Do It Yourself Cheap Mess-Free Cat Litter Box

Click here for an updated tutorial for this awesome DIY project, plus a new option – how to decorate it!!! The Original DIY Cheap Mess-Free Cat Litter Box

Even the most loyal cat lover will admit the litter box can be a not-so-fun aspect to these animals. In this article, I’m going to show how to make your own mess-free cat litter box for under $6! Sound good? It is!

Our cat’s old litter box was one of the large covered boxes with the door flap. The door flap came off and we couldn’t get it to stay on. And Shadow was constantly tracking litter out of it.

We went to the pet store to see if we could find something without spending a ton of money.

We found a cat litter box with an interesting concept: the opening was on top. It claimed to minimize the mess because the litter would fall off the cat’s feet when they were jumping out the hole instead of ending up on the floor. But it cost $29.99.

Nate looked at me and said “We could make one ourselves out of a plastic bin.”

So we did.
It’s amazing. I never thought I’d say that about a cat litter box, but it is. The mess (and even the smell) is very minimal now.

The total cost? $5.64 for the bin at Walmart.

How to make your own Mess-Free $6 Cat Litter Box:

You’ll need:

1 18 gallon bin
A plate or something to draw a circle outline with
A strong pair of scissors

Find a plate or something to trace a circle with (unless you are really good at drawing). It should be an 8-10 inch circle depending on the size of your kitty.

Now cut it out – carefully! Once you start cutting it’s not too hard:

That’s it! You’ve made your kitty litter box!

Of course you’ll want to add kitty litter:

Our kitty Shadow is pretty big now (about 13 lb) and he fits just fine. He adjusted to his new cat litter box overnight – I think he actually prefers the added privacy.

This is the only occasional “mess” I see:

Pretty neat, isn’t it?!

Questions? I’ve answered the most common questions and comments here on this updated post: The Original DIY Cheap Mess-Free Cat Litter Box


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About the Author

Erika is a happily married mom with four energetic children. With a love for Jesus, photography, organizing, and encouraging other moms, she stays busy and definitely does not have it all together.


  1. Great expiriment! I’m looking to find a new litter box for my cats. Just wondering how the cat gets out?? SOme of them litter boxes can be pricey. Thanks for sharing the awesome idea. I just might have to try it!

  2. I have been using a tub for quite some time because my cats are so huge (16 & 17 pounds) but I never thought of using the lid. I may try to find a deeper tub and do this. Thanks for the idea.

    • That’s the great thing about this too – you can customize it to however you want. So you can make a bigger hole or use a bigger tub in your case! Thanks for commenting!

    • mine are 12, 20 and 23 lbs….get yourself a 25 gal container…….it’s more than big enough. my circle is 14”- my 23 lb is a fat fur-ball (can’t put her on a diet cause my small one is only small because of a runaway thyroid and he Has to eat.) I put one of the smaller plastic shoe-box size ones upside down (i keep my litter-scooper in it) at the circle end and glued carpet to the bottom of this small plastic container-step as well as the top of the 25 gal container lid, so she has some traction to get a hold of. I take the carpeted pieces out once a week and beat the litter out of them. It works :) and the cats are okay with the set up.

      • I LOVE how you adapted this idea! Thanks for sharing, Sandy!

      • there is a product that allows cats to only eat out of their dish. it opens only for a cat wearing the matching collar. so one cat could be on diet food and the other could have a high calorie food. of course it is pricey. One is called WonderBowl™ Selective Feeder
        and theres one called wireless whiskers.

  3. Definitely going to try this! Thanks!

  4. What a great idea!! I have to try this out. I have 7 cats so I see a LOT of litter scattered around.

  5. Awesome idea! Thanks for sharing. I could totally put this in any room of the house instead of stuck in our bathroom so the kiddo won’t explore in it.

    Buying a bin this weekend – holla!

  6. This is genius! I will be trying it as soon as I can get to Walmart. Thank you for sharing. :)

  7. Beth Hill says:

    What a great idea ! I have 2 black cat, and one of them looks EXACTLY like yours, right down to the white mark on his chest.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • How cute! Ever since we got Shadow, it seems there are black cats that look just like him everywhere. There is a stray in the neighborhood who I’ve mistaken for Shadow more than once!

