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How to Build an Outdoor Cat Litter Box

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Thanks to a Eureka moment at work, I realized that you could make the perfect DIY cat litter box out of some basic supplies and Oil-Dri.

This guide will break down how to make your own outdoor cat litter box from some common building materials and some Oil-Dri.

This guide will break down how to make your own outdoor cat litter box from some common building materials and some Oil-Dri.

DIY Outdoor Litter Tray

Have you ever had a Eureka moment that produced not one great idea but two? That is what happened to me when I was pumping off oil from my fuel truck at work.

The top of the oil tank is basically a square cement box with a cut-off valve you can turn to keep the oil from escaping if the tank gets full. The inside of the box is covered with a 3-inch layer of Oil-Dri. My Eureka moment happened when I noticed some kitty leavings in the box.

So I checked the oil tank in front of the building, and the same thing had happened there. It occurred to me that these feral (wild) cats that roam the premises subsisting on mainly rodents have many hundreds of acres to do their business, but given a choice, they prefer to use a litter box! So it occurred to me that I could use this natural urge with my own three cats at home! Two ideas were born: build an outdoor litter box and use Oil-Dri.

Three Reasons a Cat Owner Needs an Outdoor Litter Box

After doing some research, I came to the conclusion that there are three very good reasons to build an outdoor litter box!

Reason #1: It takes the pressure off of your indoor litter box.

This is especially important when you have multiple cats. A dominant cat can keep the others from using a box, but it is hard for them to guard two litter boxes. And by having an outdoor litter box, you keep some or all of the odor and mess outside! It is healthier for your cat to be outside kicking up silica dust than inside in a confined area.

Reason #2: It reinforces the use of the litter box indoors.

Cats that become accustomed to using the outdoors exclusively, without a box, often don't know that they need a litter box indoors—and may forget where it is! This becomes very important when an outdoor cat is left indoors with three to four days' rations of food and water while you head out of town. If the cat always uses a litter box, however, then this shouldn't be a problem.

Another positive of having an outdoor litter box is that it consolidates the waste to one area of the yard. Even though cats will naturally try to scatter their leavings, oftentimes, the ground is too hard! This leaves their waste to be possibly eaten by the family dog . . . yuck!

Reason #3: It saves money.

A 33-lb bag of Oil-Dri is only $5.99 at Auto Zone and can be purchased cheaper at Wal-Mart or Sam's Club. Oil-Dri is basically non-clumping kitty litter. In fact, the company that makes Oil-Dri also produces kitty litter under the brand names Cat's Pride and Johnny Cat.

It can be dustier, though, so be careful to lay it down instead of pouring it out! Oil-Dri can also be mixed with a clumping kitty litter like Scoop Away for your indoor litter box. If you choose not to use Oil-Dri, however, you can still save over 40% on kitty litter by buying the biggest bag (30 lb+) at Wal-Mart.

Materials You'll Need

  • (2) 8-foot 2x4s
  • (1) 24x48 inch lattice
  • (2) 8-foot 2x2s
  • (8) 3-inch nails or screws
  • (30) 1 1/2 finish nails
  • (1) bag of Oil-Dri

Tools You'll Need

  • Claw hammer
  • Sledge hammer
  • Skill saw or hand saw
  • Shovel
  • Tape measurer or yardstick

How to Build Your Own Outdoor Cat Litter Box

  1. Find a spot that is away from your house, but that you know your cat will use. If you see areas with more concentrated cat droppings than usual, this is most likely your cat's favorite spot!
  2. Construct a box by cutting the 8-foot 2x4s in half.
  3. Hammer or screw in two nails or screws in each corner.
  4. Place the box on the ground. Dig the ground under and around the box until only about an inch sticks out all around.
  5. Take the excess dirt and backfill around the outside of the box.
  6. Cut the lattice to the length of the front of the box.
  7. Next cut the 2x2s to 36 inches long, and nail with 1 1/2 inch finish nails to the sides.
  8. Cut a 2x2 to fit across the top, and nail it to the lattice with 1 1/2 inch finish nails.
  9. Use the shovel to bury the legs of the lattice about 6 inches.
  10. Place 30 lbs of Oil-Dri in the box and level out.
  11. You now have your completed outdoor litter box!


