Catster Tips
Share this image

5 Scary Cat Litter Emergencies

Litter boxes are convenient, but they can be the epicenter of some scary health incidents.

Heather Marcoux  |  Dec 5th 2014


Sand or clay, corn or wheatgrass — cat litter of any type seems like a pretty benign product, but it can also be the epicenter of some pretty scary emergencies for pet parents. I’ve experienced a few cat litter crisis since sharing my life with kitties. Here’s five ways the litter box can scare the scooper.

1. Seeing red

Blood in the box can mean many things, but none of them are good. I will never forget seeing blood in Ghost Cat’s litter box. In her case, the cause was likely feline idiopathic cystitis, a bladder irritation problem related to stress (likely brought on us packing the apartment for a move). After a switch to vet-prescribed wet food, Ghosty recovered quickly, and I have (thankfully) never seen red in the litter box again. In order to prevent a recurrence I make sure to give Ghost Cat lots of fresh water, and while she is eating dry food again, I also provide plenty of wet food to keep her hydrated.

2. Straining in the box

When I was rushing Ghost Cat to the vet during her feline idiopathic cystitis episode, I was reminded of Taco, an orphan kitten my sister brought home when she was a kid. He lived through three long-distance moves and remained my sister’s buddy throughout junior high and past high school. The tiny kitten grew up to be this big, fluffy cat who everyone loved — until one day he started having trouble peeing. He was trying to go, but sometimes he just couldn’t. My mom immediately took him to the vet, who explained that Taco had a crystal blockage. It was fatal. I’ll never forget poor Taco, and if I ever see either of my kitties straining to pee, I’ll be calling the vet right away.

3. Eating foreign objects

While Ghost Cat has never eaten anything she shouldn’t, I can’t say the same for my younger cat, Specter. When she was a baby she ingested a tiny piece of rubber nipple because I (foolishly) bottle fed her when she already had sharp teeth. These days, I keep a close eye on what Specter chooses to play with, because I am not totally convinced that she wouldn’t swallow something again. While Ghost Cat prefers to play with plastic bottle caps, little Speck likes her toys to be petite, like her. I’ve removed all kinds of tiny objects from between her paws over her lifetime, but I never thought to stop her from playing proper cat toys until I spotted a feather in the litter box. Feathery playthings are now only allowed under strict supervision to protect Specter’s digestive tract.

4. A dog in the cat litter

Kitty litter actually sent my dog to the animal emergency room once. Before we adopted our Lab mix, GhostBuster, we used to keep our cats’ litter boxes in a spare bedroom. The door was always open so the cats could come and go. Unfortunately, this arrangement came to an end when GhostBuster snuck into the cats’ room and ate a couple mouthfuls of corn-based cat litter. He got sicker than I have ever seen a dog get. Our poor pup vomited profusely, and when his back end left a puddle of blood on the grass we knew it was time to take him to the emergency after-hours clinic. Within 24 hours GhostBuster was on the mend (thanks to medication), and Ghost Cat and Speck were learning how to use their brand new kitty door. This cat-sized hole in the wall means the dog will never be able to get to the litter again.

5. No cat litter

It may not seem like quite as dire an emergency as some of those listed above, but running low on litter is a crisis most cat lovers have experienced at some time or another. With the exception of toilet paper, no household item’s absence ignites the same amount of urgency. It always seems to happen at the worst moments, too. It was after a long day when I trudged into the cats room and began scooping their box, trying to salvage what little of the litter would sift through the slotted scoop. I was almost finished when Specter jumped into the litter box and began christening the scant sprinkle of second-use litter with a stinky little gift.

When she was done she tried her best to cover it up, but her little paw went right through the inadequate layer of litter, revealing the plastic bottom of the box. I reached for the pail of fresh litter only to find it empty. Specter looked up at me, her beautiful eyes furrowed, accusing me of being a bad pet parent. I ran to the nearest store and purchased a two dollar bag of generic cat litter, which turned into cement as soon as it got wet.

What’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened in your litter box? Tell us in the comments.

Read more about litter boxes on Catster:

Learn how to live a better life with your cat on Catster:

About the author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but Specter the kitten and GhostBuster the dog make her fur family complete. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google +