Introduction: Litter Sifter

Picture of Litter Sifter

I have three cats so keeping the litter box(es) clean can be a real chore. I bought one of those expensive self-cleaning litter machines but for the price I thought it could have been done simpler.

I have already made this for the two very large litter boxes I use. I recreated this in a smaller version for this instructable.

Step 1: Items Needed:

Picture of Items Needed:

Wire mesh fencing -- I'm not sure exactly what this kind is called (rabbit fencing, perhaps) because it's been so long since I bought it. It is very stiff and has about 1/2 inch squares. Be very careful when opening the bundle as it is under pressure and kind of explodes open! I wouldn't recommend chicken wire as it is too flexible and the holes are too big to sift properly.

Litter box -- for this type of project you'd probably want to use something much bigger like an under-bed plastic storage case. The one I have is 2x3 feet. (not the one pictured)

Tape measure

Tin Snips


Step 2: Measure the Inside Bottom Dimensions

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This is an older, spare litterbox, much smaller than the ones I originally did this project for.

Step 3: Measure and Cut the Mesh.

Picture of Measure and Cut the Mesh.

Add up to 24 inches to the inside bottom dimensions to allow for the sides. This extra will fold down to make 6-inch sides.

Cut the mesh. YOU WILL GET CUT HERE! Those little prongs are very sharp and you will invariably get scraped or cut. Be very careful!

Step 4: Shape for Cutting.

Picture of Shape for Cutting.

Turn the box over and shape the mesh to the bottom (length and width). This helps guide cutting out the corners in the next step.

Step 5: Cut Out the Corners.

Picture of Cut Out the Corners.

These can be discarded.

Step 6: Begin to Shape the Box.

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With the corners cut out, you can see where the extra 24 inches was added to form what will be the sides. 12 inches on each side.

Step 7: Bend the Sides Out and Down.

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I used the edge of my workbench to keep a relatively straight edge. Again, be very careful here! You still have a lot of exposed sticking points.

Step 8: Check the Fit.

Picture of Check the Fit.

It's still a little big here, which is better than too small.

Step 9: Cut the Corners If Too Large.

Picture of Cut the Corners If Too Large.

You only need to snip a couple squares at the bottom if needed.

Step 10: Secure the Sharp Edges.

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Bend back all the sharp edges. You only need an inch or so. You can see the previous extra corner snips I'd just made.

I used a wooden yardstick because it tends not to slip.

Step 11: Reshape the Mesh Box.

Picture of Reshape the Mesh Box.

Place inside the litter box again to check the fit. All edges should be relatively rounded now. I suppose you could make the sides even higher, but you would be limited by the size of the original mesh roll. It just needs to be high enough to be higher than the litter so you can grab it.

Step 12: Fill the Box.

Picture of Fill the Box.

Put as much litter as you can into it. There should be enough space at the top for you to grab the mesh without touching the litter. If your cat is a bottom-scratcher, with more litter it is less likely that they would get to the mesh.

After many years, I've found that Scoop Away is the best for my purposes.

Step 13: Wait.

Eventually your little darling(s) will find and use the box.

Step 14: A Present for You!

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Eventually you will be left with a gift. For Instructable purposes, I sifted after only two uses. With a larger litter box you can leave it quite a long time.

Step 15: Lift and Sift!

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Dump the waste into your waste bin. I find that old Scoop Away canisters work great.

Step 16: Pour the Litter Into a Temporary Container.

Picture of Pour the Litter Into a Temporary Container.

Step 17: Replace the Mesh and Pour the Litter Back In.

Picture of Replace the Mesh and Pour the Litter Back In.

With the three cats and the much larger litter box that I use, I only need to do this every few days.


maxman (author)2017-09-10

I'm going to make this tomorrow. Looks like you used 1/2" hardware cloth. I'm going to use 1/4".

sbrown9578 (author)2017-05-14

I have 4 cats. My husband hates to do the litter boxes so this would be great for him. We have to do our boxes everyday even though we have 6 of them. I couldn't imagine what we would find after 3 days. yuck. I wouldn't think it would be to healthy for the animal either. After all you flush every time you use the toilet, right????

RFilyaw (author)2008-04-30

My cat keeps pooping USB flash drives. What do I do?

Mnickle85 (author)RFilyaw2016-12-27

Take your USB flash drives and put them into a (Tupperware) container with a lid. Now your USB drives, and your cat, is safe.

urbanmari (author)2010-05-22

This looks like a handy device, but wanted to share the info with you that clay cat litter is strip mined. 

Since moving away from clay several years ago, I have purchased the wheat, the recycled newspaper, and now am very satisfied with a compressed pine shaving pellet litter. 

With compressed pine litter,
-The smells are all much less off-putting than it was with clay
-It's absorbent
-My cats seem to like it and don't get exposed to the dust that can hurt them
-The price is right for what my conscience demands

Verdann (author)urbanmari2011-06-06

Be careful that your cat isn't just using the pine cause it's the only thing available. I have a cat that gave herself a UTI from only using the box once a day because of the pine smell. Pine is actually poisonous to cats. The pine pellets are no longer poisonous due to the manufacturing method used gets rid of all the oils and whatnot that are poisonous. But the pine smell is still there, and can be off putting to cats who think that since they can smell the pine, they are in a poisonous environment.

momomarvel (author)Verdann2016-01-31

the main problem about pine pellets is pellets are made from "mcc" material-a what's left when making pressed wood for cabinets etc....tons of chemicals including formaldehyde. do NOT use that stuff! Very poisonous. Especially for a small animal!

belin1 (author)momomarvel2016-04-29

Thank you for this info.

belin1 (author)Verdann2016-04-29

Thank you for this info.

raptor_demon (author)2015-07-28

i was just thinking about making this and wondered if anyone else had tried it! is it still working out for you?

