How to Make a Mess-less Cat Litter Box




Introduction: How to Make a Mess-less Cat Litter Box

About: I am a former zookeeper. One thing you may not know, zookeepers often have to make their own specialized tools, enclosures and supplies. It's just part of the job, because there aren't really any box store...

This cat box design eliminates litter mess on the floor, by encouraging the cat to climb up a sisal ramp to exit. It keeps all of the litter contained and because the lid lifts up, it makes cleaning the area very easy.  Basically, it's just a deck box with a regular litter pan inside it, and a sisal ramp to get the cat's paws clean on the way out. 

As a cat owner, I'm surprised that they don't already mass-produce a product like this.  Everyone who owns cats knows about the problem of litter kicked out of regular cat boxes and tracked around on cat paws.  I put expensive litter mats in front of my regular covered cat boxes, but my cats just jump right over them.  By putting their pan inside of a larger box, with the exit up high, where litter can't get kicked out, and by providing the sisal ramp to clean the cat's paws, my floor stays spotless.

Magic Marker
Hot Cutting Tool (or hacksaw or other plastic cutting device)
Hand Saw
Electric Screw Driver
Square or Straightedge

1x  Regular Cat Litter Box
1x  Plastic Deck Box
1x  1" x 6" board (actual width will depend on the hole you cut) 
2x  Metal L-brackets
4x  1/2" screws
100ft  Natural Sisal Rope (1/4" thickness)
1x  bottle Carpenter's Wood Glue (fast drying 30min)
1x  roll of Plastic Tape

Step 1: Make a Hole.

Sketch out an opening big enough for your cats on the upper part of one of the end pieces.  Avoid the support braces, wherever possible.

Use a Hot Cutting Tool (or hacksaw or other plastic cutting device) to cut out the opening.  If you use a hot tool, do the cutting outdoors because there will be strong fumes.  If you cut using a saw, make sure to file or otherwise round the edges so the plastic is not sharp. 

Step 2: Size the Ramp.

Assemble the bottom part of the box, but leave the lid off to make working with it easier. 

Set the cat litter box that you will be using in the end of the box opposite from the entry hole that you cut. 

Stick the ramp board through the hole so that it ends just outside of the litter box.  Mark the length with a pencil, then remove the board and write on it so you will remember which side is for the box and which side is scrap.

Use a straightedge or carpenter's square to straighten up the pencil mark.  It's best to err on the side of a shorter ramp, so you can see I marked the straightened line toward the box side of my board.

Saw the board along the line.  This works best if you saw a bit from both sides.  If you start on one side and saw all the way through, there will be splitting on the bottom of the board.  You can see in the photo, because I sawed from both sides, the splitting happened in the middle of the board and it cleaned up nicely.

Set or hold the ramp in place in the box, and line up the L-brackets so they will hold it up. 

Screw the L-brackets to the wood ramp, but not to the box.  They will simply slip over the edge of the plastic, so the ramp is removable for cleaning underneath.  (Removable ramp = very important feature for cleanliness.) 

Step 3: Wrap the Sisal.

Starting at the under side of the end with the brackets, glue down the end of the sisal about 3/4 inch from the end of the board and wait for it to dry. 

After the end of the sisal is attached firmly, add more glue.  Wrap the sisal tightly around the board, working toward the end with the brackets first.  After you get to the end of the board, cross over the wrapping that you have done on the under side of the board, leaving the top side of the board smooth. 

Continue wrapping the sisal as tightly as possible, using glue on the under side of the board only, and making sure that the top side of the board remains smoothly wrapped.  I glued in three lines for most of the board, but added some heavily glued anchoring areas every six inches or so.   

When you get to the bottom end of the ramp, loosely wrap the sisal in loops over the end of the board to estimate how much sisal you will need to finish.  Cut off the excess, to make working easier. 

Now's the tricky part.  Slop a whole bunch of glue all over the end of the board, spiral the sisal inward in loops to cover the end, and hold it in place with your hands until the glue begins to set up (this is why the quick-drying glue is best for this project).

