Introduction: Ferret-proof a Litter Pan With ULPM!
How would you like your ferret's litterpan to always look like this? I mean, we can't stop them from digesting food, but no more worrying about:
- Accidents outside the pan
- Accumulation of litter surrounding the pan
- Difficulty cleaning or regularly scooping
- Ferrets moving the pan and making a mess
If you have a Marshall or Ferret Nation cage with a removable litterpan, you don't have to concern yourself with these any more. A solution has finally arrived. The best part? Anyone can make it, and it can be ugly.
This is the Ugly Litter Pan Mod: a DIY mod for the Marshall and Ferret Nation brand cages that anyone can make. It's cheap (less than $20 if you already have the tools), and you probably have most of it lying around already. I'll take you step-by-step through every thing you need to keep your ferret's litter where it belongs. You don't have to be handy to make this, and in fact, I encourage you not to put too much effort into it. Mods for poop don't have to be pretty.
HOW IT WORKS
Much in the same way dresser drawers, roll-out cabinets, and other rail mounted drawers. A 1" slab is attached to the pan on both sides, and you are able to slide it in between (2) two 1" slabs attached to the tray. This insures the ferrets cannot lift the pan, or move it at all, but it still allows you to remove the pan for scooping and cleaning as necessary.
I designed it to be as simple, easy, and cheap as possible. No experience or craftiness needed!
Step 1: Gather Your Supplies!
Here is a quick laundry list of supplies, including good substitutes and general prices:
- (1) 17qt Rubbermaid "Clever Store". It's the perfect size to fit in the large bottom tray. You can substitute this out for any other "tupperware" style box that will fit. Avoid things that could be hazardous or uncomfortable for ferrets (actual rubber, chewable plastic, aluminum, cardboard, etc). $5 at Walmart.
- (1) Large Piece of Scrap Wood. As long as it isn't corkboard or moldy, any wood will do. You shouldn't need too much, so feel free to use up any scraps you have lying around. Don't have scrap wood?
- Purchase a 1/2" x 2' x 4' sheet of MDF wood at Home Depot for $9
- (2) Tubes of Super Glue. You can do the entire project with just two medium-sized tubes, permitted you let it dry properly and clean your surfaces. You can pick it up for $1 pretty much any where.
- For better results, use JB Wood Weld ($3)
- (1) Level and (1) Ruler. These are the easiest to substitute. Don't have a large ruler? Plank of wood works perfectly. No ruler? Measuring tape is just fine. I don't recommend eye-balling everything, but you can if you want. You can get these for $2 each at any store.
- (1) Hammer and (1) Phillips Screwdriver. Basic tools you can borrow from anyone if you don't have.
- (1) Pair of Safety Goggles. Have you heard how Carol is blind now. Safety isn't a joke. These are super cheap at $2 and you can pick them up anywhere from Auto Parts stores to Department stores.
- (1) Hand Saw (or Dremel). Don't get me wrong, I love my dremel. But what isn't pictured is a good hand saw. These aren't as cheap as our other tools (about $10), but it's well worth it to get a good one. You can use a hand saw, or a band saw, circular saw, dremel, or anything else that cuts wood.
- (8) Short Wood Screws. We'll use these to attach the pan mounts to the litter pan and the tray. Size isn't really important, just take a guess and don't get any too huge or too small. $1
- (2) Sheets of 60 grit sandpaper. Or anything else you can use to sand your surfaces that you didn't cut correctly. It's optional, but it's better to pick it up when you don't need it than in the middle of the project.
Once you have all your tools and supplies, remember that this doesn't have to be perfect. You don't have to have any experience with this (unless you're using power tools, in which case you may want to reconsider). Take your time, be patient, and let's begin!
Step 2: Plan Out Your Cuts
We're going to be cutting out some parts specifically to fit the pan. It's a good idea to draw out and measure how large the tray is, the pan is, and figure out about how big everything should be. You can use my template attached if you have a Marshall pan and the Rubbermaid tub. But otherwise, you can pretty much just eyeball this.
We need (4) four large slabs to mount to the side of the tray. These should be no taller than the litterpan you chose, and about an inch or two longer. Next, we need (2) two smaller slabs to attach to the litter pan. These should be around half the height of the litter pan, and no longer than it is. You can see them in the picture titled "Side #1-4" and "Pan #1-2".
Next, we need a total of (4) four 1"x12" planks. These should be the same length as the four large slabs (which is roughly 12"). These will support the litter pan. For the pan to slide into the gap produced by these planks, we need (2) 1"x11" planks (or the same length as your smaller slabs). You can find these labelled "Slot #1-4 and Insert #1-2"
Draw it out on your large slab of wood, make the pieces from the other wood. You don't have to make perfectly straight lines here, but it helps considering we probably won't be able to cut straight lines either.
Step 3: Start Hacking Away!
Before starting on the wood, we want to cut a "D" shape out of your litter pan. You can do this with your hand saw, but it's easier with something like a dremel. Your ferrets will be stepping over it to poop, so it doesn't have to look nice. Some things to remember when you cut it:
- No sharp points.
- Keep a 2" lip at the bottom so litter does not spill
- Allow them enough room to back up into in the cute way they do.
When you've cut it, use the 60 grit sandpaper to make the line completely smooth. This takes a lot of time, and don't breath the dust. Once you're happy with it, and you don't think your ferrets can get cut, move on to cutting the wood.
