May 27, 2009 11:45 AM

Litter boxes are a lot of things, but pretty isn’t usually one of them. But now cat lovers and bloggers are buzzing about a funky new box called the ModKat. The cube-shaped litter box comes in four brilliant colors, has a cool rooftop entryway that helps keep litter in the box, and is equipped with a reusable earth-friendly liner. It’s a modern take on the old concept of the kitty latrine.

The product, which received the Editor’s Award at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair on May 17, was developed by Brooklyn cat owner and graphic designer Richard Williams and his business partner, Brett Teper. Williams says the idea was born from an ugly litter box used by his kitties Mika Jones, 12, and Sashi, 8.

The inspiration struck Williams when he and his wife moved into a new apartment two years ago and couldn’t find a spot for that ugly box. “I had to look at it every night and I couldn’t stand it. I was bitching about it, so my wife was like, ‘Why don’t you just redesign it?’” he recalls. “I told Brett Teper about it and being the industrial designer that he is, he said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’ ” Williams talked to PEOPLE Pets about how he took things that other people hated about traditional litter boxes – like bad materials and litter tracking – and created the ModKat.

Why did you make the entryway at the top?

Well, we were researching all the different kinds of litter boxes that are out there right now and there currently is a top-entry litter box out there called Clever Cat. And it’s a $30-40 top-entry litter box – it looks like a Rubbermaid garbage pale with a hole cut in it. It got really stunning reviews. There were no complaints about the cats coming in and out. And the [litter] tracking happens on top of the box, instead of all over your apartment. So, we looked at all the regular cat boxes and took all the negative comments people had about those and we took this idea of the top entry a little further. We incorporated a rooftop that has holes in it and a brush on the side of the scoop so you can brush the litter back in. We modernized it and made it a little more functional.

Does the ModKat completely eliminate litter tracking?

You’re still going to get a little bit of litter outside, but the ModKat really minimizes it. I’ve noticed that, in testing it, with the way cats come out of the rooftop [because of] gravity, the kernels sort of fall back in before they even get out.

What’s it made of?

The box is made out of high-quality plastic. It’s not like flimsy plastic you see in the market place. It’s thicker, more durable plastic that really holds color nicely and has a real high-gloss shine to it. The liner is similar to an Ikea bag. We don’t want people buying those ugly plastic liners anymore, they’re bad for the environment, and cats scratch through them anyway. So we’re sort of promoting this idea that you can use just the liner and it’s rip-resistant.

Do you think this is the answer to the ugly litter box?

It absolutely is. That’s the biggest thing about it – it looks good. It will blend in with your accessories or your furniture. The white one goes [with décor] in the kitchen. But the thing is, we understand it’s not for every cat. If you have an older or elderly cat with arthritis or you have a super-fat cat, they might not want to use it.

How hard is it for cats to learn to use the rooftop entryway?

Cats are normally curious creatures. When I took mine home for the first time, the first night my cats went in it. What we recommend is take a few scoops of the old litter, so the smell is in there, and put it in the ModKat with a little bit of new litter. Once the cat smells their litter in there, and once they smell their scent, they’ll know exactly what to do. Cats that normally use hooded litter boxes will go right in.

Want a ModKat litter box for your home? Pre-ordering begins this week on All orders will receive $20 off the $180 retail price.

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