If your cat is mostly an outdoorsy type, you may never have thought about their potty needs since an outdoor kitty will usually pick a spot and use it. This isn't always ideal since you never know where your cat will pick, and it could be someplace inconvenient for you or dangerous for them. You may never have thought about building an outdoor litter box for your cats before, but it can really help keep things under control in your yard.
Putting a litter box outdoors helps organize your kitty's needs and keep droppings in a single, easily managed location. It helps control odors, and you can be sure the place you've prepared for them is clean and safe. It's also easy to build since an outdoor litter box is basically a wooden box with some fill, set aside in a quiet place for your cats to use.
Cats can be pretty sensitive about where they do their business, and they might avoid an outdoor litter box if it's in a bad (for them) location. Look for a partly shady area, preferably near a fence or other barrier, where the cat can feel safe. The area should be around 4x5 ft since the box will be 3x4, and you want it to have about a foot of clearance all around.
The frame of the outdoor litter box is made of wood, but some types of wood are better than others. Outdoor wood gets wet, so the less resilient species won't last — think pine, whitewood, unpainted poplar, and a lot of other cheap wood species.
For outdoor use, steer toward redwood or teak. Since this is a litter box, cheaper redwood is probably best. Don't use pressure-treated lumber, which has harsh chemicals that are bad for cats.
The outdoor litter box is a 3x4 rectangle, and its sides can be almost any height. Pick out a couple of redwood 2x4s, which usually come in 8-foot lengths, from the home center. Use any kind of saw to cut one in half, then cut 2 feet off the other and split that into two 3-foot lengths. You don't have to do anything fancy joinery at the corners, but they should be flush.
Assemble the pieces into a simple rectangle and see how it looks. You should have a rectangle with corners that come together relatively snugly. Don't fasten or glue it up yet, since you're doing that at the site of the litter box. Instead, look over the dry assembly for gaps, warped wood, or other faults you can fix before final assembly. If you have a bevel plane, go ahead and shave those sharp corners flat.
It's not strictly necessary, but you might want to level the site before going further. Take the 2-foot offcut from the redwood out to the place where the litter box will be and drag it across to flatten the dirt. Do this a few times from various angles, but don't overdo it. The site is probably good when it looks flat and doesn't have any obvious bumps or dips.
Carry out the side pieces of the litter box and set them down at the site. It's up to you how to fasten them together, but the easiest way is probably to set some 3-inch deck screws through the corners. Use one more in each corner than you think you'll need. Material inside the box will settle over time, and press on the inside of the box, so a little reinforcement doesn't hurt.
Outdoor litter box assembled, it's time to find litter for your cats. Normal indoor litter probably won't do here since it shouldn't get wet, and it's a little expensive for a big pour like this. Instead, try to get some clean sand or small gravel you can treat with baking soda. DO NOT use Oil-Dri or commercial petroleum absorbents. Those carry cancer warnings for the dust they kick up, and they clump in the rain.
Fill the box about halfway up with whatever litter you're going with. A box this size has four cubic feet of space inside, and you should fill it about halfway up. If you're using sand, don't pay more than $10-$15 for two cubic feet. Sand is sold by weight, so figure 50 pounds fills about 0.5 cubic feet and costs under $5. Prices vary depending on location, but not too much.
Nothing would be more typically feline than to have your cats watch you build a whole outdoor litter box for them and then never use it. To get them interested, carry them out to the box after a meal or when you notice them sniffing around the indoor box they already use. After a few interventions, and possibly without any effort at all on your part, the cats should be using the box every day.
Every litter box needs upkeep, and outdoor litter boxes are easier than most. Use a normal scoop to empty the waste every few days. Check for bugs, debris, and other unwanted intrusions while you're scooping. Once a month or so, make the effort to churn the sand to prevent bacteria from growing under the surface. Dust it with baking soda every month or on the first dry day after rain.
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