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5 Litter Box Alternatives – Cheap, Simple & Effective

Ed Malaker

By Ed Malaker

cat in cardboard box

A plastic litter box often costs more than $15 and is little more than a piece of plastic that will end up in a landfill. What’s worse is that these commercial boxes are rarely ideal for our pets and are often the wrong size and height. If you have ever wondered if there are alternatives, you’ve come to the right place. We’re going to give you five ideas that you can try out with your cat that are less expensive and customizable. We’ll help you get the ball rolling so you can come up with even more ideas to find the perfect solution for your cat’s needs.

The 5 Litter Box Alternatives

1. The Disposable Litter Box

Kitty's Wonderbox Disposable Litter Box

While technically still a commercial litterbox, disposable boxes are just now becoming popular, and many people might not know about them. These boxes often use recycled paper in their construction, so they are better for the environment. It also biodegrades, so after a few weeks, and the box begins to show signs of breaking down, you can feel good about tossing it in the trash. You can also throw it in a compost pile to make soil for a flower bed. Many brands contain baking soda or even activated charcoal to make them more absorbent and better at controlling odor. You can even use them as a liner in your plastic box.

2. Storage Containers

cat in storage container
Image Credit: RJ22, Shutterstock

Plastic storage containers are great for storing things, and most of us have several in the attic and under the bed. Luckily, most of that stuff is junk, and you can toss it to make a DIY litterbox for your cat. Cut a hole in the top big enough for your cat and put a few inches of cat litter in it, and you’re finished. You’ve created a modern top-entry litterbox that is going for big dollars on Amazon.

3. Cardboard Box

cat in box
Image Credit: Pixabay

We couldn’t find any data to back us up, but we were pretty sure the original litter box was an ordinary cardboard box. You can find a cardboard box in any size and shape so you can find the perfect one for your cat. It’s biodegradable, so you can toss it if it goes bad, and you can use a plastic bag or painter’s tarp as a protective shield to help make it last longer.

4. DIY Box

kitten in wooden box
Image Credit: ANURAK PONGPATIMET, Shutterstock

If you have any woodworking skills at all, it’s not difficult to build a wooden litter box out of some old wood or furniture you have lying around. You can build a box in a single afternoon, and it will last a lifetime. It also allows for extreme customization with endless possibilities for size and shape.

5. Puppy Pads

Image Credit: shamek, Shutterstock

The last option on our list is puppy pads, and while you probably won’t want to use these in your home, they can be a great way to create an emergency litter area in a garage if you need to care for multiple small kittens. Puppy pads have an absorbent side that faces up and a leak-proof plastic back. You can put several of these down with some litter on top to let the cats know where to do their business. The pads will catch everything, so it is easy to clean up.

What Are Some Litter Alternatives?

There are several alternatives you can use instead of the traditional clay litter. However, if you are a new cat owner, we strongly recommend starting with a clumping clay because it’s easy to use, inexpensive to buy, you can find it everywhere, and cats seem to really like it.

Wood Pellet Litter

wood pellets in a litter box
Image Credit: Maryia_K, Shutterstock

Wood pellet litter is similar to the pellets we’ve recently begun burning in furnaces. Small pellets of pine and cedar are extremely absorbent and have a natural wood scent that can help mask bad odors.

Paper Litter

okocat Natural Paper Cat Litter

Paper cat litter is a recycled material that is 100% biodegradable and better for the environment. It’s not as absorbent as clay or wood, but paper creates no dust and is soft on a cat’s paws, so it’s a good choice for cats with a medical condition.

Crystal Litter

Cat tray with crystal litter and scoop on floor near light blue wall
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

Crystal cat litter uses silica gel to absorb urine and dry out feces quickly. It’s extremely effective at reducing odors, and it produces no dust. It’s long-lasting and doesn’t track through your home.

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth
Image Credit: Mona Makela, Shutterstock

Some litter brands use diatomaceous earth to absorb urine and quickly dry out feces to help control odor. The diatoms can last 30 days or more so you can save money over the long run.


You have plenty of options to use instead of your standard plastic box if you use your imagination. We highly recommend the cardboard box. You can find them in any size, they usually don’t cost anything, and you can cut and shape them to suit your needs. With a plastic liner, you can get several months or more out of it, and it’s biodegradable, so you can throw it out and replace it. It’s also the perfect solution for cats that are too large to fit in most standard-sized boxes comfortably.

Sometimes even the best litter box setup needs a helping hand in combating invasive smells. Our Hepper Advanced Bio-Enzyme Cat Litter Deodorizer naturally breaks down odors at the source. This effective litter additive can help all types of cat litter last longer, saving you money, and is safe for all life stages. Best of all, it's 100% biodegradable and fragrance-free.

Hepper Advanced Bio-Enzyme Cat Litter Deodorizer Powder
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Hepper Advanced Bio-Enzyme Cat Litter Deodorizer Powder
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Featured Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

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