Last Update: 5/17/04
down to the pics]
The goal of this project is to remove the litter box from the ferrets' cage,
placing it in a dedicated potty chamber and well away from the critters' bedding.
The benefits to this are a cleaner living area, better odor control, and easier
litter box cleaning.
If your ferrets have an open cage all the time this may not be so useful, but
ours are confined until supervised playtime. In this situation, having a remote
potty area has been very nice. The cage stays much cleaner and odor is definitely
reduced. It is also easy to clean the litter box without releasing the monsters--I
just close the gate to the potty area, open the top of the box and scoop away.
Below are the project parts list, tool list and instructions, and below all
that are photos with notes. The total cost for this project is about $60 if
you already have the tools.
Parts & Approximate Prices
- 2 4" plastic blast gates ($5 each, part
828922 at WoodZone.com)
- About 24" of 4" dust hose ($20 for 10', part
828977 at WoodZone.com)
- 2 4" wire hose clamps ($2 each, part
828951 at WoodZone.com)
- The "blast gates," hose and wire clamps are intended for a
sawdust vacuum system in a woodworking shop but they are also perfect
tunnels and gates for ferrets. Since you can only buy the hose 10' at
a time, you will have plenty left over
- One litter box such as the Super Pet Hi-Bac ($8, item
SP-62148 at TheFerretStore.com, 14"L x 13.5"W x
- One plastic tub with latching top, big enough to hold the litter box and
then some, such as the Sterilite "Ultra" 116 Quart ($15 at Target,
part no. 1990, 33 1/8"L x 20 1/4"W x 14 3/4"H)
- The exact litter pan and plastic container are not important so long
as the fit is good and the top is secure, but these worked well for me.
Target.com does not show the Sterilite tub, but check in the store since
that is where I found mine.
- I could not find a plastic tub that would hold the popular corner-style
litter pan. They are a little too big.
- Four #6-32 x 1" machine screws with bolts (these come in a packet
of 6 or 8 at Home Depot)
- 12x #6 flat cut washers (these come in a packet of 30 at Home Depot)
- These screws, bolts and washers are for attaching a blast gate to
the plastic tub
- Longer screws are fine, you can cut them down, but don't get fatter
screws since there is limited space around the edge of the blast gate
- One 3/8" x 1" bolt with matching nut
- Two 3/8" fender washers (fender washers are the big fat ones)
- These parts are for attaching the litter pan to the enclosing tub,
so the ferrets can't push it around. The exact type of fastener is
not important here so long as it is kind of big and uses big washers--this
is just what I used.
- Some 1/8" zipties
- These will secure the blast gate to the cage bars. Depending on
your cage you may need to try something different.
- Pricing for fasteners: I don't have the detailed prices, but this should
all cost you about $5.
- Scrap cardboard, pen and knife for making a cutting template
- Dremel or other rotary cutting tool with cut-off disks (for cutting a hole
in the plastic tub, cutting cage bars, cutting the ends off of screws if they
are too long for your liking)
- Drill and bits: 9/64" bit will do for the #6 machine screws, 3/8"
bit for the litter pan securing bolt
- Fat Phillips screwdriver or 3/8" socket for tightening hose clamps
- Hacksaw for cutting the 4" hose
- Some kind of clippers for trimming the ends of the zipties
- Pen or file to mark the bars of the cage for cutting
- Metal file or grinding stone on the cutting tool, for smoothing the cut
edges of the cage bars
- Tape for marking and temporary holding
Test fit everything and be sure of your measurements before you start cutting!
It is especially important to understand how you will modify the cage before
you cut a hole in it. I was able to use zipties to secure the gate to the cage--your
cage may need something different. Assemble your parts and visualize before
you get started.
- Create a cardboard cutting template from the blast gate: draw around the
outside of the gate and cut out a cardboard circle.
- Cut a length of hose. Loosely arrange the hose, tub and cage and figure
out where you are going to cut the holes for the blast gates.
Tape the cardboard circle onto the plastic tub and trace around the outside
to mark where you will cut.
Tape the circle to the cage bars and mark the bars that you will need to
cut. (If the bars are black and a pen won't show, use a file to scrape a mark.)
- How much hose? It depends on the elevation difference between the cage
and the potty chamber. If both your gates are at the same elevation you
can use a short length. If the elevations differ I would estimate you need
10" of hose per 1" of height difference, because the hose isn't
very flexible and you want it to mate to the blast gate straight on, not
at an angle.
- Of course, if the tunnel to the potty chamber is too long your ferrets
might not use it! Try to keep the tube as short as you can.
Preparing the blast gates
- Notice the thin border around the edge of the blast gate. We will drill
at the 4 corners of each gate, avoiding the thicker inner portion that covers
the moving partition.
- Take one of the #6 washers and hold it centered on a corner. Mark the plastic
showing through the center of the washer. Do this for all 4 corners on both
- With the 9/64" bit, drill the 8 corners.
Preparing the potty chamber part 1: installing the gate
- Fire up your rotary cutting tool and cut out the circle you traced on the
plastic tub. Use a slower speed if you can. If the tool is spinning too fast
the plastic will melt at the edges and it will stink
- Place the blast gate into the hole, with the "door handle" horizontal
and on the outside of the tub. Tape it into place.
- With a fine pen or some kind of poking tool, mark the plastic tub through
the drill holes in the blast gate.
