I was recently over at a friend’s house. She had just gotten a kitten, and I noticed she had the litter box sitting in a large see-through green plastic bin with a hole cut into the side. Turns out, her dog likes to play in the kitty’s litter, and it was clear the plastic bin was a quick fix to keep litter from being flung around the room.
For most of my childhood with my cat, she was indoor/outdoor and didn’t have a litter box. But I remember when she was a kitten, we kept her inside (and therefore she needed a litter box). I’ve always hated litter boxes. They’re messy, they’re smelly, and they’re anything but subtle. We hid our litter box in the basement bathroom; as far away from the regular flow of our lives as possible. My friend’s basement is being used as a rental, and the upstairs is on the smaller side. It’s definitely not an easy fix to hide this litter box. So, what if we didn’t hide it? What if we put it in plain sight? And instead of putting the litter inside of a large plastic litter cover that just makes it more of an eyesore, what if we came up with a cover design that actually added to the room?
Thus, this project was born: a mid-century modern side table/fully outfitted cat bathroom. This design gives you plenty of tabletop space for setting books, drinks, or a lamp (plus, a little corner bookshelf that could fit a nice plant or a picture frame). It’s also fully functional for the cat. The circle opening is large enough for a medium-sized cat to fit into. The small opening and the hallway means the litter box is removed enough to not be visible from the outside, and by putting down a litter mat in the hallway, the chance of litter getting spilled on the floor is hugely decreased. This whole piece was designed around a medium-sized litter box (specifically, this one). The cupboard door on the side is large enough for the litter box to be easily slid out for regular cleaning and refilling, and the whole tabletop can be lifted off for a deeper cleaning of the entire inside.
I’m all about form and function, and this has easily become one of my favorite projects because it turns something unsightly and awkward into something beautiful and multi-functional. Not to mention, if you’re handy with a circular saw and jig saw, putting this project together is pretty quick and easy!
Step 1: Cut plywood for DIY litter box
Cut the 3/4” plywood to size, according to the cutting guide, with a circular saw. One of the keys to making this project look professional is straight cuts. Measure from the edge of your blade to the edge of your saw and clamp down a board at this point to create a guide for cutting nice and straight. To prevent splintering on the edges, you can tape off the plywood where you plan to cut. This helps hold everything together and makes your cuts cleaner.
- Left end: 16” x 10 1/2”
- Right end: 9” x 10 1/2”
- Bottom/top: 16” x 33”
- Bookshelf back: 12 1/2” x 10 1/2”
- Bookshelf side: 7” x 10 1/2”
- Back: 10 1/2” x 31 1/2”
Step 2: Cut hole for DIY litter box
Place the right end piece on your workspace, best-side up. Cut out a circle diagram (you can download a 6 3/4" template here—just make sure to double-check that your printer is set to print it to size—or make your own) and center it on the wood. Trace around the circle with a pencil. I always wish I made my paper diagrams on cardstock so it would be easier to trace around them, but I never remember to—so, here’s my reminder to you.
Clamp down the piece, leaving room in the middle for cutting the hole. I used a couple sawhorses to accomplish this. Drill a hole near the side of the circle with a large drill bit (I used a 7/16” bit)—this will be the starting point for your cut. Using a jig saw, cut around the circle. The curve of this circle is a little tight for cutting out with a jig saw, but you can do it. I find the best way is to keep the blade at full speed, but to move the saw slowly around the circle.
Step 3: Pre-drill with Kreg Jig
Before assembling, pre-drill all of the vertical pieces. To add that extra, professional finish, we’re pre-drilling with a Kreg Jig. A Kreg Jig is a tool that allows you to drill pocket holes on the inside of your work so that no screws can be seen from the outside.
Set the Kreg Jig to 3/4” thickness and pre-drill the sides and bottom edge of the back piece. Pre-drill the bottom edge of both end pieces. Pre-drill the back right side and the bottom edge of the shelf back and shelf side pieces.
