Privacy vs Safety in the Litter Box
This is, by far, my biggest issue with covered boxes. While we’re busy worrying about privacy, a cat is worried about safety. Being in the litter box puts a cat in a vulnerable position. If you have a multicat household and there’s the least bit of tension between cats, imagine how stressful it could be for one cat to go into a covered box where there’s only one way in and out. I’ve often seen situations where one cat uses the opportunity to ambush another cat in the litter box. It’s not unusual to see one cat sitting on the top of the box, ready to pounce as soon as the other cat exits the litter box. In this situation, the cat who is being ambushed will often decide to choose a much safer location for elimination. That location choice is often out in the open with more visual warning time so the cat has the chance to get away when an opponent enters the room.
There doesn’t even have to be tension in a multicat home for a cat to feel vulnerable in a covered box with no escape potential. It could just take one or two times of a cat being surprised by another cat having to use the box at the same time. It could be the family dog who sticks his nose in the box or even a toddler following the cat as he heads to the litter box. The bottom line is if a cat feels the litter box is not a safe location, his survival instinct will tell him to seek another option for elimination.
Litter Box Olfactory Assault
Another thing to think about is how a covered litter box must appear to an animal equipped with such incredible senses. Since your cat’s nose is often so close to the litter substrate itself, imagine how unpleasant it is to be in a covered box that doesn’t have enough air circulation to adequately dry the litter. The smell in the box could be overpowering enough to drive kitty away.
Cramped Accommodations When in the Litter Box
Many litter boxes, open or covered, are often too small. I recommend to my clients that they purchase large storage containers and then cut an entrance on one side for the cat to have easy access. Combine the fact that many litter boxes are too small with putting a cover on as well, and you have a cramped, unappealing litter box set-up. For many cats, the only way to use the box is to crouch down or stick their heads out the entrance.