MicioGatta (author)2014-09-29

Really good idea!

huskerland3 (author)2013-12-26


mcallahan6 (author)2011-10-20

the wire is called hardware cloth and it comes in 3 sizes. 1/2" 1/4" 1/8"

lemonie (author)2007-01-01

Looks good, do you have any advise on cat-vomit?

bobcash (author)lemonie2011-08-23

Get a vomit eating dog!

greenacreslabs (author)2008-01-26

Well the concept is good but not realistic for my cats who are stand up pee'ers. I always have to wipe down the wall that they peed on. Cleaning the wire would be a real problem in the winter. For me this would be too much work to keep clean. I have worked with this kind of wire you are right it will cut you.

You could build some kind of small, wall mounted cat toilet that either drains into a soilstack or a kitchen sink drain

indomitable (author)2007-02-08

this is a well made instructable, i would definitly try this if i wasnt gonna do the toilet thing again. i did my instructable on kitty toilet training. this would work for a first litter box though.... hmmmmm.... *contemplates hunting down the old litter box* thanks for the fabulous idea. :)

urbanmari (author)indomitable2010-05-22

We did the same thing in our house until learning this.  You gotta' hear this about flushing cat poop:

From the National Resources Defense Council & verifiable with other sources too

"EPA brochures and a variety of other publications say you can flush it down the toilet, minus the litter. However, research suggests that the eggs of Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite found in cat poop, may survive the wastewater treatment process and contaminate waterways. [Especially if there is a heavy rain that causes sewage drains to back up, -my addition]

While Toxoplasma rarely affects healthy people, it can cause defects and brain damage in babies whose mothers were exposed when pregnant. Brain disease can also develop in people with compromised immune systems.

In addition, Toxoplasma has been shown to harm sea otters and may affect other wildlife as well. As the eggs can last for up to a year in soil, burying cat poop is also problematic. For this reason, researchers working in the field recommend keeping cats indoors and disposing of waste and litter in the trash in sealed plastic bags.

SurferGeek (author)2006-11-05

Some cats will balk at digging through the litter an hitting that metal mesh. A friend has the commercial version of this, essentially two large plastic colanders and the cats used it for a week and then started crapping on the carpet...

urbanmari (author)SurferGeek2010-05-22

      informative, too.

spinach_dip (author)SurferGeek2006-11-05

so get two litter boxes, and... 1) dump the litter, clumps and all, into the second box, lined with the sifter 2) pull out the sifter and dispose of the clumps 3) put the sifter into the now empty litterbox and store it under the now full second litter box 4) repeat as needed.

ARVash (author)spinach_dip2006-11-05

I think the main problem is the cat didn't like the mesh , not the fact that it wasn't clean. whatever though :P

spinach_dip (author)ARVash2006-11-18

nope, you misunderstand. The cleaned box has (from top to bottom) litter, litter pan with smooth bottom, shifter, second pan with smooth bottom. The cats never find the mesh in the litter pan.

JanxAngel (author)spinach_dip2008-08-21

This is a great idea. I had a sifting pan long ago, and I got rid of it after a couple of months because the litter would get wet in between the slats and stick there. I'd have to take it outside and hose it off to get the bits out so it would sift properly again. If I had known about this method I would have kept it I'm sure since by the time I dumped it into the pan with the sifter, the wet litter would have hardened.

katerlyn (author)2010-05-02

thanks so much, i'm using pea gravel and the plastic screens with pans like this are starting to break. it really works to put under a gutter spout and now i have rain barrels so i hope to work out something with that!

I also will try putting holes in some of the many litter boxes...even though i did purchase 100 feet of hardware cloth at some company to make cat tunnels but never got it done..... thanks for this idea, we were going to take wood and frame such, but this is much much better, wood would get stained...

an idea i hope to post sometime...we use restore habitat for humanity store, 2.50 bifold doors to make cat doors in the patio door...they look great! have never posted but i'd like Homero to get some credit for doing this for me.

also i realize i can make a cat door that goes one way just by putting obstacle on one side, it took purchasing an expensive cat door to figure this out. smile.

stienman (author)2006-11-06

Wire mesh fencing -- I'm not sure exactly what this kind is called

Generally it's called "Hardware Cloth" and is sold with openings of various size - most common is 1/4", but 1/2" as mentioned here is also readily available.


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xenobiologista (author)stienman2008-02-10

Chicken wire? That's what I'd call it.

RFilyaw (author)xenobiologista2008-04-30

Nah, chicken wire is a very specific hexagonal type fencing, usually too large and lightweight to be used for this purpose.

junniver (author)2008-01-15

can't you just push the mesh back? we have the same brand of litter anyway.

jessyratfink (author)2007-06-24

I would do this if I wasn't so lazy, heh. We just have a system worked out in our apartment so that when my boyfriend or I go to the restroom, we have to clean the litter box while we're in there. That way the "gifts" don't add up. :P

a-sam (author)2006-11-05

This is way too useful thanks a billion

xrobevansx (author)2006-11-05

I bet another littlerbox (same kind/size/etc) would be great as the second container. Lift screen, dump nuggets, place screen into empty litterbox, pour clean litter from full litterbox, place empty box under newly-filled one. Repeat daily.

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