Inappropriate elimination (referred to by veterinarians as perichezia or periuria) is the technical way of describing a cat that pees anywhere but inside his or her litter box. This behavior results in rooms or entire homes to become filled with malodorous feline pee. When trying to determine why a cat isn’t using its litter box, several factors must be evaluated. Among these is the type of litter box used in a household.
Until recently, there was a fierce debate about whether a cat is more likely to use covered litter boxes or uncovered litter trays. (Cat behaviorists usually argued that cats with inappropriate urination problems were more likely to use a litter tray without a covering.) Thankfully, a recent academic study by the Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine puts the “covered versus uncovered” debate to rest.
Litter Boxes: Covered vs. Uncovered
The study, led by three well known veterinarians, diagnosed the potty preferences of 28 cats. Over an extended period of time, each cat was given the option to use a covered or uncovered litterbox. The vets scooped the waist daily to compare which litter trays were being used the most. What they found was interesting.
For the most part, there wasn’t a significant statistical difference between open and closed boxes. Most cats would even switch between them, showing no preference whatsoever. However, 25% of the cats (or 8 of them) did show a covered vs. uncovered litter box preference. Of these, 4 preferred covered and 4 preferred uncovered. The results befuddled even the vets conducting it. The chances of this 50/50 split were nearly one in a million.
How to Choose for Your Cat
The study concluded that if a cat’s toileting facilities are kept clean (scooped a minimum of once a day), it probably won’t matter what kind of litter box you use for most cats. But when it comes to getting rid of cat urine odors, prevention is the best offense.
Whether you’re researching a litterbox for a new kitten or solving a kitty pee crisis, you should:
- Provide your feline friend with options. Make an open and a closed litter box available. Once the cat has made it clear he or she has a preference, you can give the other litter box to the local shelter.
- Maintain good litter box hygiene. Cats like clean environments. Scoop every box in your home at least once a day.
- Avoid electronic litter boxes until you’re certain the litter box isn’t the source of your cats inappropriate urination problem. These are far from natural and further complicate the situation.
Do cats prefer covered or uncovered litter boxes? As usual, the answer is complicated. Follow these tips and you won’t have to worry if you have the right kind of litter box for your kitty.
Grigg, Emma K., Lindsay Pick, and Belle Nibblett. “Litter box preference in domestic cats: covered versus uncovered.” Journal of feline medicine and surgery (2012).