  8. This is wonderful. Very great idea!!!!! I love it. I have a big dog who loves to get into the litter box, Yuk!!! I have it baracaded. This would help! Rita

    • Ooh yes yuck! I know how that can be. Our pug loves the litter box and unfortunately she’s the same size as the cat! But she can’t jump up and into this new litter box!

  9. Kim Henrichs says:

    I have five cats – this idea could be a lifesaver thank you!

  10. This is brilliant! I’ve seen these before and wanted to try them, but they’re so expensive. They put those big bins in sale after pretty much every holiday…this is a great time to try! Any ideas on what to use for a liner? I could always tape in a trash bag….
    Have you found this really reduces tracking?

    • I haven’t used a liner – it’s easy enough to clean out once in awhile as needed. I’m not sure a trashbag would fit in except a super big one.
      It definitely reduces tracking. I used to have to 2-3 times a day (with little ones crawling around I can’t stand kitty litter on the floor) and now I only have to do it once or twice a week! HUGE difference!

      If you figure out a liner, let me know – it would be great to know!
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

    • elizabeth says:

      I am one of the suckers who bought the expensive version of this at the store, but once it gets too nasty I will definitely make one of my own! :)

      At Petsmart they sell liners that should fit the homemade version, too. They say “Jumbo” size on them and show a picture of a top-entry litter box on them.

  11. I just now saw this on Pinterest!! Your description of your old litter box sounds just like ours…broken flap, litter everywhere and smell (no matter what kind of litter I purchase). I am going out tomorrow to get a bin. Thanks for the tip!!

    Side note: We homeschool too…best thing we did for our daughter.

    • Awesome! Glad to help, CIndy! It is SOO easy and so worth it. Almost 6 months later, this is still the best cat litter box I’ve ever had!
      And neat that you homeschool too – I agree – it’s a lot of work but more than worth it!

  12. Jennifer H says:

    I’ll be sure to share this w/my mom

  13. I made this and I looooooove it so much. No more litter stuck to bare feet

  14. Becky Reimnitz says:

    We bought the expensive one two years ago because our new puppy thought the litter box was a cookie jar. I need another one for our basement. I’m gonna make my own. Thanks for the idea.

  15. Ginger Savino says:

    Looks like a good idea. One just has to be aware that it might be difficult for older cats with arthritis to use this kind of box.

    I used one of those Sterilite plastic stacking drawers as a step for my cat to get up on the sofa when she was older. I know there’s no way she could have jumped up onto that tall of a litter box without a step.

  16. joaquina alvarez says:

    so im a little late on this one but i loved it.. my cat just recently became an indoor cat after an incident i didnt feel safe with him outside. i got his littler box when he was a kittten but he never used his littler box so i hadnt bought a new one.. i made this one for hi, and hes still kinda adjusting but i love it and i hate messy litter!!! thank you sooo much!!

  17. you can also cut a hole in the front add pillow and have a cat house

  18. I have three cats and the idea of this seems good but isn’t the tub a bit deep? Also the cat has to go in head first and land in the dark on “stuff” and your cat uses this without any problem?

    • You want the tub to be deep so there’s enough room for them to move around. My cat doesn’t mind it at all. In fact, he prefers this over the old box. Of course every cat is different though. 😉

  19. laura nye says:

    Thank you so much for this tip. I just set mine up, so I’m anxious to see how the kitties react to it. It was difficult to cut the hole. I ended up using pruning shears. I guess I need to invest in stronger scissors.

    Just an FYI – Target has the 18 gallon Sterlite containers for $4.99 right now.

  20. We made this a few days ago and it works great! This might sound crazy, but I had my cat watch me put it together and add the litter so he would get familiar with it. When I was done I placed the new box in his usual spot, and put him on the roof. He sniffed and explored, and a bit later he started using it no problem! Best part is there is no mess of litter sprinkles to sweep up everynight :)

  21. I went to Walmart, an 18 gal bin was 56.00!!! What year did you buy that bin? WOW, big difference in price. Is it tall enough for cats to sit in without hitting their head?

