There’s no denying that a disposable cat litter box is convenient in certain circumstances—like if you’re traveling a long distance with your cat (which we don’t recommend, unless absolutely necessary). However, it’s prudent to consider the downsides before making a switch to disposable litter boxes.
1. Disposable litter boxes are hard to clean.
Cleanup may be a breeze at the end of the month when you can throw the entire litter box out. But what about the scooping you’ll still need to do every day? (Reminder: Scooping daily is important for your cat’s kidney and urinary health.)
Regardless of the type of litter used, cat urine in particular is a “sticking” point when it comes to cleaning the litter box. In fact, most cat parents have done their fair share of scraping ammonia-reeking litter off the box. Disposable litter boxes are generally constructed of paper and other recycled materials (which is excellent!). However, some of these litter box designs include ridges, grooves, and corners that you’ll have a difficult time getting a litter scooper in. Furthermore, the very construction of disposable litter boxes means they are not tear- or shred-proof. So, if you have a kitty that likes to dig around using his nails, you’re going to end up with even more hard-to-clean grooves in the box.
2. With multiple cats, the costs add up.
Most disposable cat litter boxes are supposed to last up to four weeks, and each one typically costs anywhere from $3 to $20. The lower end of that scale sounds like a negligible transaction, we know—even month over month. However, we mustn't forget the golden rule when it comes to litter boxes: You should have n+1 traditional litter boxes per cat. So, if you have 3 cats, you need 3+1 litter boxes (a total of 4).
With that in mind, you’ll need to be purchasing 3-4 disposable litter boxes per month if you have even two cats in your household. Again, that doesn’t add up to too much on the low end of the range—until you think about the average lifetime of your kitties. Most indoor-only cats can live 12 to 20 years. That means that in a two-cat household, you’ll spend $1,296-$2,160 at a minimum on disposable litter boxes over the cats’ lifetimes. Maximum? $8,640-$14,400. Ouch!
3. Disposable litter boxes are not as green as you think.
We’ve established that most disposable litter boxes are made of recycled materials. However, some of their manufacturers tout that because these boxes are constructed of recycled and biodegradable materials, you can in turn recycle them upon disposal.
Do not recycle your disposable litter box! Why? Because cats can shed parasites and other zoonotic diseases in their feces, including toxoplasmosis, salmonella or campylobacter, and gastrointestinal worms. This is the same reason we don’t advocate for cat toilet training (or flushing your cat’s waste down the toilet). Bottom line: A disposable litter box belongs in the garbage.
We’re all for purchasing products made of upcycled materials. But at the end of the day (or month, in this case), you’re still putting trash out on the curb when you might otherwise not be.
4. You may not be able to use your cat’s preferred litter.
Disposable cat litter boxes are not well-suited for clay clumping litter. Many customers report that this type of litter gets “gunked up” against the base of the box, which makes it even more difficult to clean. This is likely due to urine content degrading the material, despite manufacturers promising that their boxes are “highly absorbent.”
This may not be an issue if your cat prefers silica or plant-based litter. But according to the ASPCA, most cats prefer clumping, unscented litter. Another potential issue here is that disposable litter boxes often incorporate baking soda to neutralize odors. This scent may also be off-putting to your cat.
5. You still have to scoop!
Finally, the most basic downside to a disposable cat litter box, or any traditional litter box, is that you still have to scoop the pee and poo. We can all agree: Scooping stinks. Of course, a self-cleaning litter box is not in everyone’s budget. But say you compare that up-front cost with what you may be spending on disposable litter boxes over your cat’s lifetime (see point #2 if you forgot!)… Suddenly, never scooping again—plus having a clean bed of litter for your cat every time—seems a lot more attainable!
Cover photo by Pedro Candeias on Unsplash