Build a DIY Top Entry Cat Litter Box for Cheap

Why pay for an expensive top-entry litter box when you can build one for cheap?
Why pay for an expensive top-entry litter box when you can build one for cheap?

Some folks are cat people. Others, dog people. If you're anything like me, though, you're forced to live with both, which can pose a problem when your ever-so-obedient canine friend can't seem to keep his wet nose out of the litter box. Here's a solution: use a top-entry litter box instead! Besides the obvious benefit of keeping your pooch away from poop, top-entry litter boxes are easy to clean, produce virtually no mess at all, contain oder extremely well, provide privacy when your kitty has to go potty, and it's a box--cats are just crazy for boxes.

There's a dark side to all of this, though--for some reason these wonderful feline latrines come with a hefty price tag when purchased from most popular pet stores--sometimes upwards $40, depending on where you are. This is borderline ridiculous considering the fact that most of these commercial top-entry litter boxes are nothing more than hollow plastic, so how about this: cut out the middle-man, and make one yourself: the mechanics of a top-entry litter box are absolutely basic, and making an effective one on your own is both extremely easy and super duper cheap. So, further further ado, let's begin the easiest DIY project you'll probably ever encounter.

A 16-gallon plastic storage box works great
A 16-gallon plastic storage box works great

1. Buy a Plastic Storage Box

We start with a cheap plastic storage box, with heavy emphasis on the cheap aspect, for two reasons: first of all, we're trying to combat big spending, remember? But more importantly, it needs to have a flimsy lid so the rest of this project is easier on you. These can be obtained from your favorite retailer for less than $10--the one I used for this demonstration cost me $4 at my local Target.

You can pick whichever size you'd like, but remember: it has to be tall enough to fully engulf your cat. The one I used for the accompanying pictures is sized at 16-gallons, and it works great for my two cats.

Make sure the outlined is centered on the lid.
Make sure the outlined is centered on the lid.

2. Draw an Outline

Use a ruler and a dry-erase marker to draw an outline of an entry hole on the lid. The entry hole can be any shape you'd like, but for simplicities sake I recommend sticking to a rectangle. A circle works as well, if you're the ambitious type. Either way, it should be as centered as humanly possible so your cats have room on both ends to jump aboard before hopping in. Also make sure that it's big enough for your cats--11" X 10" works great for mine (one of them is a fatty).

Double-check the outline before going futher.
Double-check the outline before going further.

3. Assess Your Outline

Make sure that the outline drawn will work for your cats. Again, you don't want it too small or too big, since either one may discourage usage--we're trying to keep this as welcoming and comfortable to your kitties as possible. You my want to physically pick up your cat and put it on top of the lid to double check the size. If everything looks good, go ahead and remove the lid from the box and place it on a safe, cut-friendly surface. A workbench table is best, but the garage floor works just as well. If neither of those are an option, consider placing the lid on a towel you don't like very much.

A standard utility knife can cut through flimsy plastic.
A standard utility knife can cut through flimsy plastic.

4. Cut a Hole

Cut around the outline, thus making a hole in the lid. This is where the whole "flimsy" and "cheap" ideas come into fruition--more expensive, heavy duty boxes have stronger lids, therefore making this step harder than it has to be. A flimsy lid can easily be cut with a basic utility knife, which is what I use. Make sure to keep your hand slow and steady, since you don't want to create any jagged edges. Wearing safety gloves is probably not a bad idea. If you don't have a utility knife or aren't comfortable using one on plastic, kitchen shears work fine as well.

A DIY top-entry litter box: just add litter and cat.
A DIY top-entry litter box: just add litter and cat.

5. Bask in Your Glory

Place the lid back on top of the box, and voila! You have a fully functional, easy to use top-entry litter box that barely cost you a thing! Sure, it's not going to win against store-bought competitors in a beauty pageant, but it's doubtful your cats are going to mind. If you still have traces of marker, go ahead and erase it (you used a dry-erase marker, right?).

A carpeted lid makes it a little more kitty-friendly.
A carpeted lid makes it a little more kitty-friendly.

Optional: Add a Carpet

If you have a thin rug lying around, you may want to consider adding it to the lid. Make sure that the rug has been cut to fit within the confines of the lid, and use a hot glue gun to keep it from going anywhere. While a carpeted top does make the ordeal a bit more inviting for cats (and it adds a pinch of visual flair to an accessory that isn't particularly pleasing to the eyes), it's a completely optional step. I chose not to add a carpet to the demonstration litter box presented with this article, and my cats have used it plenty.

Other Ideas

  • If you go with a 16-gallon storage box (or larger), consider adding carpet to the side of the box: it'll make it look nicer, and your cats can use it as scratching post.
  • Standard garbage bags aren't going to fit inside most storage boxes, but leaf bags work great.
  • Make sure to introduce your cats to their new bathroom so they actually use it! Cat's love jumping into boxes, so this step probably isn't going to be too difficult.
  • Older cats may not want to put in the work of jumping inside a box to go potty--adding a basic ramp on the end may help them out, though (a basic wooden plank fits the bill).
  • If you have multiple cats, it may not be a bad idea to make more than one top-entry litter box. Remember, cats are territorial, and many aren't down with sharing the bathroom.

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Comments 2 comments

d.william profile image

d.william 2 years ago from Somewhere in the south

OMG What an excellent idea. I have a new Shih Tsu puppy that keeps getting into the litter box for his in between meals.

I have barriers around the box but he has been taught by the cat how to get over the barriers. I never thought of something as simple as your idea.

Thanks for sharing this. Your are a life saver.


samislam profile image

samislam 2 years ago from Vancouver, WA Author

No problem, d.william! I hope this solves the problem for you. Thanks for commenting!

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