Step 4: Sand DIY litter box pieces
Sand all surfaces, cut ends, and the circle entrance. You can get away with sanding by hand, but I always use a power sander on a project that I want to live in my home as furniture. Because the plywood is high-grade, you may be able to get away with just using 220-grit. If that’s not cutting it for you, start out with 150-grit and then finish with 220-grit.
Pay special attention to the circle entrance. I built a prototype of this project and had my cat try it out to make sure the hole was big enough for her. She went in and out one time, and already the entrance looked like a fur-lined coat. So, just remember, the smoother the wood, the less the cat hair sticks to it.
Step 5: Attach ends and back to bottom of DIY litter box
Line up the end pieces with the bottom piece and secure them using 1 1/4” Kreg screws. Add the back piece and secure it to the bottom and the ends.
Step 6: Add shelf corner and support piece to DIY litter box
Lay the shelf pieces together to create a corner, and secure them to each other. Then, position them inside the right end of the table. Secure to the end and the bottom with 1 1/4” Kreg screws.
Step 7: Add support piece to DIY litter box
Measure the left side of the table and cut a piece of plywood (or a scrap piece of one-by-two) to size. Because the top isn’t attached and the left side of the table is just a cupboard door, we added this piece to connect the two sides of the table together for added stability. Pre-drill the support piece with the Kreg Jig and secure it in place so it’s flush (or near flush) with the tops and front of the walls.
Step 8: Add top to DIY litter box
Position the tabletop piece on top of the rest of the structure so all the corners line up. Reaching inside, trace along the inside where the top meets the walls. Using these markings, cut and attach leftover pieces of plywood (or any other wood you have lying around) to the bottom of the top so that when the top is sitting on the bottom structure, it will sit snug and won’t slide around. This way, the top can be removed for easy cleaning. Secure these pieces with wood glue.
Step 9: Cut and attach cupboard door
Measure the left-front side of the cat litter table and cut a door for this section out of 1/2” plywood. Sand. Add hinges along the left side and secure to the door with 1/2” screws. Secure the hinges to the table end with the regular hinge screws.
Step 10: Add handle and magnet closure
Measure along the right side of the door for a handle. Pre-drill with a 9/64” drill bit and secure with the screws provided.
Drill a 5/16” hole on the inside-right side of the door and insert a magnet. Glue in place. Place a screw head on the magnet and close the door firmly enough that the screw leaves a dent on the door jam. Pre-drill and secure the screw at this location. Now the magnet and the screw will act as a catch to hold your door closed.
Step 11: Add legs to the DIY litter box
Position the mounting plates for the legs in the four corners of the litter table. The angled corners should line up parallel with the corners of the table so that the legs are angled out in that classic mid-century modern look. Secure with screws provided. Screw the legs into the mounting plates. You can fix any unsteadiness by unscrewing one leg slightly.
The mounting plates I purchased came with a number of other hardware pieces I didn’t need, so don’t worry if there’s some stuff left over when you're done.
Step 12: Apply finish to DIY litter box
Add stain or leave your plywood raw to coordinate with the aesthetics of your home. I highly recommend protecting your table with a clear, polyurethane finish. This is the best way to keep your project looking new and make it easy to clean.
Step 13: Add final details to DIY litter box
I decided to line the inside hallway of the cat litter cover with this litter mat. It’s specially designed to help sift litter out of the kitty’s paws so you don’t end up with a pretty piece of furniture with a pile of cat litter on the ground next to it.
Measure out the inside of the table and cut your litter mat to size. This will help keep litter from getting spilled on your floor.
A few hours later, you're done! You'd never know this little side table hid a litter box. I love the idea of dressing it up for an entryway. Style it with a couple of coffee table books, some plants to freshen things up (and a spritzer to keep them looking, well, alive), and you're set. I also love the idea of a nice candle and a catch-all for keys and bills—our wooden paper tray would be a great fit here. Looking for more pet-friendly projects? Check out our DIY pet bowl stand, our DIY cat bed, and our cat hammock (yes, that's a thing).