Is this clear plastic DIY cat litter box better than commercially manufactured ones?

This is a video by a really competent American woman on how to make your own cat litter box out of a clear plastic tote storage container. I’m very impressed with her DIY skills. She claims that her box is better than commercially manufactured ones.

Please note that sometimes videos stop working overtime for reasons beyond my control and if that has happened I apologise.


I thought I just think about it to see whether I agree with her. What I like about it right away is the high side walls. It is deeper than some standard, cheaper trays which are clearly not deep enough with no side wall protection to stop particles of substrate being kicked out of the tray. So that aspect of her product I like. However, most commercial trays/litter boxes are quite deep or covered so there is little difference in that regard.

She says that it is more natural for a cat to go to the toilet in an uncovered litter tray because naturally they would do it outside where there would be no cover over them. I agree with that. However, I don’t think it normally disturbs cats to go into a covered litter box. That’s my personal experience. Although it is possible that some cats may be reluctant to enter a covered box. A positive, though, of covered boxes is that they are private. It is said that cats like privacy when pooping and peeing. Also, covered litter boxes are better in one respect in that they help keep odours and the litter material inside the tray and not on the floor around the litter box.

The only other question that I have about her product, which I like incidentally, is one concerning the chemical constituents of a clear plastic tote container such as the one that she uses. My research indicates that this is made out of either polypropylene or high density polyethylene. They are both types of plastic known as a polymer.

Making you own cat litter box from clear plastic tote storage box
Making you own cat litter box from clear plastic tote storage box. This is a screenshot from the video on this page.
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Polyethylene terephthalate is clear and strong and widely used for packaging foods and beverages. Polypropylene is also using a wide variety of applications including packaging for consumer products. On the face of it they are safe to be used as cat litter trays.

There is one safety area which my research indicates should be mentioned. Scientific American has an article on the multiple use of polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE). I don’t know whether the box that this woman uses is made of this polymer but if it is the experts say that it can leach carcinogenic, hormone-disrupting phthalates when used over and over again. So they’re good for one use but not multiple use according to this article.

They also mention the use of polycarbonate in plastic storage containers. This might not be relevant to this situation, and probably isn’t, but out of an abundance of caution I’ll mention it. Storage containers made from polycarbonate have been shown to leach the “harmful hormone-disrupting chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) after repeated use.

Conclusion

My personal conclusion is that the product that this woman is making is good and being a bit larger than the average litterbox may even be superior in that respect. I don’t think that there are any chemical issues which might harm a cat when the product is used repeatedly, as it will be. Although I would certainly ask a retailer selling these tote boxes what they are made of and do a bit of research on the chemical composition to see whether any toxins leach out on repeated use. It’s unlikely but it is just possible.

The problem is that litter substrate is abrasive so if toxins can be released they are likely to be released under these circumstances. Also, domestic cats are very close, indeed surrounded by, this plastic material and therefore if any toxins are released they are likely to be affected by them.

Finally, some cats are allergic to plastic. Just a friendly warning.

If you are a chemical engineer, please comment! 🙂 I’d like some more information on the chemical composition of these boxes.

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