Are Closed Litter Boxes Bad For Cats? Shocking Truths You Need To Know

By Davis Wilkins •  Updated: 03/12/23 •  7 min read
A dog peeping out of a cardboard box

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Is it bad for cats to use a closed litter box?

This is one of the biggest questions cat parents have.

Sure, they are man’s best friends.

We do our best to keep our feline friends happy and healthy.

But, sometimes they do need to visit the veterinarian or groomer and it can be stressful for them.

I want to show you why closed litter boxes are so important and how closed litter boxes can help your cat live a happy life.

However, you may be surprised to know that a lot of people prefer their cats to use an open litter box instead.

If you’ve never given it much thought, open vs closed litter boxes might surprise you!

Are enclosed litter boxes bad for cats?

No, enclosed litter boxes are not bad for cats.

A hooded litter box can be good for cats because they provide privacy and prevent litter from getting spread around the house.

They also help keep smells contained within the box.

These benefits can make it easier to live with multiple cats in apartments or small homes where there isn’t much space for them to roam freely.

Some cats, however, will refuse to use a covered litter box though because they don’t like being enclosed in such a small space or having their vision blocked by the top of the box.

Should the litter box be closed?

The answer to whether or not the litter box should be closed is contingent on the circumstances.

In these cases, you’ll want to keep the litter box closed:

  1. It’s a terrific method to hide the poop mess: Litter boxes with lids cover the mess that litter trays proudly flaunt.
  2. Prevents litter tracking in cats: By using an enclosed litter box, you can avoid the hassle of dealing with tracked litter.
  3. Keep odors to a minimum: If your cat has an enclosed bathroom, you won’t have to worry about any unpleasant aromas coming out of the box.
  4. Dog-proof litter box: Dogs adore eating cat nuggets, therefore this serves as an anti-dogproof box.
  5. Prevent spraying: Enclosed litter boxes prevent high-peeing cats from spraying your house or bathroom walls when urinating.
  6. Maintain your cat’s dignity: Shy, reserved cats, will appreciate the privacy of an enclosed setting.

These reasons will help you determine whether covered cat litter boxes are better.

Do closed litter boxes smell less?

Yes, they do. A covered litter box smell-less and will have less odor because it doesn’t allow the ammonia to be released into the air.

The other benefit is that it traps odors inside the box rather than letting them escape into your home.

Closed litter boxes are less likely to produce strong odors than open ones because they don’t allow air into them as often as open ones do.

A cat staring at a rooster inside a house

Do cats prefer enclosed litter boxes?

Are they really a better alternative than an open one?

The Ross research team wanted to see if cats preferred litter boxes that were open or uncovered to litter boxes that were covered or “hooded.” 

They looked at 28 cats who hadn’t had any problems with elimination in the previous year.

During the two-week trial period, each cat had access to two litter boxes. 

The study cats were kept isolated from other cats in multi-cat households.

The owners all used the same litter type and followed the same cleaning routine. 

The cats were 3 months old to 15 years old, with an average age of 3.1 years.

There were 56 percent female cats and 44 percent male cats.

Currently, 78 percent of the cats in the research were using an uncovered litter box, whereas 59 percent had used a covered box at some point in their lives. 

During the research period, no cats were found outside of their litter boxes.

Results showed that there was no general preference for hooded versus uncovered litter boxes in this study.

Individual cats exhibited no preference (i.e., used both boxes equally), 15% used the covered litter box more than the uncovered litter box, and 15% used the uncovered litter box more than the covered. 

The findings were rather even.

Can a kitten use a closed litter box?

Yes, a kitten can use a closed litter box.

However, kittens are not born knowing how to use a litter box.

A kitten will not use a litter box until they are about three to four weeks old.

Their bladders are small and they may not be able to urinate in the litter for several weeks after birth.

The best way to teach a kitten to use a litter box is to start when they are young and allow them to learn on their own.

Kittens do not instinctively know what a closed litter box is and how it works.

They have never seen one before and have no idea what it is supposed to look like or how it works.

For them to understand how this box works, you will need to show them how it works before they can use it properly.

Most kittens can adapt very quickly, but some may take longer than others.

You can use a special litter box that has a removable top that allows the cat to easily access the litter.

You can also try putting down some newspapers or other soft material in the box so that the cat has something soft to lie on while using it.

How to transition a cat to a covered litter box

While cats may have the ability to adapt, you might need some tips on how to go about it.

If you want to transition your cat from a box to a covered litter box, you must follow these steps:

  1. Place the litter box in the room adjacent to the old litter box.
  2. Add the same type of litter your cat is used to in the old box.
  3. Allow your cat to use both litter boxes and get accustomed to the covered box.
  4. If she avoids the hooded box after a week, try removing the lid to entice your cat to use it.
  5. When your cat is finally comfortable using the hooded box, take away the old box.
  6. Remove the old litter box from its place and put it away somewhere where your cat cannot see it.

How tall should a covered litter box be?

The length of the cat litter box should be long enough to allow your cat to stand and turn around.

It should be at least 4 to 6 inches higher than the tallest cat.

The height should also be no less than 3 inches above the ground and no more than 6 inches above the ground.

The width of the box should be about half the length.

A litter box should be large enough to accommodate the cat’s body and large enough to allow the cat to move around in it.

The litter box should also be tall enough so that the cat can stand up, turn around and sit comfortably.

The type of litter used in your covered litter box will also affect how tall it must be.

Traditional clay litters require smaller boxes because clay clumps are denser than other types of litter, so they do not spread out as much when moved around or shaken up during cleaning.


Closed litter boxes may present a few issues.

For one thing, they’re difficult to scoop.

But on top of that, they can be a bit smelly inside the hood, due to the limited air circulation.

At the end of the day, it’s best to go with your cat’s preferences.

If she won’t use the box because it’s closed, consider alternatives that might work better, like open litter boxes.

Davis Wilkins

Davis Wilkins is a dedicated cat lover, with three cats under his care. He grew up in a cat-loving family, nurturing these feline friends. As a result, he purposed to share his cat knowledge with the universe. Wilkins has been writing professionally for over four years, specializing in feline care with a keen interest in litter box care and handling. He hopes to help other feline lovers achieve their pet care goals.