Yay for your first kitty!- Is a covered litter box better than a "pan" style box? What are the advantages of a covered box?
Generally, covered boxes should be avoided. They are sort of like the cat equivalent of an outhouse. All the smell gets trapped inside and makes the cat hate using it, which could lead to them finding other places in your house to eliminate. We have a covered box only because we have a dog that likes to get into the litter box (gross, I know). If you do go the covered box route, make sure to clean it twice a day instead of once a day. I like large uncovered boxes, like the Cat's Rule boxes. If a covered box works best for your home (which I totally understand, because who wants to look at a litter box?), then just clean it more often with bleach and change the litter more often.- How do you prevent kitty litter from getting all over the floor around the box? We have a towel underneath our cat's box and he still gets it all over the floor.
Some litters are worse than others for this. The regular Feline Pine pellets are great for this because there isn't much to scatter around. The clumping Feline Pine is awful for this, it gets everywhere. You'll have this issue with most clay litters and natural litters. Try Feline Pine pellets, crystal litter, or Yesterday's News. OR they make mats that you can put for cats to step out onto after they use the box and the mat catches the litter pieces. A covered box might help with this problem too. We have the Booda Dome with the little ramp on the side and that catches all the excess litter.- What's the best litter? We bought a sack of "Feline Pine" (http://www.naturesearth.com/) and it makes the room smell great and it's apparently flushable -- though we've never tried flushing it. It does not clump very well so when we scoop out the waste we're taking a lot of the litter with it.
I liked the Feline Pine pellets because they were cheap and environmentally friendly. My issue was that when the cat pooped, they wouldn't cover the poop like they did with other litter and so the scent issue was worse. The pellets aren't a clumping litter so you just shake the box so the broken down pellets settle at the bottom and scoop out the solid waste. I never flush litter, even though it says you can. I HATED the Feline Pine clumping stuff, it tracked everywhere.
My favorite litter is World's Best Cat Litter, and I've tried a lot. Actually, I also really liked the Dr. Elsey crystal litter but it was just too expensive.- Are litter box liners a good idea for the box?
No, these are pretty much useless. Cats scratch them up and the litter gets through the holes on the bottom. You will have to clean out your litter box with bleach or white vinegar at least once a month, liner or no liner.
I highly recommend buying a stainless steel scoop, they are much better than plastic scoops.