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  • Writer's pictureBrian McKinnon

Ultimate Litter Box Solution

My wife and I love our cats, but their litter box takes up so much space. Despite getting the fancy litterbox (that does help with the smell immensely), the cats seem to get litter everywhere and do leave a lingering odor after "nuclear poops." With a baby on the way and an ever exploring toddler, we needed to make room for a new nursery, decrease the litter mess and smell, and keep the litter box out of reach. We decided to make them their own enclosure out in the garage they could get to while still being able to open and close the garage door without a cat escaping.


Materials:

Melamine 8x4 sheet (x2)

Clear acrylic panel

Screws - 2" coarse threaded, 1/2" pan head

Melamine edge banding


Tools:

Saw (circular or table)

Drill

Hand held screw driver

Drill Bit

Safety Glasses (I use prescription)



 

Material Preparation


Get your supplies home. I chose to use Melamine, which is incredibly heavy, so I had the folks at the home improvement store cut the sheet down to more manageable pieces for transport back home. If you have your dimensions ahead of time, it's killing two birds with one stone: easier to get home and less cuts to do once you get there. It won't be a highly accurate cut, but that's fine for this project. Also, be sure to wear gloves when handling this product. The laminated edges can chip and are extremely sharp when they do.


Since I wanted my box to be a little more precise, I had the folks at my hardware store cut the pieces into ones that were larger than I needed. When I got them home, I cut them down using my own tools into the exact dimensions I wanted. I'm building my box to house a Litter Robot 3, which is fairly large, but you can certainly make the enclosure a bit smaller to accommodate a traditional litter box. My overall dimensions were as follows:


Overall box: 32 3/4" H x 36" W x 37 1/2" D

Sides: 36" x 32"

Top: 36" x 36"

Front: 36" x 32 3/4"

Rear: 36" x 28"


This gives the cats just enough room to navigate around the Litter Robot, and comfortably enter and exit. I'll also be making a short "connector tunnel" that will act as a litter trap to give their paws enough time to shake off the litter before re-entering the main house.

 

Assembly


Join together the four solid sides with coarse threaded wood screws. Make sure you drill pilot holes first as Melamine splits and cracks easily. I also recommend tightening the screws by hand, which allows you to make sure the connection is secure without overtightening. I wanted to push the box flush against the wall without having to cut any baseboard away, so I made the back side of the box a few inches shorter so it wouldn't run into the baseboard.

For the front of the box, I made a picture frame style door that will swing upwards to allow access for cleaning. To this picture frame, I attached a clear acrylic panel that allows me to see what's going on inside the enclosure. Occasionally the Litter Robot will get stuck while completing a cycle, or there might be a problem with one of the sensors. I usually enter and exit my home through the garage, so this way I can give it a quick visual check to make sure it doesn't need any attention. Of course you may choose to have a solid front, just keep in mind you'll need a way to access the litter box.


I assembled the frame using pocket holes. If you don't already have one of these, I would highly recommend adding it to your wish list if you enjoy making things.

Sanding the surface will prevent any unwanted splinters. I plan on adding a handle to the door later on, but since I have kids running around, I like to make sure everything I build is safe for little hands.

Acrylic sheets may be cut to size using a circular or jig saw. It's important to go slow, and of course use a dust mask as breathing in plastic dust is not the best idea.

Pre drill some holes around the acrylic panel, and secure it with some 1/2" pan head screws. Hand tighten the screws, and be careful not to overtighten as that may crack the acrylic.

 

Cutting Access Ports


Since my design utilizes an extra tunnel, I cut an access hole into the side of both the main enclosure and the tunnel where they will meet. The access port through the wall will be connected to the other end of the tunnel, and we will cut that access hole later.


Next is the most unnerving part, cutting a hole in the wall. I recommend making a small test hole and looking inside prior to making the complete cut to make sure there aren't any wires or studs that will get in your way. Small holes are easier to patch.


Once you have cut the opening to the desired size, cut a corresponding hole into the tunnel that will match up to the wall.

 

Wall Port Finishing and Trim


Since leaving a bare hole in the wall is both unsightly, and potentially dangerous for our furry friends, we need to make something that will cover any rough edges. Using some plain MDF trim, I made a box that sits just inside the opening. This should make going in and out much more comfortable.


After securing the box to the studs with some brad nails, I finished it off with a little trim to make it look nice.

 

Attaching the Access Door


I installed the access hatch using small hinges, attaching them to the top of the enclosure for a "swing up" style door. This way, I can open and close it with ease, yet it provides enough resistance to discourage the cats from trying to push their way out. If you have exceptionally curious critters, you may want to include a locking mechanism on the door.


Unfortunately the edges of the melamine sheets are not finished in the same way as the faces, so I added some edge banding to make the enclosure look like more of a finished product. Edge banding is easy to apply; it has a heat activated adhesive that allows it to be ironed on. I used my family's clothing iron so just as a precaution I covered it in foil to prevent accidentally getting any adhesive on it. This step is of course cosmetic and totally optional.


To make lifting the access hatch easier, I installed a drawer handle on the bottom. This is just a cheap basic handle from the hardware store that installs by drilling two holes through the surface of the door and securing with the provided screws from the back.


Once these steps were complete, it was time to move the enclosure into place. Since the Melamine is so heavy, I chose not to secure it to the wall, instead letting its own weight keep it in place. This also allows me to move it to occasionally sweep up any stray litter.

 

Done!


Luckily most cats are extremely curious in nature and will begin exploring the new digs immediately. It might be tempting to give the litterbox a good cleaning during this process since you're moving it around, but hold off for a little while until they're completely comfortable with their new space. Having a familiar scent can help put them at ease, and reduce the chances of any accidents!

 

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