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Have you just got a new cat and need some advice on what litter box to purchase? Or perhaps your cat doesn’t like the litter box you’re currently using or you’re dealing with a lot of mess and some toilet troubles? If so, you may be considering using a top-entry litter box.
Enclosed litter trays are becoming more and more common, especially top entry litter boxes. Many cat owners love how well they contain any mess, prevent nasty odors from escaping, and work well in small spaces. However, many cats are fussy about their litter trays and enclosed litter boxes are not as loved by all cats as traditional litter trays are.
In this article, I will run through the top entry litter box pros and cons so you can decide whether this litter box could be ideal for you and your cat, or whether you’re better off sticking with the tray you’re using.
Top Entry Cat Litter Box Pros
1. Contains Litter Well
One of the main benefits of a top entry cat litter box is that it will contain all of your cat’s mess easily, making it possible the best litter box for messy cats.
Firstly, fewer litter pellets and dust particles will be kicked out of the litter tray and onto your floor thanks to the intelligent high-sided design. Your cat can bury and dig as much as they like and you will not need to worry about any cat litter escaping.
Also, top-entry litter boxes are useful in preventing litter tracking around your home. The majority of these litter boxes have a textured or grooved lid. As your cat will need to jump out of the litter box through the hole in the top and onto the lid, this textured surface helps to remove all trapped litter pellets and dust particles from your cat’s fur, preventing them from being trodden around your home.
2. Does Not Leak
Top entry litter boxes are also leak-proof, which is great news if you have a cat that likes to spray up high who you’re constantly mopping up after.
Open litter boxes are an obvious issue for sprayers who may urinate on the floor outside their tray, and even hooded litter boxes have their limitations as the part where the base and the hood of the litter box clip together can leak. However, with top entry litter boxes, this is not an issue as the base and the sides of the litter box are one.
Therefore, this makes this style of litter box one of the best litter boxes for high spraying cats.
3. Contains Nasty Odors
Many owners also love top entry litter boxes as the enclosed design helps to trap toilet smells inside the box and prevents them from spreading around your home. This means our houses are kept smelling fresher for longer and the smell of cat urine no longer lingers in the air.
4. Reduces Noise
Although not a major problem, some owners hate the sound of their cats scraping around in their litter trays and kicking litter about. Depending on where your litter tray is in your home, these noises can be loud and annoying! Because top entry litter boxes are completely enclosed, they’re not only great at containing mess and odors – they also help to reduce noise!
Also, because top entry litter boxes are much deeper than regular litter trays, you can place half an inch or so more litter in the bottom of the tray without worrying about this causing excess mess. This extra litter can prevent your cat from scraping the base of the tray, which is the usual main cause of the annoying scratching sound.
5. Safer for Children
Do you have small children that see your cat’s litter tray as a sandpit? It’s gross, but when kids are small they are trying to learn everything about the world around them through touch, and unfortunately, that could include your cat’s litter box contents!
While you will be constantly supervising your kids to ensure this isn’t the case, it only takes you looking away for a few seconds for them to end up doing things they shouldn’t be. As a top entry litter box in completely enclosed, it gives you peace of mind that your little ones cannot get into any trouble, which could be extremely dangerous for their health.
6. Stops Dogs from Entering
In a similar light, top entry litter boxes are also a good solution if you have other pets in your home, such as dogs. Dogs love the taste and smell of feces – again, disgusting, but why else do you think dogs sniff each other’s butts! – and if they can smell your cat’s excrement they will instinctively be drawn to the litter box. Dogs will love to dig in your cat’s litter box and cause a huge mess!
However, an enclosed litter box acts as a physical barrier, preventing your dog from gaining access and making a mess. Whereas hooded litter boxes may be an effective barrier for medium to large dogs, smaller dogs will still be able to get inside. For this reason, top-entry litter boxes are the best solution as regardless of how big your dog is, they won’t be able to jump up and sneak inside.
7. Takes Up Minimal Space
Are you short on space in your home? Finding an ideal spot for your cat’s litter box can be difficult if you live in a flat or small home. Your cat needs to be able to access their litter box from the sides comfortably, and many will refuse to use their litter box altogether if they cannot.
Top entry litter boxes are accessed from the top, and so having enough space surrounding your litter box is no longer a problem. Therefore, these are an ideal solution if you are low on space in your home.
