Should You Use Liners in Your Cat Litter Box?
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If you own a cat or indeed more than one cat, then you will most likely have at least one type of cat litter box, and maybe more than one. One cleaning option that you also have is the option to place a liner inside your cat litter box.
We get asked a lot of questions here at the Cat Hygiene Advice website, and one of those is should you use liners in your cat litter box? The short and simple answer is yes it is a good idea, and especially if you use a non-clumping type of cat litter. With other types of litter a liner may be a good option, but not really that important.
Below I go into both the pros and cons of using a cat litter box liner. That way you can make your own mind up if you want to use one of these.
Approximate Cost of Good Litter Box Liners
Before considering a purchase of these, it is always a really good idea to get an approximate idea of the costs involved. On average a single good quality liner costs around $0.50-0.60 per liner. Typically these come in packs of 5 or more. So for a 5 pack, expect to pay around $2.50-3.00.
So if you changed the liner completely once a week, the annual cost would be around $30. Now that we have a handle on the costs, let's have a closer look at why you might consider buying these.
Types of Litter Box Liners
There are a couple of types of liners available on the market:
- Plastic Liners - these are by far the most common and are simply a thick plastic bag that goes inside the litter box. This can then be lifted out, and closed using some form of drawstring and then put straight into the garbage.
- Sifting liners - these are not as popular, but they work on the principle of still lining the box but the good litter can be sifted out and back into the box to be used again. The liner is still a plastic bag, but with perforated holes in them. I cover those off in more detail later in this article.
The vast majority of liners that are sold are the first plastic liner type, as cat owners simply want a fast and efficient method of cleaning out their cat litter box.
Why Consider Using a Liner?
The liner when placed in the bottom of a cat litter box simply is intended to make the litter box much easier to clean. The liner is placed into the bottom of the litter box and the cat litter is then poured on top of the liner.
When it comes to completely changing out your cat litter, then the liner will have kept the bottom of the box from becoming damp, and that avoids wet litter sticking to the bottom and the sides of the box.
Most plastic cat litter liners then have a drawstring which can be pulled, and the litter and liner can be removed as one unit from the litter box. Some liners don't have these of course and it is then a matter of lifting it all out and tying a knot in the top of the liner.
It is always better to buy ones with a sturdy drawstring, as they simply make your life a great deal easier. The box will of course still need to be properly washed and dried, but the liner will have made the clean up job a great deal easier.
You can watch an example of this in the video below.
Why do some Cat Owners Use a Liner?
The first thing I would like to point out is that your cat will not care whether there is a liner in there or not. They go to the litter box to do one or two things, or maybe even both at the same time. Only the most anxious of cats will get spooked by the rustle of the plastic liner.
Using a liner is really all about making life easier for you, when it comes to cleaning the litter. As you can see in the video above, in many cases the cat urine does soak through to the bottom of the litter, and will make a hard clump, if using a clumping litter.
Rather than trying to dig that out, it is easier to tug the liner and then scoop out the hardened lump. However that only applies if you are using a clumping litter. With non-clumping or crystal litters the technique shown above will not work at all.
For most cat owners though this is simply all about fitting a liner, changing the litter once every 1-2 weeks, lifting out the liner, dumping the old cat litter and setting it up again. That does make changing the cat litter fast and easy.
For the sake of convenience this method is probably the most efficient and cleanest method of taking care of a cat litter box.
The Main Disadvantages of Cat Liners
For many people these are highly problematic. It is fair to say that the huge majority of cat owners can simply not be bothered with using these. There are a few reasons for this which I have listed below:
- They can rip and tear - this very much depends on the quality of the liner and also on the strength of the seams. Cat litter is heavy enough on its own, but when it gets wet it gets even heavier
- Difficult to find the right fit - Unless the manufacturer makes a liner specifically for the litter box, finding a good fit can be just a matter of trial and error - advice offered below
- Air pockets - When you are placing the liner into the box, air pockets can easily be created. It does take patience to fit a liner, then pour the litter in, continue to get rid of the air bubbles and end up with a properly lined litter box
- Coming away from the sides - Some cats will manage to dislodge the liner especially around the top and at the sides. That can get annoying but in reality it can be put back on in just a few seconds
Common Mistakes When Fitting a Cat Litter Box Liner
The disadvantages I have shown above are caused by one of two things:
- Buying low quality liners which will tear under weight, or the drawstring will tear under weight
- Using the wrong size or fitting them into the box using the wrong method
On the first point just avoid buying really cheap thin liners. A cat's claws will easily rip through these and they will never hold the weight of damp litter when it comes to removing them.
