Most, but not all covered litter boxes, are actually not that easy to use. The main reason for that is down to the cover (lid) and how it attaches to the base of the litter box. With the majority of covered boxes, you have to take the lid off when you are scooping and cleaning, and then make sure it is fastened tightly when you put it back on. When you read the complaints this is the number one complaint about most types of enclosed or covered litter boxes.
  • Buying too small a size – All cats like a large litter box and they should be able to turn around in it and be able to move around very comfortably. The lid can be restrictive depending on its exact shape, size and especially its height. For smaller cats these are going to be OK, but for large or fat cats, they are not going to be that suitable. Likewise for a cat with back problems and some older cats, these are also not a great choice.
  • More Moisture – A covered box will retain more moisture than an open tray. When your cat urinates the litter does get damp. That dampness can evaporate quickly with an open tray. With an enclosed box that is not the case, and again cats don’t like getting their feet wet.

hooded cat litter trays

Advantages of Using a Covered Litter box

There are of course advantages when using a covered litter box. I have mentioned a few already but I would like to just go over the main advantages for you, to be certain I have covered all of these off.

  • Smell Control – A covered litter box will smell a great deal less than an open litter pan around the home. The cover does restrict and contain the odors very well.
  • Out of Sight – There is no need for you, your family or your visitors to watch your cat in action. You also don’t have to constantly view the results of their work either.
  • Some dog control – These will not really stop small dogs getting into the litter box, but they will work pretty well for medium to large sized dogs. That means there are no easy snacks for that size of a dog.
  • Stops the kids – A covered litter if properly secured will certainly stop the prying fingers of curious children and kids. They can still stick their hand in through the entrance but that is better than sticking it into an open pan or tray.

Hooded Cat Litter Box FAQ

I get asked a lot of specific questions when it come to buying a hooded or enclosed litter box. Below I have listed the most frequently asked questions with my answers.

Q. Do Covered Litter Boxes Contain Odor?

A. The short answer is yes they do help a lot. Cat urine and cat poop create gas and it is really that gas that smells a lot. With an open try that quickly gets into the air around the tray. With a covered box the odor is much better contained. Be aware though that the downside is that it can get too smelly for your cat, so regular cleaning is required.

Q. Can Kittens Use Hooded Litter Trays?

A. The short answer is yes they can. Most kittens if you buy one, or pick one up from a shelter will already know how to use a litter box. if it is a new litter they may need a little training to begin with. The best advice is to introduce a kitten to a hooded litter box with the hood removed, and then transition it to using it with the hood on.

Q. How do you transition a cat to use a covered litter box?

A. This depends on a number of factors. Your cat’s nature is probably the biggest obstacle to overcome. Some will transition with ease after a few attempts. Some cats will not and the best way is to slowly transition them by leaving the lid off initially.

Allow the cat to get used to the new box and then re-introduce the cover when the cat is more confident in that environment. For some cats that can take some time. The reality is that some cats never get used to it, and you may have to try a different type or revert to the tray.

Q. How do you get your cat to use a litter box with a door?

A. All covered litter boxes will have an entrance. Typically that is either at the front, or on one of the sides and it works like a flap.  There are also top entry boxes where the entrance hole is on the top, and is usually not covered at all.

Most cats are curious enough to find the flap and then have a look inside. Some cats are however more timid or anxious and are reluctant to pop their head inside, never mind use it for a litter.

The best thing that you can do is to gently encourage and be patient until they figure it out. One great tip is to leave the door or flap in the open position, until their confidence builds. Once they have been in and out a few times, then they will figure it out.

It is a fact that a small minority of cats will never use a door or flap and if your cat is in that minority, the only other real choice is an open tray style.


Steve is a content creator with an unhealthy cat obsession. He enjoys reading non-fiction books, entreprenuership and cuddles with his cat Fij.

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