8. Attractive Design
Another huge perk of top entry litter boxes is that they are one of the most attractive litter boxes because they keep your cat’s urine and feces shielded from view. No one likes looking at their cat’s excrement, and this enclosed design hides it completely so you only need to look at it when your scooping or cleaning the litter tray.
Most top entry litter boxes are made to look sleek and stylish, while not compromising on functionality.
9. Easier to Clean Compared to Other Enclosed Designs
Whereas an open litter box will be easier to clean than any other type for obvious reasons, enclosed litter boxes often make cleaning more challenging. However, compared to hooded litter boxes that have a front or side entrance, top entry boxes are much easier to clean.
For one, most top entry litter boxes are designed so that the entire lid can be removed. This makes daily scooping easy as you’ll have plenty of room to move and scoop, and have great vision of the entire tray, meaning you won’t miss a bit.
When it comes to throwing away the old litter and replenishing it, you can also easily tip the lot out into the trash and clean the tray as usual. Because the bottom and sides of the tray are all as one, there are no hard-to-reach grooves or gaps where parts of the litter box join that can make cleaning difficult.
On the other hand, hooded litter boxes are usually made of at least three parts – the base, the lid and sides, and the door – which all need separating and cleaning. Therefore, if you are looking for an enclosed cat litter box, top-entry designs come out on top as far as cleaning is concerned.
Top Entry Cat Litter Box Cons
1. Contains Nasty Odors
Top entry cat litter boxes do contain nasty odors, which is one of the main pros of this type of litter box as it stops your home from smelling of your cat’s waste. However, your cat might not appreciate the litter box’s odor-containing features quite as much.
The main issue with top entry litter boxes is that the smells are trapped and concentrated inside the litter box. If they get overwhelming, these nasty odors may deter your cat from using the litter box. They may then go to the toilet somewhere they shouldn’t, which you will have to spend time and effort cleaning up.
However, this con can be completely avoided with daily scooping and weekly cleaning, ensuring your cat’s litter box never gets to the point where it smells horrendous.
2. Makes Cleaning Easy to Forget
Some of the major benefits of top entry litter boxes are that they contain mess, smells, and even hide the sight of your cat’s waste so well. They do this so successfully, that it is easy to forget the litter tray is there altogether!
Therefore, one of the negatives of top entry litter boxes is that they are easy to neglect. For forgetful owners, this can be problematic. If you end up leaving your litter box too long without scooping or cleaning, it can lead to behavioral issues and bathroom accidents around your home.
Once again though, this is nothing a cleaning schedule can’t fix. Simply get into a routine – scoop your cat’s litter box at the same time each day and clean it on the same day each week – and you shouldn’t run into any issues.
3. Harder to Clean Than Open Designs
Top entry litter boxes are also more difficult to clean than an open litter tray. They do have a top that needs to be unclipped, and thanks to the high sides there is a much larger surface area that needs to be wiped weekly when compared to traditional open litter trays.
However, as mentioned earlier, top entry litter boxes are easier to clean than hooded litter boxes and other enclosed designs.
4. Not Suitable for Senior Cats
If you have a senior cat, top entry litter boxes should be avoided as they’re not suitable. As cats age, their joints become stiffer and their muscles become weaker. Some may also develop arthritis which can make moving painful and more challenging.
To enter a top-entry litter box, your cat needs to be able to jump onto the lid and enter through the top, which older felines will struggle with. Even if your cat can physically enter and exit the litter box, it could be causing senior cats unnecessary pain and discomfort, and eventually, they may stop using their litter box.
Therefore, if you have a senior cat, it is best to use an open or hooded litter box with a low entry design so they can enter and exit with ease.
5. Not Suitable for Kittens
As with senior cats, kittens will also struggle to take the leap and successfully enter and exit a top entry litter box. When kittens are born, they still heavily rely on their mother to nurture them, not opening their eyes for the first week after birth. It will then take them up to three weeks to be able to walk, and up to five weeks to even start leaping.
Even if your kitten is acting playful, leaping and pouncing around, they are still learning to navigate the world and need to become more comfortable jumping with precision. For this reason, you shouldn’t try to introduce a top-entry litter box to your kittens until they are at least 4-6 months old.
6. Not Suitable for Overweight Cats
Overweight cats may also struggle when using a top entry litter box as the entry point of these litter boxes is typically smaller than other enclosed designs. They will need to squeeze through the opening to use the litter tray, which could cause discomfort if it’s too small!