Trim off any extra tail of sisal, tuck the end in, and glue it down well.  You can also go back to the beginning and glue down anything that seems loose, but be sure to keep the glue on the under side of the ramp as much as possible.  You want the top side to be loose, so the sisal will wiggle a little under the cat's paws and help clean them. 

Let the whole thing dry for at least a couple of hours before you let your cats near it, because they will instantly know that it's for scratching and they'll tear it up if the glue is not dry.

Step 4: Seal the Cracks.

Instructables comes in really handy for you right now...  You can learn from my mistake, so you won't make it yourself.  My first instinct was to seal the crack around the bottom of the box with caulk.  This turned out to be a BAD IDEA, because the bottom of the box is a separate piece that sits on a lip of plastic. 

The caulk just oozes down into the crack and out of the bottom of the box onto the floor!  If you are a caulk expert or know of some other product to seal the crack without making a mess, by all means add a comment. 

My solution was to use plastic tape instead of caulk.  Basically, I just want to keep litter from getting stuck in the cracks around the edge of the floor.

To get the tape to lay flat, I had to lay it in place, and then snip the tape on each side of the ridges in the sides of the plastic box.  This left tiny places that are not sealed, but it does serve the purpose of keeping most of the loose litter out of the cracks.

I guess one clear advantage of tape over caulk is that if I ever need to move, I can take the box apart easily and just retape it whenever I set it back up. 

Step 5: Assemble.

Put the ramp in place.

Set the filled litter box inside. 

Put the lid on last.

Introduce your cats by putting them one at a time into the box and closing the lid.  After they find their way out, they will easily be able to find their way in again. 

If you need to, you can place a ramp near the entry hole on the outside, to make entry easier.  My cats have no trouble getting in all by themselves.  As a matter of fact, they played with it the whole time I was building it.



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    24 Discussions

    Thanks ! I made it this morning ! Great idea !

    Thanks ! I made it this morning ! Great idea !

    Thanks ! I made it this morning ! Great idea !

    Nice work. I've been meaning to make something like this. This is just the kick start I needed. :)

    P.S. I have 2 black cats, also!. :D I love my Halloween babies. ^_^

    6 replies

    My black baby, Kira, is 5 years old now. Had him since he was 10 wks old. And he's EVERYBODY's favorite cat. Not because of his color, but his temperament. And I've heard that many all black cats have the same temperament. He'll let you do anything to him. Hold him upside down, lift him up above your head, cradle him like a baby, hold him up to your shoulder (like burping a baby) and snuggle him (he LOVES to snuggle! with actually wrapping both my arms around him and gently squeezing. he lets me know if he's not done, too!), do little flips with him on the ground, lay him on his back on your lap and let him slide down the crack between your legs, etcetcetc... I know most of this because my 24 yr old son does these things with Kira and Kira just flops like butter and purrs up a storm. Obviously my son is very very careful and loves Kira very much. But Kira is very needy and dependent. So I take very special care of him and love on him a lot. He is the sweetest cat I have ever known and I've had like 13 cats over 16 years. Do anything you want with him and all he wants is love. =)

    Anyway, interesting fact... cats that are ALL black like my Kira (fur, nose, whiskers, paw pads, even claws) have a condition called melanism. It's the opposite of albinism. It isn't an illness and it doesn't hurt them at all. Many species have it. It's just a skin condition. It's actually what makes black panthers black. =)

    I love mine too!  I just adopted these two a couple of months ago. 

    Did you know that black cats and kittens are the hardest to find homes for?  Many people are superstitious. 