I prefer to use a dremel to make guidelines for my hand saw, but you can use whatever cutting method you like. It's hard work, and your cuts probably won't be straight if you do this by hand, but that's okay. You can see how incredibly precise I was in the picture. Don't worry if all your pieces look like this.
Step 4: Line Up the Slots
Once you have all (6) six slabs and all (6) planks, line them up on their respective surfaces to make sure everything lines up.
- Put (2) two of the large slabs on top of one another, they should be roughly the same size.
- Place (2) of the 1" planks on the large slab. One at the bottom, and one about 1.5" above it (see the picture).
- Repeat for the second set of large slabs.
- If you wrote on the wood, line them up with the writing facing inside. It's already ugly, but it never hurts.
Test fit that your "insert" planks slide inside of the "slot" planks. (see second picture). You should be able to slide it in easily, but tight enough that there isn't more than 1/2" of wiggle room. Once you're satisfied with it, trace out where they will be glued, and we're off to the next step.
I almost want to say this part is optional, but I highly recommend you take some of the 60 grit sandpaper you have left, and use it to curve the edges of the slots.This will make it easier to insert, and will also keep your ferrets from getting any potential splinters.
Step 5: Do You Even Super Glue?
If you don't have experience gluing wood (or anything) together, a couple common mistakes are:
- Not properly cleaning your surfaces
- Using the wrong kind of glue for your materials
- Not allowing the glue long enough to set and dry
- Using too much glue
You're going to want to avoid all of these, as they will just lead to glue-scraping frustration and disappointment. So, to begin, use a damp washcloth to wipe down your surfaces. We need to make sure the surface is free of sawdust so the glue dries.
Once the surfaces are clean and dry, spread a thin line of super glue / Wood Weld in an "X" pattern on one of the large wood slabs. Carefully place the other slab on top, lining them up as best as possible (see picture #3).
Note: You don't need to wait for the glue to dry until everything is glued, so place another line of glue in the center of the shape you traced out in the last step. Again, make sure not to use too much glue here, as it either won't stick or it will spill off the side. You should now have the first "whole" part finished (see picture #4 and #5).
To make sure we get a nice even fit, place the 1" insert plank into the gap from the (2) two "slots" you just glued. Line it up in it's resting position (picture #6), being careful for spilled glue. Place a thin line of glue on top of the insert, and gently place a smaller pan slab on top of it. Line the edges of the pan slab up with the edges of the large slab (picture #7). We do this so all pieces will glue together in a way they will all fit together.
Repeat this step for the other side.
Here's where a lot of people make mistakes:
- Read your glue's set time. Make sure it stays undisturbed for about 15 minutes longer than the listed set time.
- Place something heavy on top of the drying structure, to ensure the glue bonds well to the surfaces. Failure to do this may allow the wood to separate from it's natural curvature and you won't get a good bond.
- If in doubt, dry overnight.
- DO NOT "check" to see how your glue is drying. Don't try to separate pieces to see if it's drying. It is. If it's not, you can fix it tomorrow. This is a good way to ruin your work.
Step 6: Prepare the Litter Pan
Well, you've come this far. The hard part is over, and now all we have to do is attach the plastic litter pan to the wood mounts. Before we begin, play around with the completed pan slabs and make sure they are able to slide in and out of the side slots with ease. If you made a mistake, don't be afraid to do a little sanding or re-cutting.
Just like the last step, make sure your surfaces are clean and that you are using good plastic-to-wood glue. Super glue, JB Weld, and Gorilla glue are good choices here (Gorilla glue used sparingly, since it expands). Make another "X" on the pan slab, and line it up with the litter pan. Either use weights, or a clamp if you want to save time, and do this for both side. Let the glue dry completely before moving on.
Next, if you have a dremel or drill, make two small holes in the lip of the pan (see picture #2 and #3) for your wood screw to pass through. If you don't have these, you'll have to screw by hand, and it won't be easy (but it's doable with enough patience of course). Drive the wood screws down through the holes, and repeat on the other side. Make sure the screw is not sticking out or bending the wood by going too far in. If this happens, back the screw out and try again.
Step 7: Test Fit and Attach
You're almost done! This is the most satisfying part. You may want to round off the edges on the bottom of the side slots here using sandpaper (the ones that attach to the side of the large tray) to help it sit more level. Place the two slots on either side of the tray, and try to slide the insert slabs into them. The litterpan should be secure, and unable to move more than an inch or two in any direction. It should also be easy to pull out. Before you attach it and finish, check for these:
- The litter pan is too tight of a squeeze, or won't fit in at all. Sand off the flat parts of the large slabs to make them thinner. If you measured properly, this shouldn't take too much.
- The pan sits at an angle, and doesn't quite touch the tray. Make sure the fit isn't too tight, and then sand the bottoms of the insert planks to lower the height the pan sits at.
- The litter pan fits, but requires a lot of force to move in and out. Try adjusting the fit as described above, or sand off the inside of the slots a bit to get a nice smooth surface.
Once you're happy with the fit, use (2) wood screws to attach the side slabs to the tray. Again, make sure you don't stick out the other side or bend the wood at all.
Step 8: ... and You're Finished!
Congrats! DIY work doesn't come easy for everyone, so I'm glad you took the time to finish the project. Make sure it fits into the kennel properly. I would say to have your ferrets try to move it, but I'm sure they'll try whether you want them to or not.
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