Therefore, if you have an overweight cat or even a large breed such as a Maine Coon, you need to make sure you specifically purchase a top entry litter box for large cats. These litter boxes are designed with our larger felines in mind, with bigger overall dimensions and a larger opening so they can enter and exit with ease.
Depending on how overweight your cat is, even if the litter box is large enough, their weight may affect their mobility. For example, severely obese cats may have lost the ability to leap, and so if this is the case, top entry litter boxes are not recommended.
Do Cats Like Top Entry Litter Boxes?
Having all the top entry litter box pros and cons laid out on the table, you will likely see the hugely overweighing benefits. Top entry cat litter boxes contain mess and odors, are a great option for messy or spraying cats, take up less space, keep your cat’s waste out of sight, and are much easier to clean than hooded litter boxes.
In fact, so long as your cat is not a senior cat, a kitten, or extremely overweight, all the disadvantages of top entry cat litter boxes can easily be remedied by keeping on top of daily scooping and cleaning.
However, how do our cats feel about this type of litter box? Do cats like top entry litter boxes?
As you might expect, each cat has its own preference when it comes to litter boxes. That being said, the majority of cats that are healthy and of the right age will happily use an enclosed top entry litter box, and here’s why.
1. They Offer Privacy
One of the main reasons that cats stop using their litter box is because it is in a busy location and doesn’t offer them enough privacy. Would you like to go to the bathroom in a busy room with people constantly walking past? No, me neither!
As top entry litter boxes are completely enclosed, they give your cat somewhere quiet and secluded to go to the bathroom. This means that they will be happier as they can go to the toilet in peace, but it will also help to encourage your cat to use their litter box so you have to spend less time cleaning up after them.
2. There are Different Types to Choose From
All cats are unique, which is what makes them great pets! However, they are known to be particularly finicky and particular when it comes to their litter boxes.
While some cats will love the added privacy that top entry litter boxes provide, some won’t like doing their business in a completely enclosed space and feel vulnerable if they cannot assess their surroundings while going to the toilet. These cats may be deterred from using top entry cat litter boxes because the enclosed design will plunge them into darkness and separate them from the outside world.
That being said, there are a few different types of top entry litter boxes, so you can easily get around this issue! You can choose designs that are transparent or have a transparent window. This enables your cat to monitor their surroundings while going to the bathroom, which is ideal for more nervous and cautious cats.
3. The Type of Litter, Size & Cleanliness is More Important
While some cats are fussy about the type of litter box they use, cats are much fussier when it comes to the type of litter used, how large their litter box is, and how clean it is, compared to whether it is enclosed or not. In fact, what type of litter box they use is the least of their concern!
Whenever owners report that their cats don’t like top entry litter boxes, often the cats actually don’t like how clean the litter box is. As I mentioned, top entry litter boxes can be easy to forget about as they are so successful at blocking out the sight, smell, and mess, and so if your cat does turn its nose up at their new litter box, check your cleaning routine has stayed the same.
Similarly, cats are picky when it comes to the type of litter you use, be that clay clumping litter, wooden pellets, recycled paper, or silicone crystals. Each one has a different smell and texture, and this is a much more important consideration than the type of litter box you’re using.
Also, size is such an important consideration when choosing a litter box. Make sure the top entry litter box is large enough for your cat to comfortably move around in. The opening should also be big enough for your cat to enter and exit the box easily. If you get the size of the litter box right, your cat shouldn’t care too much about the style.
However, some cats do have a preference for open litter boxes. The only way of knowing how your cat will get on with a top entry design is to try it and observe how they respond.
How Do I Get a Cat to Use a Top Entry Litter Box?
If you have decided to use a top entry litter box – which, in my opinion, is an excellent choice – you will need to train your cat to use their new litter box. If they have previously used a hooded or other enclosed design, the transition should be straightforward. However, if they have only ever used an open litter box, it takes a little more time for them to get used to their new toilet.
When you are training your cat to use their top entry litter box, it is important to remain patient. If your cat doesn’t use their new litter box right away, it doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t like it! Cats just don’t respond well to change, but most cats will take to a top entry litter box within a few days.
To get your cat to use a top entry litter box is easy if you follow my top tips below.
1. Keep Everything Else the Same
Cats are creatures that love routine. Therefore, if you are going to change to a top entry litter box, you should keep as much else about their litter box the same as possible.
