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March 31, 2009

"Pee" Gravel?

Kitty backview with litter  
So, you look at this and ask yourself what it could possibly be.  A small vegetable garden or a maybe a burial site for pocket sized pets?  Nope, you're wrong.  Waaaaay wrong.

Newest outdoor cat litter box   
This is our newest outdoor litter box!  Yep, you heard that right.  It's a litter box.  And it's not the first time we've done this even though this is our most simple design.  Our first one was much more elaborate:   

First kitty condo kondo 
This is our first Kitty Kondo (notice that same Kitty in the pic?).  It was constructed back in 1999 when I was a single mom with a boy in middle school and three cats.    Free time was precious and I noticed that I was spending at least two hours per week on cat litter duties.    Scooping poop, replacing litter, vacuuming little bits of litter that  were tracked EVERYWHERE and cleaning up after a neutered male cat that defied imagination when it came to his ability to stand in the litter box and spray 360 degrees in every direction. 

I took out a home improvement loan to add landscaping and patios to my unfinished backyard and the Kitty Kondo was part of my plan.    I think that part of the project cost about $700 but it was well worth every cent!  Here are the details if you're interested in doing something similar:

  1. We cut a kitty door from the family room to the attached 6 by 6 foot "dog run" that we had professionally built by a fence installer.  We told them we had a small dog (a lie -- since we had only cats) and asked that they ensure that all gaps between poles and gates were tight enough that prison escapes for our tiny pooch were impossible.   Yep, they take you more seriously when you do this for your dog instead of your cat! 

    You can't see it in the photo above but the top is also enclosed.  We also put a roof on it ourselves.  It was pretty easy with materials from Home Depot.

  2. Before the chain-link went up, we dug a large trench about 2 feet deep and nine feet square (3 by 3) and we filled that with pea sized pea gravel.  The people who thought we were building a dog run were really confused but we just smiled and handed them money.    The concrete pouring guys created a frame around that area and poured cement.    The whole project came together beautifully and each time we've done this, it's been a huge selling asset when we've sold our house!  Seriously!!   Each time, a stipulation of the offer was that we LEAVE the Kitty Kondo!
  3. Back to the design:  After the chain link was up, we covered eight foot long 4x6 boards with cheap carpet (using a staple gun) and hung these carpeted boards at various heights and angles inside the Kitty Kondo.  We drilled holes in the ends of the boards and used nylon tie-straps to attach them to the chain link.  Oh boy!  The cats LOVED this!!  We had a 2600 square foot house but our cats spent all day in this 36 square foot space outside!  We put a bird feeder on a nearby fence to give them more amusement!  I think the birds were more amused than the cats!

  4. Every four or six months, we'd go out there with rubber gloves and a small bucket and pick up the solid waste.  It might sound dreadful but it was pretty quick and easy since it was all dried up and pretty innocent looking. Then we'd squirt the area down with bleach and rinse it really well with our garden hose.  With this simple twice-yearly maintenance plan, it was clean and tidy and even if you stood right next to it on the hottest day in summer, you wouldn't smell a thing.  Best yet, my house never smelled like cat litter and my cats were the happiest I've seen them in years!

When we moved to house #2, I wanted another Kitty Kondo and my husband agreed.  Within weeks of closing escrow, we had one built (cheaper than our first) and our kitties used it until we moved to our new house in 2006.  I've just spent an hour searching through our photo archive for photos of our 2nd Kitty Kondo but can't find any.  It was quite similar to the first and our cats loved it almost as much as we did.

When we moved to house #3 in 2006, we had only one cat remaining (other two died of old age).  She was neat and clean and never sprayed so indoor cat litter didn't seem like much of a big deal but I've always noticed that our house starts to stink when a litter change is due and our laundry room is covered in bits of clay litter and there is dust everywhere.  Since she spends several hours each day in our backyard, it seemed logical that we give her a litter box out there.  Especially since she'll hold it all day just to come in the house and use the litter box!  If she's forced to go outside, she'll usually get confused and go in the grass (yuck!).  Not ideal since our girls play in the grass every day!

So now I'm back to the first pic:

Newest outdoor cat litter box   
Here's our newest outdoor litter box!  We dug a 2 foot deep hole and filled half of it with pea gravel then we inserted a plastic form (one that we got at Home Depot for under $10) then we drilled a hundred holes in it with our power drill and filled it with pea gravel and trimmed it with bamboo edging.  The entire cost was under $100

Our Kitty knows what to do here since she was raised with pea(pee) gravel as her little box filler but you can entice your kitty to use this by putting her litter box on top of the gravel for a week or two.

Once you try this system, you'll never go back to litter in your house!    Litter isn't expensive but the time we save by doing this is invaluable.


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