If you're new to cat care, you may be wondering what litter box liners even are. Sure, everyone knows that cats use a litter box for elimination but not many are also aware of the thin sheet of plastic that can separate the litter from the box. And those who are, may not be familiar with the abundant cheap(er) alternatives.
In short, litter box liners are designated sheets of plastic you can buy to line the litter box with. They protect the inside of the box from coming in contact with acidic urine which means the box will last longer.
Alternatives to litter box liners include -
- Using generic trash bags.
- Spraying the box with non-stick oil spray.
- Adding more litter to the box.
- Switching to a different type of litter.
Please don't rush to apply any of the above solutions before you read through the article. Some cats don't appreciate any change in their litter box routine, so you need to make sure the alternative you're about to try is a good one for you - and won't upset your cat.
So what's a litter box liner anyway?
Simple. It's a dispensable plastic sheet that owners place at the bottom of the litter box before pouring in fresh litter. Liners basically protect the box itself from direct contact with waste and litter.
This is what they may look like -
Looks like plastic bags? That's because they are practically that. Designated for use in the litter box. Keep that in mind for when we discuss the litter box liners alternatives.
Why Protect the Litter Box?
A cat litter box is intended to get dirty, so what’s the point of trying to keep it clean with a litter box liner?
For several reasons, actually. Here's a quick list before we dive right into each one.
- Reduce smell
- Keep the box clean(er)
- Avoid clumps sticking to the bottom of box
When your precious cat’s waste get stuck to the bottom and sides of the litter box, they’re not buried in litter and can end up smelling pretty bad. And, since it’s hard to clean these off, they stay there and continue producing that foul odor.
With a litter box liner, anything that gets stuck to the liner can be quickly and easily removed so there’s no lingering scent.
Every time your cat scratches the litter pan while digging or you scrape it with the scoop, there are tiny cuts created in the plastic. These are impossible to clean out and will soon be the home to all kinds of bacteria, rendering the litter box an unsafe place for cats and humans.
However, when you have a liner in place, it protects the plastic from scratches and allows it to stay much cleaner as all the bacteria are contained in the litter and liner.
Avoid Stuck Clumps
One of the most common complaints cat owners have about changing the litter box is that clumps of litter and other things get stuck to the bottom and sides of the litter box. Although it’s more common with clumping cat litters, any cat litter can allow other things to stick to the box.
This is the main reason that many people choose to use litter liners, so they can avoid the annoying and disgusting task of scraping the litter box clean.
Litter Box Damage
Did you know that you’re supposed to replace your cat’s litter box every year?
That’s because the chemicals in your cat’s urine damage the plastic and cause it to break down over time. In fact, some people who had a litter box around for too long experienced the joy of having it fall apart upon lifting it!
Although we still recommend replacing it every year, you won’t have to worry about extensive damage being done to the litter box if you use liners. It may even help you save some money since you can get a cheaper litter box without worrying about it falling apart.
Litter Box Liner Examples
We’ll get to the alternatives soon, but first, let’s look at exactly what makes a good litter box liner. That way, we know what we want to look for in an alternative litter box liner.
These are some of the most popular litter box liners on the market because they are truly heavy duty. They have plastic that’s 2 millimeters thick which prevents them from getting holes scratched in them by your cat. They also come with a pull-string to easily close when you’re ready to remove the liner and are extra large so they fit nearly any litter box.
As these are a bit thinner than the heavy-duty variety, they may not work for exuberant diggers. However, their lower price tag and ability to fit in large litter pans makes them ideal for many people. They also have a drawstring that makes it simple to seal before throwing it away.
The thickest litter box liners on the market at 3 millimeters thick, these are also extra large and fit even jumbo-sized litter boxes. Like the others on this list, they come with a built-in drawstring that makes cleanup a cinch.
Alternatives to Litter Box Liners
Now, here are a few other options you have to protect your kitty’s litter box without buying liners. These are perfect for saving money, or for trying if you run out of liners and need to use something before you’re able to get more liners.
Generic Trash Bags
When it comes to using regular garbage bags as litter liners, the most important thing to look for is thickness. Cat claws can easily puncture thin trash bags, so you need to make sure you’re using ones that are heavy-duty, like these thick bags by Hefty or these by Ultrasac -
Something else to think about when choosing trash bags is their size and shape. You probably won’t be able to easily put a whole bag in as a liner, which means having to cut it down to size. This causes a new problem.
Without an easy way to secure the bag to the litter box like a draw string, you may find yourself dealing with the bag falling into the litter pan. There are a few ways you can fix this.
- Place a big rubber band around the top of the bag and litter box.
- Use masking tape or duct tape to secure the bag to the box.
- Cut the bag large enough to tuck the top edges beneath the litter box.
- Tie single knots in the bags at the corners to keep it tight.
Use More Litter
Another way to solve the problem of the litter pan getting damaged or dirty is to use more litter. You may need to buy a deeper litter pan to avoid large messes, but using more litter can prevent a cat from getting to the plastic of the litter box while doing their business.
Most cats prefer more litter anyway. After all, in the wild cats have an unlimited amount of depth to work with when they start digging. A lack of desirable depth is actually one of the reasons that some cats will refuse to use their litter box.