    • Connie, I just got an 18 gallon tote yesterday from Walmart in Columbus Ohio. It cost $4.97. Be sure and look at the bottom of the tote, there’s a sticker that says how many gallons it is. You shouldn’t need one bigger than that, it seems as deep or deeper than the enclosed box my cats currently use. Even the totes that almost double the size are only twice the cost, around $8.97.

      Wish me luck! I’m doing this, literally, right now. Just came back for some more tips! Here’s hoping my cats adjust properly… lol!

    • Hi Connie (and Erika too!),

      Cedar Rapids, IA here, and I just bought my 18 gal Rubbermaid tote from our Walmart for a little under $7.27. Captain Mal hasn’t used it yet, but I’m really hoping he’ll adjust to it. He’s so tall that he was having a problem squatting his butt far enough down to pee, and was accidentally peeing over the side of a “normal” litter box, all over my floor! I’m hoping the very tall sides and lots of room to turn around will put a stop to that!

      Thanks! :)

  22. I did the same thing for a diaper pail. We used little bags and dropped them into a lined storage container like the one in the picture and it work for all of my kids without the smell and cost of a name brand item.

  23. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you….I can’t thank you enough for this GREAT idea.After trying several different litter boxes and flushing the money, this simple, inexpensive little box works to perfection!! I was using the vacuum every day, twice a day and I was tired, it was aggravating. Now no more mess!! I am so HAPPY!! I am telling all my friends about this!

  24. This is a WONDERFUL idea! My cats are so big and for some reason both of them prefer to use the box with the their head facing the back wall?!!? This is so much nicer for them and me :) I love the idea of the “stair” drawer since my Mia has a knee issue and can’t jump. It’s also the perfect place to put the little garbage bags I use when scooping and the scooper so it’s never sitting out! Thanks again for sharing!

  25. I had this exact same idea! But also because I wanted a box a bit smaller than the CleverCat. Do you think 18 gallons is a must or could I go any smaller? The CleverCat measures 20x15x20…

    • If you have a small cat, I think you could go smaller. My kitty’s bigger (about 13 lb) and he likes this size.
      Thanks for stopping by, Grace!

  26. Rennae Allison says:

    Found this link on Pinterest. GREAT!!! This truly works. One for each cat. Inexpensive and no more mess. THANKS for sharing a wonderful idea!

  27. How smart!

    Thank you for posting. I’m going to try it for my two kitties, Finnigan and Lola.

  28. Joyce Eik says:

    I love it! I have five house cats (one with his left front leg missing from birth) and I couldn’t see spending $30 apiece for six covered litter pans. Now I don’t have to!

  29. Oh,, this is a good idea.. put this on my facebook page.. and will also add to my blog.. smile..

  30. I have 3 cats ranging from 6 lbs to 16 lbs. the excitement of fresh litter leaves the floor covered. It’s such a waste of litter. I’d love to try this. Maybe cat litter would stop getting stuck to my wet feet after I step out of the shower!

  31. I buy the large (dark green with red pull) trash bags by the box at Costco, and they make a great kitty litter box liner, and far cheaper than the ones at pet stores. I hope my cat likes your homemade litter box idea!

  32. My sister shared this link with me, so I made it and for the past 2 weeks my three cats have been using this litter box. They had no trouble adjusting to the size of the box or the lid. It is wonderful that they don’t kick out the litter all over the floor anymore. :) There is still some tracking because of what is stuck to their feet, but it is amazing how much cleaner my home is since I switched from my old low, open litter box. Thank you so much for your idea.

  33. Cheryl Lee says:

    I am so glad I found this!! Our cat Abby is 14 yrs old & for some reason she has started missing the potty box. She gets it in but pees in the floor – I am having a very hard time with this needless to say – & the litter gets tracked everywhere. I will probably run out & get me a tote today. You could even store the kitty litter on top of the bin. Great idea – thanks so much for sharing!

  34. This is BRILLIANT!!

  35. What a great idea! We don’t have cats but my son’s gf family does and they had such issues they had to delegate an entire porch for them just to minimize the smell and mess. It makes total sense to contain the litter buy use of gravity…it stays in instead of being tracked OUT. Plus, how easy to empty and then maybe hose it outside and spray any safe antibacterials on it before bringing back in. Plus, so cheap if you need another for several cats, or a lower bin for cats that may be older and unable to jump that high. I am passing this onto the family! Thank you!

