Villeneuve Beugnet, V., Beugnet, F. 2020. Field assessment in single-housed cats of litter box type (covered/uncovered) preferences for defecation. Journal of Veterinary Behavior 36, 65-69.
Cats living without any outdoor access have to use litter boxes to eliminate. A lack of cleanliness is one of the main reasons for which cat owners consult their veterinarian. What has been identified as one of the major causes for this problem is an inappropriate spot for elimination which does not fit the cats' needs. The following measures are generally agreed about litter boxes: easily accessible in a quiet spot, appropriate size, sufficient number for the size of the home, and the number of cats. The choice of the litter box is mainly influenced by cat owners themselves as much as by commercial availability, rather than by scientific recommendation. The purpose of the present study was to assess which litter box type would be chosen by single-housed cats: a covered (closed) or an uncovered (open) litter box. A field test has been set up to analyze the cats' preferences, and two 4-week studies were conducted. During the first study, which included 13 cats, both litter boxes had the same surface area, whereas in the second study, which included 12 cats, the covered litter boxes had a surface area which was 17% larger than the uncovered ones. The cat's preference was assessed by daily counting of the feces in the boxes. When the surface area was the same, a tendency was in favor of the covered litter boxes with a significant difference at 10% threshold (P = 0.085) but not at a 5% threshold. This difference becomes significant at a 5% threshold (P = 0.011) in the second study in which the 17% difference in surface area clearly favored the covered litter boxes. Cats may prefer commercially available covered litter boxes as opposed to uncovered ones, if they have a larger surface area.