JANNA SCHROEDER on August 24, 2019:

I HOPE AND PRAY you did NOT use OIL-DRI for kitty litter purposes since it says right on the package it causes cancer and damage to lungs, do not eat smoke or drink around the product, wash hands thoroughly after using, do not breathe dust, use gloves,, I mean COME ON!! you want to let your PETS use that!!!

tamiep on July 30, 2019:

Turns to mush in the rain. You will have pooh soup. I am going to use sand.

Mary on September 24, 2018:

I dont know where you bought your dry oil, but auto zone sells no more than 30# for 12.00 on sale

Faith on May 11, 2016:

Does anyone have any suggestions on how to buil this box on concrete?

Wendy on February 11, 2016:

For those needing a cat proof fence, I screwed wire mesh along the top of my fence and it's keeping all our cats in including my bengal who's an escape artist :) and thanks for the litter box idea, I was searching for a litter that would work best outdoors and came across your post.

Gina on July 20, 2015:

We have 3 indoor/outdoor kitties. They have apparently been using the neighbors yard and gravel driveway to go to the bathroom. Trying to be good neighbors we are planning outdoor cat boxes for them to use. Any tips to get them to use what we make other than the neighbors yard and driveway.... He is VERY unhappy!!!! They "go" outside mostly, very little in the house cat box

harrier666 on April 30, 2013:

You probably don't monitor this anymore, but if you do, how does the oil dri handle moisture? I figure it will be out in the rain and, of course, cat urine. Many have suggested small rocks for an outdoor litter box but I like the idea of oil dri better.

On a bright note, thanks to you, I have dug my hole and built my cage around the hole. I haven't added the 2x4s yet and I have to built a run from the litter area to the outside enclosure, but I can't wait to get this done!!! Thanks!

Sunni Oasis on November 07, 2012:

Loved these ideas!! Oil-Dri it is on my list now. We have 1 cat, 3 dogs. I already have an outside kitty litter area with bolders around it instead of the lattice. No indoor kitty litter box at all. Kitty goes outside when the dogs run for the door every few hours. No doggie doors. Can't have one here. I do clean out the outside kitty litter daily of the gifts and any clumps... which helps. We have dogs and I'm not leaving treats for them ever again. That was a shocker when we added a kitty... that's they'd even do such a thing. Ha! Also you don't go through the kitty litter outside... as you would inside. Then some cat pee does get down to the ground. What can I add at the bottom to help with that ammonia build up at that bottom level. Anyone with suggestions?? Lyme? I have no idea~ Thanks for any suggestions.

nifty@50 (author) on February 05, 2012:

Having a male cat that refuses to stay in the yard inspite of a six foot fence, I can totally relate! Thanks benjii62011 for your kind words & post!

benji62011 on January 15, 2012:

Thanks for all your good advice. I've been trying to figure this out for awhile. I love my cats and the ferals outside. I'm afraid some harm will come to them if they are pooping in other peoples yards. So, I was trying to figure out how to solve this problem so they will go in my yard and I can just clean it up and have happy neighbors, happy cats and a happy me knowing that they will be safe!! Thanks so much for your help!!! :-)

nifty@50 (author) on May 29, 2011:

Thanks lovemy cats, for you kind words & post! I really don't understand why people have problems with cats. They don't run around barking or bitting people. They generally cover their leavings. About the worst thing I can think of is they leave faint foot prints on people's cars (pretty harmless in my book)!

lovemy cats on May 03, 2011:

Thanks for the great plans!! I have grumpy neighbors and have been thinking about how I can accommodate my cats outside without them going in the neighbors yards! This is beyond wonderful!! Thanks so much for the supply list and directions!! As a single woman this will help me build without further assistance!! My cats all thank you too!

nifty@50 (author) on February 09, 2011:

Thanks applejuic3 for your post! It definitely has helped our cats, by reinforcing the box when they come back inside.

applejuic3 from San Diego, CA on February 09, 2011:

This is a great project if you have outdoor cats :) my two are kept indoors, but if they ever lived outdoors, i would definitely look into this! Very helpful.

nifty@50 (author) on February 06, 2011:

Thanks Saffikeagan for your post! Best of luck with your project!