In my opinion they are quite literally a waste of money, and even though they are not expensive, it is just money down the proverbial drain. They will also just cause you a lot of needless frustration.
Don't use plastic bags that you may get from the grocery store. These are almost always far too thin and usually never a proper fit. So many cat owners have tried this to save some money, but I have yet to talk with anyone where these types of bags have worked.
Measure your box and make sure the liner fits your box along the bottom and also for up the sides with about a 1-2" overlap to tuck in around the edges. This is especially important if you own a high sided litter box. Usually these are top entry litter boxes.
Many cat owners simply place these on the bottom of the box and then pour the litter in. Unfortunately that does nothing to prevent the litter from sticking to the sides of the box. The entire box should be lined for the best results.
What Makes a Good Cat Liner?
If you are thinking of buying and trying a cat litter box liner, then there are a few things that you should look for, before parting with your hard earned cash. I have listed the important features below:
Best Buyer Rated Cat Liners
Just below I have included the best cat litter box liners according to online buyers. There are a lot of different brands and versions of these liners, so hopefully the table below will help you make more sense of these.
If you want to read more detail about any of these liners, then please click on the read more link in the table. You will be taken to a summary review of each product. Alternatively you can just continue on reading, and you will find a summary of those on the list below.
Top 5 Buyer Rated Cat Litter Box Liners
JONNY CAT Heavy Duty Litter Box Liners
36 x 18"
2 mm thick
Easyology Ziggy Cat Litter Box Liners
36 x 18"
3 mm thick
Hyper Cat Extra Heavy Duty Jumbo Size Cat Pan Liners
36 x 18"
0.6 mm thick
Alfa Pet Kitty Cat Pan Liners
Fresh Kitty 15ct Super Thick Jumbo Drawstring Litter Box Liners
36 x 19"
2 mm thick
No 1 Rated - JONNY CAT Heavy Duty Litter Box Liners, Jumbo, 5 Liners-Box
Overall buyers rate these Jonny Cat liners with an average buyer satisfaction rate of 94% and they appear to be the most popular choice for many cat owners.
They measure 36" x 18" and each liner is 2 mm in thickness.
They do have a drawstring and they will fit most litter boxes but not every single type.
- 87% of all buyers gave these a full 5 star review
- Thicker and better quality than cheaper brands
- Makes cleaning out a cat litter box fast and simple
- Generally speaking buyers said they did not rip
- Buyers say you can save money when you buy in bulk
- 1% of buyers gave these a bad review
- These are huge bags so not ideal for a smaller litter box
No 2 Rated - Easyology Ziggy Cat Litter Box Liners
Overall buyers rate these Easyology Ziggy Cat Litter Box Liners with an average buyer satisfaction rate of 84%.
They measure 36" x 18" and each liner is 3 mm in thickness. The manufacturer states these are the thickest cat liners available on the market, and I have found that this is the case.
The manufacturer also offer a 100% satisfaction money back guarantee.
- 68% of all buyers gave these a full 5 star review
- Great for Jumbo sized litter boxes
- Very good if you have cats who tend to scratch up the litter box
- Come with a money back guarantee so always worth a try to see if they work for you
- 6% of buyers gave these a bad review
- Slightly more expensive than other similar liners
No 3 Rated - Hyper Cat Extra Heavy Duty Jumbo Size Cat Pan Liners
Overall buyers rate these Hyper Cat Extra Heavy Duty Jumbo Size Cat Pan Liners with an average buyer satisfaction rate of 82%.
They measure 36" x 18" and each liner is so micron in thickness (0.6 mm) They come in a folding dispenser box.
These are made from a recyclable material and are also anti-microbial. These also come with a money back guarantee.
- 61% of all buyers gave these a full 5 star review
- Will fit standard sized litter boxes but will struggle with the Jumbo boxes
- Liners are very thick and most buyers said they did not tear
- Buyers said these were excellent value for money
- 10% of buyers gave these a bad review
- Can't be used for larger litter boxes
No 4 Rated - Alfa Pet Kitty Cat Pan Liners
Overall buyers rate these Alfa Pet liners with an average buyer satisfaction rate of 80%. Please note that these are sifting liners and not liner bags.
