Introduction: Hidden Litter Box With De-littering Cat Walk
My boyfriend and I live in a tiny Brooklyn studio apartment, approx 350 sq feet in total, which we share with a cat, 2 parrots, and 3 fish tanks, so space is at a premium. Between all the fur and feathers, there's already a lot of sweeping and vacuuming going on, so we came up with a way to keep tracked kitty litter off of the the floor. It started with me spotting this curb alert on the walk to work, which my boyfriend handily hauled home. It looks to be an Ikea Henjne shelving unit with 5 shelves.
Since our cat, Naledi, is a tiny 6lbs full grown (she's 6 years old), we felt most of the commercially available litter boxes were unnecessarily big. We scoured the web for an appropriately sized container for a litter pan and decided on the Ikea Pluggis recycling bin ($9.99). It's easily washable and the high sides would keep the litter from spilling out. The Pluggis measures 12 ¼ " W x 13 ¾ " L x 8 ¾ " H. We made the inner dimensions of the box just under 14" deep and 20" wide since we happened to have an empty corner next to the dining hutch that measured 20". Extra litter is stored next to the litter pan to maximize space use.
Cost: As we love making and building things, we already had most of the materials on hand, leftovers from other projects. The only two things we bought were:
- Pluggis recycling bin ($10)
- 8 feet length of 2 x 2 pine ($5)
- pair of small brass hinges ($4)
Other materials we used:
- Henjne shelving boards, deconstructed (measured approx 1/2" thick x 3 1/4" wide) (free)
- approx 19" x 25" wooden painted picture frame, glass and backing removed (free)
- 16" wide piece of 1/8" plywood, cut to fit frame (already had)
- pre-fabricated cardboard bookcase backing (free)
- approx 22" x 16" piece of 3/4" thick engineered wood (already had)
- 1/2" black egg crate grating (already had)
- 1 3/4" brass screws (already had)
- 1 1/4" headless nails (already had)
- felt pads
- Drill, drill bits, screwdriver bits
- assorted clamps
- circular saw
- Japanese handsaw (we have a Dozuki "Z" saw which is amazing)
- mallet and chisel
- paint brush
Step 1: Dismantling the Shelving
Self explanatory. We unscrewed the shelves from the supporting columns, then pried up the nails on the shelves, freeing the individual planks. All told we had 15 short planks of approx 30" length and 4 long planks approx 72" long. We saved the L-shapped cross braces, and they turned out to be a convenient thickness and shape later on in the project.
Step 2: Cutting the Wood
Cutting wood in a studio apartment presents some interesting limitations. To circumvent this, as we have in the past, we let down 40' of extension cords through the bay window, which faces the street. We then plug in whatever power tools we need to and do the work in the small semi-enclosed area near the recycling/trash bins and the patio garden! Since the pieces were small, we dispensed with setting up the sawhorses and just did the cutting using spare 2x4s for bracing. We clamped the side pieces together for cutting with a circular saw to ensure the edges were even.
Step 3: Assembling the Walls, Frame, Cat Walk, Door, Back
Side walls, framing, floor: we used 4 shelving planks side by side for each wall, screwing the planks to a 2x2 across the bottom edge. The side walls were then connected on the top and bottom using 2x2 cross pieces in both the front and back. Floor planks were cut to fit and laid out horizontally across the bottom and nailed into place. A 2x2 center support was placed on the top both to help with load bearing and also to help support the catwalk
Catwalk: The catwalk was cut from leftover egg crate grating I had from making an aquarium rockscape. I cut an L shape, leaving a 7" x 6" opening up through which the cat could jump when she finished using the pan. The idea is to maximize surface area and distance that she would have to walk in order to exit the litter box. Along the way, walking on grating would help shake any kitty litter she would have stuck on her paws. We used the little L shaped brackets of wood leftover from the Ikea shelf dismantling as supports for the grating and placed a piece of 1/8" plywood in the middle to "force" the cat to take the long way around.
Door: The door frame was a discarded picture frame that my sister found and brought back (without even knowing that I was building this). Conveniently, the frame was exactly the right size for a door. Additionally, the inside width of the frame was exactly 16", which saved me the hassle of having to get new plywood, since the piece I had was only 16" wide. The plywood was a perfect fit inside the frame. We kept it in place by nailing in nails at an angle along the edge. I cut a 7" x 8" opening in the door for the cat entry/exit with a dremel and sanded the edges smooth. We chiseled a groove for the hinges and attached the door to the frame.
Backing: We just used some extra bookcase cardboard backing that we took off an old bookcase that was being recycled. The bookcase itself was worn but the backing was fine. It was cut to size and nailed into place.
Step 4: Top Surface, Bottom Feet, Finishing Up
Top: This was a shelf that I have since taken down, made from 1/2" thick engineered wood. The shelf had been stained Kona brown and varnished already, and I took off about 3/4" from the long edge in order to make it fit into the corner. I then used the strip we took off, cut it in half, and nailed it to the underside on both sides like a brace to keep the lid from shifting or sliding off.
Bottom: We added 4 inch "feet" using 2x2 pieces in order to elevate the litter box off the floor just enough to clear the annoying floorboard trim, which is approx 3 1/2" high and juts out 1" from the wall. This way, we're able to push the back of the litter box flush against the wall, rather than leave a 1" gap. We glued felt pads to the feet bottoms and nailed a plank to the front bottom horizontally to neaten the look.
Finish: We're planning on painting the door with Martha Stewart Black Coffee Metallic Glaze (which apparently has since been discontinued, much to my sadness). I think we're going to leave the gold trim on for now so I can say that the cat has a gilded toilet :). When the door is closed only a minimal amount of light comes through the opening, so we are leaving the interior unpainted for better visual acuity once the cat is inside. The door we're keeping closed with a simple hook latch.