Whatever cat litter you usually use, it is important you stick with this. Changing both the type of litter and the type of litter box at the same time can be overwhelming! If you do want to change the type of litter that you use, you can, but do so at a later date once your cat has become accustomed to using their new litter box.
Also, place the new litter box in the same location as the old one so that your cat knows where to go and registers that this is its new bathroom. Again, if you did want to change the location of the litter tray, you can do this, but hold off until your cat uses their top entry litter box happily.
2. Mix Old Litter with the New
You should also consider mixing a little bit of their old used litter in with the fresh litter when filling up their new litter box for the first time. By doing so, you are introducing their smell into the new litter box, which will trick them into thinking they must have going to the toilet in there before.
This way, your cat will be less reluctant to use the top entry litter box as their scent will help them to feel safer and more at ease. When doing this, be sure to only mix a little of the old litter – you don’t want to make the new litter box dirty before they’ve even used it as this could deter them entirely!
3. Remove Their Old Litter Box
You may want to hold onto your cat’s old litter box, just in case they don’t take to their new one. However, be sure to move it to a place that your cat does not have access to. If they see their old litter box, they’ll probably continue to use this and ignore the new one.
You can place it in a room of your house and keep the door shut at all times so that they don’t have access to it. However, if you can remove the litter box from the house completely this is the best option – cats have a strong sense of smell and are smarter than we think. Even if you think you’ve done a successful job of hiding their old litter tray, they will likely be able to hunt it down! Therefore, keeping the litter box in your garage if you have one is a good idea.
4. Show Your Cat Their New Litter Box
Even though you are placing the litter box in the same place as the old one, it is still important you show your cat the new litter box. Your cat trusts you, and if you place them on or near their new litter box, they will be more convinced that it is a safe place.
Try placing your cat next to or on top of the top entry litter box and let them have a sniff around. They should be able to smell their litter and their scent, and they will form an association between their new litter box and where they should be doing their business.
5. Let Them Figure it Out
As much as cats are fussy and hate change, they’re also not stupid. You are likely worrying that your cat won’t take to their new litter box and may try a whole host of techniques to encourage them to use it, such are luring them with treats or taking them to the litter box regularly just in case they’ve forgotten!
However, the best thing you can do after showing your cat where their new litter box is is to leave them to it. Nine times out of ten, your cat will use the new top entry litter box of their own accord happily within a few days, especially as there is now nowhere else for them to go.
6. Take the Lid Off
If after a couple of days your cat still seems nervous or reluctant to use their top entry cat litter box, try taking the lid off so that the box is completely open from the top. Your cat should feel more comfortable jumping in and using their litter tray like this as they can easily exit the tray, helping them to feel less vulnerable.
After three days, you can try replacing the lid and seeing how your cat responds. They should have realized that their new litter box is safe after all and be comfortable using it with the lid on.
7. Clean Accidents Up Thoroughly
Throughout this potty training process, there may be a few accidents on the floor and other spots around your home. If your cat does accidentally do their business somewhere they shouldn’t then clean the area thoroughly using an enzymatic cleaner.
Enzymatic cleaners are specifically designed to break down both stains and odors. Using one of these over a regular cleaner should remove any stains from your carpet, while completely removing the scent of your cat. If your cat can smell themselves, it is possible that they could associate this patch on your carpet as their new toilet! Therefore, by cleaning the area thoroughly it makes it less likely that they will go back there.
There are of course both top entry litter box pros and cons, but overall, I truly believe the benefits outweigh the negatives. They are great at containing mess and odors, are one of the most attractive designs, and are the easiest enclosed litter boxes to clean. If you have a messy cat, a cat that loves to spray, or dogs and small children, they’re also by far the best option out there!
That being said, top entry litter boxes aren’t for everyone. You do need to keep on top of cleaning so nasty smells don’t build up inside, and you shouldn’t get a top entry litter box if you have a young kitten, a senior cat that has reduced mobility, or an extremely overweight cat.
However, most cats will love the privacy of top entry cat litter boxes, and will soon become accustomed to their new toilet if you follow the tips outlined in their articles to make potty training your cat easy. Also, remember to get a litter box that is the right size for your cat!
If your cat doesn’t like their new tray, you can always switch back to their old one, but with the huge list of benefits, it’s definitely worth the risk.