An apartment friendly, no power tools needed, easy-to-do IKEA hack that results in a low mess, well-ventilated top entry litter box that’s also a bench.

This is actually the second one of these we’ve made; the first one lasted 6 years of heavy use (we sit on ours a couple of times a day) before it got cracks in the wood. The cracks could have been repaired, so the longevity is honestly pretty good. 

We wanted a way to keep the litter box furniture somewhat hidden, but all the hacks and built-ins I’d seen either required power tools we didn’t have or were really poorly ventilated and didn’t provide visibility for the cats using them.

They were also almost all side entry litter boxes which, in my experience, lead to so much mess. I had seen people use HOL for side entry litter boxes and figured I could make it a top entry litter box. I got an IKEA HOL storage box and a hacksaw blade, then went to the store with a measuring tape to find a plastic box to fit. 

I really like this solution because it’s so easy to clean the litter box; just flip up the lid, scoop into the bin, and close the lid. With the box we used, there’s even space for an extra box of kitty litter. The airy grid makes it really well-ventilated, which helps a lot with smell; of course, you can smell when the cats have just pooped, but the odor doesn’t stay trapped, so it really doesn’t smell if you use good clumping clay litter. The high-walled plastic box helps keep the litter where it needs to be, and the holes let most of the litter stuck on their paws drop back down into the box. 

top entry cat litter box diy
The final product in use — bench mode/ cat access mode. | Image credit: Béatrice T.

We have always kept ours in the hallway; I know lots of people keep kitty litter in the bathroom, but I’ve always hated that because the clay litter gets pasted to the floor from the moisture in the bathroom.

The hallway is perfect, and the bench function is really handy in the hallway. It’s not a space you hang out in, so if it smells for a few minutes, it’s not annoying, and because the hallway stays pretty dry, it’s easy to vacuum up the loose bits of litter a couple of times a week (our vacuum charges on the wall in the hallway for maximum ease of use). Other than daily scooping, we usually vacuum out the box every month to get rid of the bits of litter that end up on the base of the HOL. 

I did some research into self-cleaning litter boxes and all kinds of other solutions, but honestly, this IKEA hack is the perfect solution because it’s simple, low-tech, and it really balances the pros and cons of cat litter box solutions in terms of smell, cat friendliness, keeping it hidden and ease of maintenance. It’s one of the interior solutions I’m most proud of and, weirdly, one that we get a lot of compliments on from friends who love the look and function. 10/10 would make it again!

IKEA items used: 

IKEA HOL storage table and side table
Image credit:
  • IKEA HOL storage table 98 x 50cm (38.5 x 19.6 inches)

Other materials and tools 

  • Hacksaw blade (if you have a jigsaw, that works too)
  • Sandpaper (I think we used 400 grit, but it’s just to smooth the edges, so use what you have) 
  • Hammer and Allen key for HOL assembly
  • Felt furniture pads for the legs (optional if you hate your floors) 
  • Sturdy plastic storage box with high sides that fits inside the HOL Max height 40 cm (15.7 inches) max depth 40 cm (15.7 inches) width up to you but from 40-80 cm (15 – 31 inches). Note that you might not be able to fit a bin if you chose a wider box, mine is around 65 cm (25.5 inches), and I can comfortably fit a bin and even a smaller box or bag of kitty litter.
  • Small bin with a lid that fits inside HOL with your litter box. I recommend getting one that you can rest your cat litter scoop on so you have an even easier time cleaning the litter box later on. 

DIY top entry litter box instructions: 

The time needed is 30 mins with no power tools, a bit less with power tools.

The easiest way to DIY a durable top entry litter box.

Total Time: 30 minutes

1. Assemble IKEA HOL storage table

Construct HOL according to the IKEA instructions.

2. Add furniture pads

Add felt furniture pads to protect your floors.

3. Determine cat entry placement

Place your plastic storage box and bin inside the HOL storage table. Then place the HOL where you want it in your home to better gauge the placement of the top entry hole. I recommend putting the lid of the plastic box under the box as extra leak protection in case the box cracks at some point.

4. Determine size and location

Top entry litter box in scooping mode with the lid leaning on the wall | Image credit: Béatrice T.

Determine the size and location of the hole needed for your cats. We cut out 4 bars each way, leaving an 18x18cm hole (7″ x 7″), but our cats are old now and did fine with a smaller hole on the previous one we made when they were younger. We placed ours in the back corner so we can use the other side of the lid for sitting on to put on our shoes, but placement is entirely up to you. 

5. Mark cut positions

Mark on the HOL lid the placement of the hole and where you will be making cuts. 