Please note that these are sifting litter box liners. They are large and measure 40" x 38". These should only be used with clumping cat litters.
They are held in place with a large rubber brand.
- 62% of all buyers gave these a full 5 star review
- Made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and that does make them very tough
- Buyers said these were really good for older cats who tended to pee a great deal more
- 9% of buyers gave these a bad review
- A few buyers said these are more trouble than they are worth
No 5 Rated - Fresh Kitty 15ct Super Thick Jumbo Drawstring Litter Box Liners
Overall buyers rate these Fresh Kitty 15ct Super Thick Jumbo Drawstring Litter Box Liners with an average buyer satisfaction rate of 78%.
The manufacturer states these are 100% leak proof and come with tie handles for a fast and easy clean up.
Will fit any litter pan up to 25’’ L x 21" W x 22" H and the liners measure 43" x 21"
- 74% of all buyers gave these a full 5 star review
- Buyers say these fit most litter boxes but always check the size before ordering
- Won't leave a gap between the box and the liner
- Good for high backed litter boxes
- 6% of buyers gave these a bad review
- A few buyers said they had to use 2 liners to prevent shredding from the cat's claws
Heavy Duty and Tear Resistant
Liners are usually made from some type of plastic. The thickness of this plastic is very important. In my opinion a heavy duty plastic is at least 2 mm thick. Anything less than that will tear or rip when placed under a weight.
Likewise anything less than 2 mm can easily be scratched through by a cat, and that is particularly true when it comes to a cat who digs a lot having used the litter.
Many cat owners who use liners also double up on the liner. They place one in the box and just leave that there. Then they put another one in and then add the litter. It does give double protection in case of rips, and it does help a lot with leaks.
It can of course be reused if it has not been torn.
Size Really Does Matter
The biggest single complaint about liners is that cat owners buy a liner and quickly find out that it doesn't properly fit their box. Always measure the inside of your litter box first before ordering or buying your liner.
The liner must fit that space and also have additional room to wrap around the edge of your litter box to hold it in place. It is not really any different to fitting a plastic bag inside your normal kitchen bin.
A Closer Look at Sifting Cat Liners
I mentioned at the beginning of my article that I would go into more detail on sifting liners. It is important to understand that these are a different product to the self-cleaning litter box, that is widely popular with many cat owners.
In this type of litter box, the litter is sifted through a tray with holes, by rocking the box sideways.
When it comes to sifting liners, these are actually plastic liners with holes in them. Yes a strange concept, but that is in effect what they are. The purpose of these is that they do line the box, but when it comes to emptying the litter, the good litter drops through the holes, and the lumps and clumps are kept inside the liner.
That means that sifting liners will only work with a clumping litter. If you use any type of non-clumping litter, then never buy a sifting type of liner, as they simply do not work.
I have included one of this type on my list which is the Alfa Pet sifting liners. I have used these a few times and they do work pretty well. These days I use the manual self-cleaning box as that just suits my lifestyle much better.
Alternatives To Using Cat Liners
There are a few alternatives to using an actual commercial style of cat liner. I have listed a few of these below:
- Buying and using a manual self-cleaning litter box
- Simply not using a liner at all
- Trying a different type of litter
Self Cleaning Box
I changed from a normal type of litter box to a self-cleaning style. These self cleaning boxes come in two types and automatic. The automatic boxes get mixed reviews and are better suited to cat owners who are out of the home quite a lot.
The manual self-cleaning where you shake the box from side to side, get much better reviews, and they are a lot more affordable than the automatic types. Even with this manual self-cleaning box, the litter still needs fully changed at some stage.
The liner will still help make that an easier job, as it prevents any urine that has seeped through from sticking to the bottom of the box.
The huge majority of cat owners never use a cat litter liner at all. Some of those cat owners don't know about them and some have tried them and don't like them. You don't need a liner and if you clean on a daily basis, then you can easily get away with that.
The only real benefit of a liner is when you come to doing a full and complete change of the litter. Being able to lift it all out at once, tie it up and bin it, is a great deal easier.
Changing the Litter
You can use a liner with any type of litter which include clumping, non-clumping, silica gel (crystal) and biodegradable litters. They all have their own advantages and disadvantages. Clumping litters are for certain the best to help keep your litter box clean, and also the easiest to use.