Cat Litter in Cardboard Boxes. Is It Safe?


Cardboard litter boxes have become a popular option for cat owners in recent years. They provide an eco-friendly and convenient alternative to traditional plastic litter boxes. There are several reasons why cat owners may want to use a cardboard box for litter:

1. Cardboard is more sustainable than plastic. Cardboard litter boxes can be recycled or will biodegrade in landfills much faster than plastic. This makes them an environmentally friendly choice. (

2. Cardboard boxes are inexpensive and disposable. Once they become soiled, cardboard litter boxes can simply be thrown out and replaced. This saves cat owners the hassle of scrubbing and cleaning a plastic litter box.

3. Some cardboard litter boxes come with litter already inside. This convenience factor appeals to many cat owners who don’t want the extra step of pouring litter into a plastic box.

4. Cardboard boxes are lightweight and collapsible for easy transport and storage. This makes them ideal for travel or multi-cat households.

With the rising popularity of eco-friendly products, biodegradable cardboard litter boxes offer cat owners a guilt-free way to dispose of litter waste. Their convenience and affordability provide practical incentives to choose cardboard over plastic.

Pros of Cardboard Litter Boxes

One of the biggest pros of using a cardboard litter box is that they are very cheap and easily obtainable. Cardboard boxes can be picked up for free or very low cost from many retail stores, making them an extremely budget-friendly option compared to plastic litter boxes. You can often find cardboard boxes in a variety of sizes, allowing you to find one that will suit your cat’s needs. The disposable nature of cardboard boxes also means you don’t have to worry about cleaning or maintaining the litter box over time. Simply toss it out when it’s time for a replacement. Many cat owners like having an inexpensive, temporary litter box option for travel or other situations where a permanent litter box is not ideal. Overall, cardboard litter boxes offer convenience and affordability (source).

Cons of Cardboard Litter Boxes

There are some downsides to using cardboard litter boxes that cat owners should consider. Cardboard boxes are easily damaged by moisture and cats’ claws which can limit their lifespan. As noted by Litter Robot, cardboard boxes may only last a few weeks before becoming damaged and unusable. The absorbent cardboard material can become saturated with urine which causes it to weaken and fall apart. Cats’ sharp claws can also shred and tear the cardboard when scratching in the litter.

Another issue discussed by ChillX is that cardboard litter boxes lack durability and may not hold up well with repeated use. The walls of cardboard boxes can sag or collapse inward when saturated or scratched. Pieces of cardboard can also break off or detach from the base leaving litter scattered outside the box. For these reasons, cardboard litter boxes may need to be replaced frequently.

Litter Box Liners

Using plastic litter box liners can help protect the integrity of a cardboard litter box and extend its lifespan. The smooth plastic surface can prevent urine from soaking into the cardboard. Liners also make cleaning the box easier – you can simply remove and replace the plastic bag instead of scrubbing the box each time.

Look for heavy duty liners designed specifically for litter boxes. Standard plastic trash bags can tear easily. Steer clear of biodegradable or compostable liners, as they break down quickly. Make sure to get a properly fitting size – too large and the liner may bunch up, while too small can lead to leaks.

Liner use does come with some tradeoffs. Some cats dislike the plastic feeling or refuse to scratch in the liner. The liner can also trap odors over time rather than absorbing like cardboard. But overall, litter box liners are an easy way to extend the usable life of a cardboard litter box for many cats. Just be prepared to remove clumped litter and solid waste daily.

Litter Options

You’ll have more litter choices with a regular litter box, as cardboard tends to work best with clumping clay litters since they are highly absorbent. Litters made of plant materials like corn, wheat, pine, or newspaper are typically less absorbent than clumping clay. This means you’d have to change them out of a cardboard box more frequently as the absorbed urine will saturate the box.

Silica gel crystals are also less absorbent, so they too would require more frequent changing. You generally want to use a litter that clumps well and locks in odors if opting for a cardboard litter box. Clumping clay is ideal, but there are some plant-based options that clump decently too.