Saffikeagan on February 05, 2011:

Thanks for validating my idea of doing this :) Off to the store.

nifty@50 (author) on December 05, 2010:

Thanks Lucky Cats for your kind words and post! Your cats will thank you, best of luck!

Kathy from Independence, Kansas on December 01, 2010:

This is GREAT information...and the 'parts list' is wonderful! THANK YOU!!! I NEEDED this. Voted UP and USEFUL!!

nifty@50 (author) on November 09, 2010:

Thank You kasp346 for your post! It occurs to me reading your post that whenever someone is thinking on a hub to write, one only needs to ask " What question or problem have I gone to the web for that could not be answered?" I'm happy to be of assistance! I think the roof may be a good idea, but I would construct it so that it could be removed or with hinges so that it could be lifted up in order to gain easy access for cleaning the box. Best of luck!

kasp346 on November 09, 2010:

Very cool! We just had a feral mom cat move her 3 kittens in our back yard. We also have a dog, & with 4 outdoor feral cats.. well.. it's a lot of mess. I went online to see if anyone had come up with a solution to this problem, and here you are! THANK YOU SO MUCH! Gonna build it this weekend! I was thinking, if you really wanted to you could make some kind of a roof & overhang to keep rain/snow out. But maybe you dont need it with the oil stuff.. Thank you again. you solved a BIG problem for us :)

nifty@50 (author) on August 18, 2010:

Well your right, but perhaps you might be able to employ something like the one in the You Tube video! It won't work in certain apartments though! Thanks Motor leathers for your post!

Motor leathers on August 18, 2010:

you know, this thing is really great if you live in your own house. but if you are living in a flat, this is not a good decision. but thanks anyway - this will be great advice for my mother.

nifty@50 (author) on August 05, 2010:

Our Calico cat is almost exclusively an indoor cat, but the two tabbies prefer the outdoors.Thanks Peggy W for your post!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 04, 2010:

Our two cats are inside ones only but will keep this in mind for friends of ours who have inside-outside cats. Great idea!

nifty@50 (author) on July 07, 2010:

Thanks billyaustindillon for your post! I never realized before I became a cat owner, that cats tend to live a good long time!

billyaustindillon on July 07, 2010:

Great hub on building a litter box - I need to pass it onto my parents who have a 13 year old Persian.

nifty@50 (author) on July 05, 2010:

I've never heard of oil-dri being outlawed! If you're concerned about this, cheap kitty litter can be purchased at Wal-mart in 30 lb. bags which it virtually the same thing and is almost as cheap. As far as the reaction to rain it gets hard but dries out and can be fluffed up with a rake. Sand is not a bad option, but it attracts fleas and doesn't clump as well. Thanks kim for you're interest, hope this helps!

kim on July 04, 2010:

I'm debating on whether or not to use playground sand versus the Oil Dry, one because I heard it was outlawed and 2 I'm wondering how the product will react to rain.

Any thoughts…Please help!

nifty@50 (author) on June 28, 2010:

Well...there's that lol! Hopefully your cats will be able to bury them a little better! Thanks for posting habee!

Holle Abee from Georgia on June 28, 2010:

Great idea! My Danes would love it - all the "tootsie rolls" would be in one place and they wouldn't have to hunt for them! lol

nifty@50 (author) on June 26, 2010:

Thank you celinewayne for your kind comments! This outdoor litter box is getting more action than our indoor one, and one of our cat's is an indoor cat!

celinewayne on June 25, 2010:

what a great idea!

i read every direction to make sure i understand how to make this outdoor litter box.

i have 5 cats here and this article really help me =)

thank you for sharing,

have a great weekend with your family =)

nifty@50 (author) on June 25, 2010:

Thank you prasetio30 for your kind comments! Suny51 hope this information helps you as much as it has me!

suny51 on June 25, 2010:

Thanks nifty, for the kind support.

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on June 25, 2010:

Good information from you. Thanks for share with us. Good idea and I believe this hub useful for us. Thumbs up for you.


nifty@50 (author) on June 24, 2010:

I read this piece by Mark Knowles