    I'd like to say for the record that I've had several all-black cats over the years, and each and every one of them has been wonderful and sweet!  No bad luck yet, even though they cross my path about a zillion times a day.  :) 

    i love my sleek black kitty, he is an all the time house cat but we keep an extra close eye on him around halloween not just about the people who use them as props, but more for the people who use them for sacrifices... not a nice thing. We got him from a horrible woman who wasnt taking any care of him or his brothers or sisters or even parents who were all black, the first day he seemed fine dispite the ill care but we found out when we took him for his check up the next day that he had hepititus and mites and fleas and an upper respiratory infection ... we went back that day to try to rescue the rest of them but they were already gone, i hope the other adopters got them to a vet in time... she said we could have lost our little guy if we hadnt brought him in. Now he is huge, sleek, sassy and rules the roost at seven months.

    Yes, I did know that. And most places will NOT adopt them out before/around Halloween time because there are people who would/have actually only used them as "props" and then just dumped them. So sad. They are gorgeous creatures!

    wow.  That's terrible.  The more I find out about it, I'll probably never adopt a different colored kitty - only black ones so I know they'll be safe. 

    Nice concept but I can't see a cat squeezing into the box with that ramp flush with the bottom of the opening. The ramp should be dropped down to give them clearance to climb in and out.

    I know this is an old post ... but I'm new on the site and searching for ideas on containing the litter, the dust from the litter, and of course, odor. And, my girls really don't like lids/covers on their boxes, no matter how tall or large.

    But I like this idea ... I can leave the lid off the litter box itself, and there will be lots of head room for them. But instead of a deck box (which can be kind of $$$), I may try with an XXXL plastic storage tub/bin. Not quite as nice looking as the deck box, but still practical.

    I discovered the hard way not to simply use an XXXL plastic bin as litter box (to keep more litter in the box, instead of it getting thrown about the room) --- it's impossible to pick-up to take outside to dump!

    Thanks so much. Now if I add one of the fan set-ups, I should be really set. One of my girls has Inflammatory Bowel Disease, and there is no odor like the diarrhea from that. So I have 4 boxes for 2 cats, 2 of which are on a screened patio, and some days I still can't keep up with the sick one.

    2 replies

    I bought several big containers at big lots and it's awesome way to hold cat litter. also, now i'm using 21 cent aluminum trays, i prefill a whole bunch...and use wood pellets (for stoves or horse bedding) for cat's not dusty, and it slides right out ....recommended by the animal shelter dot org magazine and i've seen it used at pet shelters. 4 dollars for a 40 lb bag, i stocked up!!

    I bought several big containers at big lots and it's awesome way to hold cat litter. also, now i'm using 21 cent aluminum trays, i prefill a whole bunch...and use wood pellets (for stoves or horse bedding) for cat's not dusty, and it slides right out ....recommened by the animal shelter dot org magazine and i've seen it used at pet shelters. 4 dollars for a 40 lb bag, i stocked up!!

    I have been looking for a reasonably priced litter box enclosure to keep the dogs out, but all the commercially available ones that look like they would suit my needs are usually at least $200. I'm so glad I found your instructable! I'm not sure how I missed it before (i've searched for litter pan soultions on here a few times over the past couple months), but I think I know what I need to do to make one now. Great idea!

    I just made a version of this over the past weekend! So far so good. Instead of sisal, I cut a piece off of the large 3M litter mat that I already had and glued it to the ramp. The rest of the mat went under the litter box. Right now I am using my regular (non-high-sided) litter box inside, and so far there has been ZERO litter on the floor! If there's some tracking later, I might switch to a higher-sided box. Also, I haven't bothered to seal it w/ tape yet, I probably will soon.

    Oh - I didn't put my cats inside to introduce them to it, because they are skittish and I was worried they'd be scared of the new box if I shut them in it. They figured it out on their own. And it's by a window, so it doubles as a bird-watching seat. :)

    Thanks for the awesome idea! (Photos to follow if I can find my camera cord)

    Oh, and this would be delightfully dog-proof.  Our dog has earned the nickname PooNommer, and we need a solution!

    After a few weeks in use, the box is working perfectly.  

    I dustbust the loose litter every day, and so far the kitties haven't had any accidents outside of their litterbox.  This was something I was slightly concerned about, so I'm glad to report that it's a non-issue.