  36. What a great idea for that litter box! I got a little confused when i saw the cat because my cat looks just like that AND i kept reading and the cat’s name is Shadow and thats my cat too! Small world! :-)

  37. Hi,

    I don’t have a cool little container like that and can’t go out and buy one. Anything else you suggest that I can use around the house?

    Homeschooler girl,


  38. carey ann weiss says:

    Thank you for the DIY Catlitter Box Info!!!!!!

  39. But does your cat enjoy visiting there???

  40. I had a clear plastic storage box I was using for blankets. It’s a little bigger than 18 gallon. It works great for two cats. It’s also a million times cleaner on the outside and less attractive for the dogs. Another plus is the box being clear. It makes it easier for them to see at night. Love this idea, thank you for sharing!

  41. I made this and I have to say I LOVE it! Thank you for the great idea!!

  42. what a great idea I will try this tomorrow, because I’m tired of picking up kitty litter from the floor.

  43. Theresa Turdici says:

    Awesome! I’m showing this to my hubby right now. We had a litter box that lasted ten years and then the plastic cracked. We replaced it with a cheaper one but the litter mess is annoying. I think our cat would like this one better, I know I would. :)

  44. We did this a few days ago. At first our cat seemed terrified of it, so we left the lid off. Once he got used to the HUGE new box, we put the lid back on, and he seems to love climbing in and out through the hole. Much less mess!

  45. I actually use the exact same tote but, I didn’t think they would enter from the top, so I left the top off and cut out a square towards the top of one of the side walls. It really helps keep the litter in! We have 3 cats and one of the litter boxes is kind of on the small side so I might replace it with your idea! I might have to make the hole a little bigger than yours because the boy kitties are rather large!

  46. I love this idea! y litterbox is in the cellar so the ess isn’t that big of a deal, but I still don’ like it

  47. I’ve been looking forever for the right one…this is simply perfect! Funny the things we don’t think about ourselves…lol Thank you!

  48. Stephanie says:

    Brilliant! THANK YOU!

  49. Elisabeth says:

    Hmmm… wondering if my pet bunny will do ok with one of these! 😛

    Go, Jesus!

  50. Georgia Beckman says:

    FLIPPIN GENIUS! We are going to Dollar General right now to get our bin! Thank you! Our old cat, Jack, is 14, he doesn’t make messes outside the litter box. Well, he DOES, he sometimes poops outside the box, but he doesn’t track litter. This year for Christmas, my husband got me a new cat. I wanted a young, playful kitten. Gray peels out in the litter box every single time he’s in it! There’s always a pile beside the box! YAYYYYYY! THANK YOU!

  51. I recently adopt a 5yr old cat. How can I get her to use this litter box?

  52. mistechal says:

    What a brilliant idea ! Certainly beats all of those break down prone, automatic liter boxes that I buy at PetSmart, for $100 + dollars ! My only question is, that I have read at an on line vet blog,(Dr. Fox) expresses concern about enclosed litter boxes, and the enclosed noxious fumes. I guess if you are a responsible kitty owner, and have one litter box per kitty. and clean it daily, this shouldn’t be a problem. Just wondering what the other cat owners think?
    ( I admit, I know little about cats, and their health, I have owed cats for just over 10 years, and would welcome any advice to help me keep my wee ones safe and healthy.)

  53. mistechal says:

    What a brilliant idea ! Certainly beats all of those break down prone, automatic liter boxes that I buy at PetSmart, for $100 + dollars ! My only question is, that I have read at an on line vet blog,(Dr. Fox) expresses concern about enclosed litter boxes, and the enclosed noxious fumes. I guess if you are a responsible kitty owner, and have one litter box per kitty. and clean it daily, this shouldn’t be a problem. Just wondering what the other cat owners think?
    ( I admit, I know little about cats, and their health, I have owend cats for just over 10 years, and would welcome any advice to help me keep my wee ones safe and healthy.)

    • I think your concern is a valid one. Of course, the litter box should always be kept clean enough that noxious odors are eliminated as much as possible, but it does behoove us cat owners to be extra vigilant using this idea.