6. Make the cut

cutting the grid on HOL storage table

Use the hacksaw blade to cut off the bars along the outside edge of your top entry hole. It’s a little odd to do, but you basically place the hacksaw blade in the hole before the spot you want to slice and saw it off. It takes a little while to figure out the right grip and pressure, but coming at it with a good angle helps; wearing gloves can help protect your hand where you’re holding the blade, but if you just make sure your skin isn’t moving where it touches the blade you’ll be fine. You can use a jigsaw for this, but it can also be done completely power tool free. Cutting with the hacksaw blade takes around 15-20 mins but can easily be done inside even a small apartment. 

7. Sand cut edges

Sand the cut edges of the hole to eliminate any splinters and harsh edges. You can really go hard and make this perfect if you want to.

8.Replace lid

Put the lid on the HOL, and you are done! 

    Optional extra steps if you’re really looking to make it fancy:

    top entry cat litter box ikea
    Top entry litter box in scooping mode with the lid leaning on the wall | Image credit: Béatrice T.
    • Add hinges. Depending on the placement of the HOL unit, the lid can easily be rested on the wall while cleaning the litter box, but you can add small hinges that make lifting the lid and scooping the kitty litter even easier. 
    • Add castors. We keep ours in the hallway and like being able to sit on it to put on and take off shoes, so castors wouldn’t work, but if you are putting yours in a more hard-to-reach spot like under the stairs, then lockable castors added on to the feet might be a good idea. 
    • Paint it. We like the wood color, but you could paint this basically any color to suit your taste. You could also use a wood finishing oil if you prefer that look. 
    • Dual litter box. If you need 2 litter boxes, you could totally make two holes in the lid and have one box on each side
    • Smaller box. If you have less space, you could use the smaller size HOL (50 x 50 cm, 19 5/8″ x 19 5/8″ inches). There won’t be any space for the bin but it wouldn’t take up as much space. 

    ~ by Béatrice T.

    IKEA cabinet effectively hides a litter box

    clever cat top litter box encloser
    Image credit: David Perry

    It’s the classic story (unsightly litterbox, small apartment) with a twist: my cat is messier than average, so she uses a CleverCat top-entry cat litter box … which works great but is bulky. I live in a one-bedroom apartment, and my bathroom is too small for such a big kitty litter box. This IKEA hack lets me hide it and pile stuff on top of it.

    What I like most is the top-entry design that keeps litter tracking to a minimum.


    • EFFEKTIV: base with legs, add-on unit (high), door (The EFFEKTIV is discontinued. You can try to source pre-loved or try this on other IKEA cabinets like the BRIMNES or HAVSTA. Do measure the inside depth of the cabinet against the size of the litter box before attempting this.)
    • METRIK door handles

    It turns out the EFFEKTIV office cabinet is the perfect size for this behemoth cat box, with enough space left over for storing extra litter and even an electric air cleaner on a shelf! The air cleaner is a Honeywell “table-top” HEPA air filter. It does a pretty good job, although it’s not a miracle. The air filter can also be noisy on medium or high setting.

    effektiv inside 754575
    Image credit: David Perry

    It was also relatively simple to make.

    Firstly, I made two holes. The first is for the cat’s entry and exit. I drew the dimensions for the entry, aligning the bottom of the opening with the top lid of the cat box. Then, I used a jigsaw to make the cut. You can make a smaller opening to give your furry one a bit more privacy, but I have an older cat, and a large opening works better for easy access. If your cat isn’t as agile, a small step before the hole is helpful.

    The second hole is for the air filter cable to pass through (and yeah, it could have been a smaller hole)

    The next step was to make the divider shelf. I cut one of the EFFEKTIV shelves in two and used a few angle brackets to form the divider. Then I fastened the shelf to the side of the cat enclosure. I can even add another unit on top of the divider if I need more enclosed storage later. The divider comes in handy to store trash bags, pans, and other cat care items.

    Later, I may try some sort of flap over the opening. It’ll give a neater finish and maybe help with the elimination of odors as well.

    Cleaning up is easy as the double doors allow unobstructed access. I open the doors and scoop the cat poop. Once a week, I take the litter box out and vacuum up any stray litter. So far, I’ve not had any issues.

    effektiv side 755683
    Image credit: David Perry
    effektiv closed 758226
    Image credit: David Perry

    So far, the cat loves the new litter box. Litter scattering is to a minimum, and the air filter helps with any unpleasant odors. My cat’s not the most tidy, so I may add in a liner or litter mat to protect the laminate.

    Lastly, I have new respect for IKEA hackers and their IKEA hacks. I had to call in favors from three separate friends to borrow the tools and workspace to make this happen.

    ~ by David Perry, Ottawa, Ontario

    See more IKEA hacks for cats and other pet furniture hacks.

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