- Remove the gate and drill out the 4 marks on the tub. Don't push too
hard. The plastic tubs can be brittle, especially the clear ones. Let
the drill do the work or you might crack the plastic.
- For each of the holes, place a #6-32 machine screw and #6 washer on the
inside poking out. Use a piece of tape over the head to hold the screws in
- Now on the outside of the box, put 3 #6 washers on each protruding screw
- Fit the blast gate to the screws and loosely attach the 4 bolts. Notice
how the stack of 3 washers fills in the gap between the raised lip of the
gate and the plastic tub. You want the connection between the tub and the
gate to be solid. If the plastic can bow or bend, it will crack when you tighten
Carefully tighten the nuts and cut off the ends of the screws if you like.
(if you are really on the ball you will have bought screws that are exactly
the right length, if you are impatient like me you will buy them long and
cut them down...)
- Your blast gate might be shaped a little differently than the ones I got.
Whatever you have, make sure you use washers to support the plastic tub.
Preparing the potty chamber part 2: installing the litter pan
- Place the litter pan on the end of the tub farthest from the gate.
- Make sure the litter pan is flush against the wall of the tub. This can
be hard because the tubs have sloped sides and the litter pan may have a lip
on the back edge. You may need to use your cutting tool to remove some material
from the back lip of the pan.
- Pick a spot high on the back of the litter pan for a hole. Make sure it
is low enough that the fender washer doesn't poke over the top of the litter
- Mark the spot, drill it out with a bit big enough for your bolt, mark the
tub through the hole in the litter pan and drill again. Use the bolt, and
nut to secure the litter pan to the plastic tub. Be sure to use fender washers
on the inside and outside to spread the load. Again, we don't want to crack
- Fill the litter pan and line the bottom of the plastic tub with some newspaper.
Put the lid back on. The potty chamber is now ready to go!
Preparing the cage
- Secure the critters somewhere safe, like their carrier. Take the cage outside
or into the garage, as cutting the metal will create nasty dust.
- Using a cut-off disk on your rotary tool, cut away the cage bars where you
earlier made marks.
- Test fit the blast gate by placing it into the hole. Again, the "door
handle" should be outside the cage and placed horizontally.
- If you need to do some more cutting to get the gate to fit, take care of
it and then use a file or grinding stone to smooth the sharp edges.
- Use zipties to hold the gate into place--through the drill hole and then
around other cage bars. Make sure the fit is tight!
- Since the cage is taken apart, give it a good cleaning. Reassemble it without
the old litter box and close the blast gate. Put fresh bedding all over the
bottom of the cage. Put the critters back inside, and don't delay the rest
of the project because they don't have a place to go poop now!
Connecting the cage and the potty chamber
- Loosen a hose clamp and slip it over one end of the tunnel you cut eariler.
- Slip the end of the tunnel and the clamp over the mouth of the blast gate
on the potty chamber.
- Tighten the hose clamp with a Phillips screwdriver, or better yet, a 3/8"
socket. Crank it down really tight, and make sure the hose will not slip off
the blast gate.
- Repeat for the cage end.
- Open the gates! You are done.
My ferrets had already been using the litter box I placed in the potty chamber
before I began this project. Since they were already familiar with it, it may
have helped them begin using the new potty area right away. I would suggest
that you "break in" the litter box too, and let the ferrets explore
the potty chamber once you have built it. Let them play in the blast gates and
hose before you start building anything, too.
Once the potty chamber was installed, I also removed their hammocks and covered
the entire bottom of the cage with bedding, as we all know they do not like
to soil their sleeping area. Since they have taken to the new litter area so
well I will put the hammocks back soon.
Over the two weeks I have been using this system, there have been no accidents
in the cage living area, and litter box odor is very much reduced because it
is covered. Overall I am very pleased with the results and I wish I had done
this years ago. It was a pretty easy project too--it took me longer to make
this web page than to build it.
After 6 weeks of use...
Now that the box has been in use for a while I have some more observations.
- The litter pan itself
- The square pan has one advantage over the triangular corner pans: it
has two target corners, which means that the poo doesn't pile
up as fast, and there is less of a chance for poo feet.
- The square pan has a disadvantage though too... the pan does not fit
flush against the sides of the plastic crate. A stubborn ferret can squeeze
in beside the litter pan and poop in a hard-to-clean corner.
I will need to bolt in some kind of plastic blockers to prevent this.
For now a couple pieces of folded cardboard do the trick.
- The animals' habits
- The critters have used the new box 100% of the time. There is no elimination
in their cage, which I expected, because it is all bedding and food now.
- One or more of the ferrets still chooses to miss the litter pan though,
sometimes pooping on the newspaper tub liner. This is very easy to clean
(just change the newspaper) but I would like to find a way to discourage
it anyway. (Your critters may not do this though.)
- I have seen no evidence of them wanting to play in the litter tub. They
do their business and get back to the comfy cage fast!
- Ease of use
- No problems have developed. They love it, I love it. Scoop, change the
paper, and you are done. Once in a while I detach the whole tub, take
it into the back yard and hose it out, then wipe it out with Simple Green
and paper towels.
- Our dog
likes to watch the ferrets go back and forth through the clear tube.
Any questions or comments, just let
me know. You can also put comments on the picture pages.
3/24/04 - First embryonic edition posted
3/31/04 - Updated with more pictures and text
5/17/04 - Added some text with usage notes from the first 6 weeks of use, and
this document history