Avoid using lightweight litters like crystals or paper in a cardboard box as they can stick to the box when wet and tear it when removing clumps. Test out litters first to ensure they clump well and don’t damage the box.

Litter Box Size

Make sure the litter box is large enough for your cat to turn around and dig. The litter box should be at least 1.5 times as long as your cat from nose to tail. Cats don’t like cramped litter boxes that don’t give them enough room to move. If the litter box is too small, your cat may start eliminating outside the box.

For kittens and cats under 10 pounds, consider a litter box that is at least 16×12 inches. For cats 10-15 pounds, go with at least an 18×15 inch litter box. And for cats over 15 pounds, choose a litter box that is 20×17 inches or larger.

Oversize litter boxes give your cat more freedom and space. Just make sure there is still ample room around the litter box, so your cat can easily enter and exit.

Litter Box Location

One of the most important factors in successfully using a cardboard litter box is choosing the right location to place it. You’ll want to put the litter box in an area that is easily accessible for your cat, but also in a low-traffic area of your home. According to this article from Daily Paws, cats prefer their litter boxes to be in a quiet, peaceful, and private location.

Some ideal spots to place a cardboard litter box include a spare bathroom, laundry room, basement, or closet. Avoid high-traffic areas like hallways or the kitchen, as cats don’t like to be disturbed while using the litter box. You’ll also want the box to be on the same floor where your cat spends most of their time. Placing it in an out-of-the-way corner or behind furniture can help keep it discreet.

Make sure your cat can easily access the litter box. Don’t place it somewhere up high or behind storage bins. Aim for a spot that’s low to the ground and has a clear entry and exit path. This will encourage regular litter box usage.

Cleaning and Maintenance

Cardboard litter boxes require more frequent cleaning and replacement compared to plastic litter boxes. The porous cardboard absorbs odors and moisture over time. Scooping the litter daily is essential to remove waste and help control odors. The litter should be dumped, and the box fully replaced every 2-3 weeks according to most experts (Cattime, 2022).

Some key maintenance tips include:

  • Scoop waste from the litter box daily.
  • Every 2 weeks, dump out all litter, wash the box with mild soap if needed, allow to fully dry, and refill with fresh litter.
  • Replace the cardboard box itself every 4-6 weeks or whenever it becomes overly saturated or worn (PrettyLitter, 2022).
  • Use baking soda or an odor absorber in the bottom of the box to help control smells between changes.
  • Avoid scented litters that could be too strong for the absorbent cardboard.

Staying on top of regular scooping and replacement is essential for keeping any litter box clean for your cat. Cardboard boxes tend to need more frequent replacements than plastic. With the right maintenance routine, a cardboard litter box can work well for many cats.

Cat-Proofing Tips

Since cardboard is not as sturdy as plastic litter boxes, you’ll need to take some extra steps to reinforce the structure so it doesn’t fall apart when your cat uses it:

Reinforce the edges and seams with packing tape or duct tape. Focus on reinforcing the corners and any cut edges where the cardboard meets. The tape will help prevent the edges from fraying or pieces from peeling off. According to this DIY tutorial, you may need to add several layers of tape for extra durability.

You can also reinforce the bottom with tape, plastic sheeting, or even an extra cardboard panel. This will help prevent litter from soaking through if you have a cat that tends to kick litter out of the box.

Finally, avoid placing the litter box anywhere your cat might be tempted to scratch or climb on it. The sides likely won’t withstand sharp claws or force. Position it away from walls and furniture.

The Verdict

Overall, using a cardboard box as a cat litter box can work in a pinch but is not the ideal long-term solution. The main pros of cardboard litter boxes are that they are inexpensive and easy to obtain. However, cardboard absorbs urine and odor, degrades quickly, and does not contain mess as well as a plastic litter box. The temporary nature of cardboard means more frequent litter box replacements. While cardboard boxes are an option for cat owners in a bind, plastic litter boxes are more durable, contain odor better, and last much longer with proper cleaning. For cat health and home cleanliness, plastic litter boxes are the superior choice.

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