      I found that one of my cats wouldn’t use the box with the top on, so I had to leave it off. :-(

  54. I like this idea.. I’m just wondering if where you’ve cut the plastic has sharp edges?

  55. What a great idea! My boyfriend and I recently added a 2 month old kitten to our apartment and I’d love to use this type of litter box. Should I wait for the kitten to get a little older before I try to implement the top entrance, or do you think he’ll be able to get in and out okay?

  56. JuliaSophia says:

    Storage bins are so much better/larger/deeper than regular cat boxes. I have four rescued fur babies and cat box patrol was not a favorite job with the old shallow boxes. Having allergies (luckily not to cats) the store bought litters were the next to go. When the new babies were spayed/neutered the vets office used shreaded newspaper in place of litter. That gave me the idea to used cardboard layers at the bottom of the box, with shreaded/wadded paper for them to “dig”. Instead of scooping, the entire box content is dumped daily and a spray of home made apple enzyme cleaner wiped with a few paper towels leaves them so much nicer than heavily perfumed dusty clay litters.

  57. I have a 12 year old messy cat, shes about 8 or 9lbs and still very agile. I came home today and the sight of the litter box was the last straw. I have a very small bathroom but I think it will be worth taking a few steps around the tote than having to step in litter crumbs and seeing her poop in the open box. What sold me is the fact that It helps reduce the smell. Small bathrooms and litter boxes dont mix quite well. Thanks for your idea! I plan to buy my tote at walmart today.

  58. Ann Helms says:

    Just found this webpage — actually, I bought a top entry litter box since my visually impaired Siamese started
    peeing outside the litter box — just deliberately it seems – don’t know why all the sudden. So, I’m out of town working and left the top entry box is in storage – and have to leave a small towel on the floor to catch the mess and wash them all them all the time. I think he still found a way to pee outside the top-entry litter box too — but maybe a larger onevwill work. At least it will be a less expensive investment. Thank you.

  59. Hi!
    Thank you for sharing!! I already have two bins as litter boxes, however, the top hole is an awesome idea.
    I will be adding the top to it today.

    Again, thank you!!

  60. I love this! Do you mind if I share a photo of it on my blog, with a link?

  61. Love, love, love this idea! We have four large cats that were always missing the litter box. Very frustrating. We bought a 20 gallon tote and cut a large square hole in the lid (did I mention that our cats are rather large)? Our cats LOVE their new potty! And I don’t have to clean up their ,issues anymore. Thank you so very much for sharing your idea. You have restored my sanity!

  62. I have a very large cat as well. There is just not enough room in traditional liter boxes for him. What I love about this idea is you can paint the totes any color with spray paint and decorate as well. I will be doing this for a New Years project!

  63. Nazareth Thornton says:

    OMG !!!! This is a brilliant idea !!!!! Top of today’s to do list. To add alittle cuteness, I am going to add my cat name on the side with vinyl letters. I hope Tweedee will be as excited as I am !!!!!!!!!

  64. Sandie Divan says:

    My husband I just rescued a Maine Coon and he is about 28 pounds. He is too big for the litter box with the dome and flap door. My husband came across your blog and we did this and it has worked out great. We did make the hole at the top bigger to accommodate Clarence’s size. Thanks for the info on this.

  65. gus morgan says:

    I have been making these for years since I adopted a cat who hung her butt over the edge of a regular cat litter box and ruined the carpeting. I cover the top with a fake grass (plastic) welcome mat (use a hot glue gun to adhere) and cut the hole thru both the lid and the mat. This way it cleans the cats paws a bit when they jump out. Also, I have two cats so I use a huge tub and fill with 80 lbs of cat litter; it keeps the urine from reaching the bottom and the clumps stay suspended and never stick to the bottom or sides. I also use a clear tub just to make sure the kittens were not playing in there when they were younger; also allows them to see out.

    • Great ideas, Gus! Thanks for sharing.

    • Gus, how often were you having to clean the sides of the tub? I have 2 dom long hairs who seem to be uber-sensitive to squatting in the box and prefer to pee on their tippy-toes. I love this idea (thanks, Erika!) but I worry about having to clean the side of the tub frequently. Like, with soap and water. Thoughts? Opinions?


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