I got a great question recently for my show Cat Chat: “What’s up with top-entry litter boxes? Are they okay for cats or were they designed for human comfort?”
I appreciate the fact that this gentleman intuitively recognized that there is nothing natural, convenient or appealing to a cat to be required to climb on top of a plastic bin, drop down through a hole in the top to do his business – and then have to leap back up out afterward!
It’s little wonder there are so many Out-of-Litter-box soiling issues when cat people purchase items for their kitties without viewing them from the feline perspective. When a cat needs to relieve himself he would naturally go to an out of the way spot – maybe under a bush if he’s outdoors – squat, cover it and then get on with his day! Cats are not “programmed” to climb up and then down into a small cave to get relief!
* People who buy a top entry litter box may think it’s a good solution if they have a cat who vigorously covers his waste and sprays some litter outside a conventional box (there are nice mats made expressly to catch that litter).
* Or they may welcome the enclosed box because it covers up the direct view of a litter box and its contents (buy a good looking litter box and scoop it frequently and it will look like a sand trap on a golf course!).
* Or they imagine that they won’t have to smell a litter box that has only a hole in the roof (but why would their cat want to drop into a box smelling of ammonia and worse – when litter is actually only smelly if not scooped regularly?).
There are numerous other reason against forcing your cat to enter his toilet through the roof!
* For an aging cat, the natural onset of arthritis makes a top entry box a real physical challenge (and makes Grandma’s Persian rug in the corner of the dining room a very attractive alternative!)
* Exiting from a top entry box is a challenge to any cat, even not yet aged, since it’s difficult to propel themselves upwards from a slippery box. All cats are fastidious and don’t want to have to push off to exit from the area they just a soiled, either.
* In a multi-cat household, the possibility of a pussy cat being interrupted in her daily “bathroom rituals” by another cat landing on the roof above her is worrisome (and can plant the seed of an idea to use the childrens’ beds for future toileting needs.)
My book THE CAT BIBLE: Everything Your Cat Expects You to Know has loads of advice on how to choose simple, large-enough litter boxes (because multiple boxes are needed even for a one-cat household) , where to position them, and how to clean them.
Just think about it from your own perspective for a minute: how would you feel if – instead of walking into a bathroom – you had to climb up on top of an outhouse, then drop yourself down through a narrow hole (heaven forbid you put on a few pounds!) and lower yourself into a dark hole. Knowing that once you relieve yourself you’d have to haul yourself back up out through that hole – and then get down again off the roof. Not to mention how it would feel if you were in the middle of your business and other family members presented themselves at the top opening. You never saw them coming – and there they are, staring down at you!
Tracie began her career as a radio personality with a live show – DOG TALK® (and Kitties, Too!) – on the local NPR station in the Hamptons, Peconic Public Broadcasting (WPPB) from Southampton, New York (the show is now also carried on the NPR station Robinhood Radio in Connecticut and the Berkshires). DOG TALK® won a Gracie® Award (the radio equivalent of an Oscar) in 2010 as the “Best entertainment and information program on local public radio” and continues weekly after more than 450 continuous shows and 9 years on the air. Tracie’s live weekly call-in show CAT CHAT® was on SiriusXM satellite radio for seven years until the Martha Stewart channel was canceled in 2013.
Tracie lives in Vermont where the Radio Pet Lady Network studio is based, on 13 acres well-used by her all-girl pack – two lovely, lively Weimaraners, Maisie and Wanda, and a Collie-mix, Jazzy.