Use a Non-Stick Litter Box Spray
Some cats seem to make it their mission to destroy anything extra you add to the litter box, which makes liners impossible. For those cats, there’s a non-stick litter box spray.
All you have to do is spray to coat the inside of a clean litter box as well as the scoop, and you’ll soon find the litter to be easier to remove without it getting stuck onto everything. There are several different sprays to choose from:
This fast-drying litter box spray can be used with both clumping and non-clumping litters. It can also be safely added to self-cleaning litter pans. One of the other benefits is that it has no odor so it won’t impact your cat’s litter box habits.
This litter box spray is made with natural ingredients so that it’s safe for your cat. It will also encourage cats to use the litter box as it’s scented with cat nip. So, if you have a cat that needs some incentive when it comes to the litter pan, this could be it.
For a litter box spray that does more than keep things from sticking, consider this one. It contains natural enzymes that help to eliminate odor so cleaning out the litter pan will be easy in more ways than one.
Other Non-Stick Sprays
If you’re thinking about trying a baking or other non-stick spray instead of an official litter box non-stick spray, then you may want to think again. While some people have had luck with this, others have not.
Those that have had problems with it report that it either doesn’t work at all, or that it leads to the growth of green mold over time. If you do try a non-stick cooking spray for your cat’s litter box, be prepared for these potential problems.
The problem may also be the type of kitty litter that you’re using as some are much more prone to stick to the sides and bottom of the litter box than others. sWheat Scoop, for example, is known in cat communities for turning into a cement-like material as it dries.
Clumping litters can also end up sticking to your litter pan and may pose some other health risks to your cat as well. For that reason, it’s best to stick with either a non-clumping litter or else one of these plant-based litters:
Found in both pellet and crumble forms, feline pine is created from waste sawdust from pines, making it environmentally friendly in more than one way. This won’t stick to the sides of your litter box because when it gets wet, it turns into a powder.
Pine is great for absorbing urine odors, which is one of the reason many people prefer Feline Pine in their cat’s litter box. All you have to do is scoop out the solids, give it a shake to send the powder to the bottom, and dump the whole pan when it’s 90 percent powder.
Many people agree that this really is the “world’s best cat litter.” It’s actually made with corn and is clumping, but the clumps stick to each other rather than the sides of your litter box. Another thing that makes this litter great is that it’s 99 percent dust free which helps keep your house clean.
For some owners, the biggest draw to this litter is that it is flushable. Because it’s made from all natural ingredients, it’s safe to flush which makes cleaning the litter box as easy as flushing the toilet!
Another clumping natural litter is made by Blue Buffalo from walnut shells. It has great odor control as well, and because it’s a fast-acting clumping litter, it won’t stick to anything but itself. That makes removing it easy and eliminates your need for a litter box liner.
Those who are environmentally-conscious will be pleased to know that this litter is completely biodegradable if added to a compost pile or otherwise disposed of properly. It also comes in a variety of formulas to suit any household.
Made from recycled newspapers, this natural litter is great for the environment and dust-free so it’s safe for your feline friends. Plus, it has baking soda added to it which will help reduce litter box odors, making your home a much more pleasant place to be.
This comes in pellets, but you can find the paper-based litter that clumps. What’s great about this litter is that it won’t stick to your litter box. That way, you won’t need to worry about using litter liners or finding a suitable litter box liner alternative.
Use a Disposable Litter Box
Something else you may consider if you want to make cleaning the litter box a breeze is to use disposable litter boxes. These can be used as liners in your current litter box and thrown away as needed or else replace your cat’s box entirely.
These are nice because they’re made from recycled paper and are completely biodegradable, so you don’t have to worry about the impact they make on the environment. At the same time, they’re sturdy and leak-proof so they won’t make a mess on your floor.
Do you have other ideas for litter box liners alternatives?
We hope you found these ideas useful. Do let us know if they work for you, or if you have other ideas for litter box liners alternatives by leaving a comment below.
Stainless steel steamer island pans (food trays) make the best litter box. 6 inches tall by 16 inches wide by 22 inches long approx. (I’m guessing) I bought mine on Ebay for 20 bucks shipping inc..
Nothing plastic cleans as well as SS.
Thank you for sharing that tip, Drew!
Thank you for this straight forward info about cat litter. I’ve been looking for a cat litter liner with a box bottom – instead of the totally flat litter bags. The box bottom would allow the litter bag folds to be at the bottom of the bag on the side of the litter box instead of on the side facing the litter. The totally flat bags force the bag folds to be on the side facing the litter where the clumps get caught in the folds. Yeech!
Maybe larger liners would do the trick? Otherwise, we would suggest posting about this in the cat forums at TheCatSite.com. Many active members there and maybe one of them would have a good suggestion.
I have been using Tidy Cat liners shaped like a pillowcase that you slide the litter pan into the liner.
To clean I just peeled the liner off the box inside out and tied a knot. Done!
But, sadly, they are not available anymore.
Are there other liners shaped like a pillowcase. NO DRAWSTRING.
Thanks in advance…..Shirley
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