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That Time I Stayed Up All Night Watching My Cat’s Litter Box

Weird weather, loud construction, and a scavenged deviled egg conspired to create unnerving tummy troubles for my dear Brandy.

Louise Hung  |  Feb 24th 2015


In her senior years, Brandy has been prone to urinary tract infections and a sensitive stomach. As someone who is also prone to such ailments, I am extra sensitive to my kitty’s litter box needs.

Basically, I always have one eye (and ear) on Brandy’s litter box. When’s the last time she went to the bathroom? Did she pee? Did she poop? What did it look like? How much?

Hearing her regularly scratching around in her litter box (I actually think I know the duration and “rhythm” of her happy, healthy litter box visits) makes me irrationally happy. I’m relaxed when she stays on her potty schedule.

Few things upset me more than when she is in litter box-related distress. When she got her first couple UTIs, I was practically in tears, she was so unhappy. When she gets a tummy ache, I kick into “all hands on the poop deck” remedy mode (I’ve found The Honest Kitchen’s Pro-Bloom does wonders for her regularity).

But sometimes, due to circumstances I can’t control, Brandy has potty troubles.

The weather in Yokohama has recently been unpredictable, going from cool but bright to damp and icy in a matter of hours. Having been a Los Angeles and Hawai’i cat for the past decade, these weather changes stress her out. I blast the heater for her (benefit of living in a tiny apartment — small space, small heating bill), and make little nests for her out of clothes and blankets, but the cold still gets to her old-cat bones. The heated cat bed we ordered is finally in stock and on its way.

Add to the mix that we’ve had loud construction on our street the past week that sends her into hiding for part of the day — and that she managed to get into the garbage and eat some leftover deviled egg filling (she’s never been a dumpster-diving cat, so I was shocked to find that she’d opened the lid and was tail-up in the bin) — and we had the circumstances for a perfect storm of tummy troubles.

Even writing this now I feel like the worst cat mom ever. There’s almost nothing that I could have done to stop her from feeling so bad, but I’m tempted to just strap her to me in a “Kitty Bjorn” just so I can keep her safe.

As I always do, I cleaned Brandy’s litter box after dinner. I noticed there was less used litter in the box than usual, but I figured she’d make a nice, generous deposit after I cleaned things out.

She’d gotten at the deviled eggs earlier that evening, but she ate her dinner (a smaller helping to be on the safe side) and seemed to be her normal self. She’d accidentally eaten a little mustard and mayo before (that’s all that was in the eggs) when she was younger and been OK, so I hoped the same would be true now.

I don’t know if I just felt something was off, but after she went and scratched around in her litter box, I went to check things out. Nothing. Uh oh.

Perched on the end of my bed, I tried to keep it casual while I watched Brandy become increasingly agitated and mill around her litter box. She went in, assumed the position, scratched around, came out, and meowed loudly RIGHT AT ME. Simultaneously my stomach flip-flopped and a lump formed in my throat.

Checking her litter box I found a tiny bit of pee and nothing else. Brandy continued to circle around me MEOWING. At one point she ran into “Hairball Alley,” the storage nook she prefers for privacy, and just YOWLED. I wanted to yowl right along with her.

Hoping it was an upset stomach and not a UTI (her symptoms tend to be initially similar), I mixed up a warm bowl of Pro-Bloom (goat milk, digestive enzymes, probiotics) for her. Putting it in her eating spot, Brandy came over, took a lap or two, and ran off to her litter box again. Again she assumed the position, scratched, and came out crying.

When I looked this time, there was a smidge of diarrhea, but not much.

Unable to call our vet at this hour (our local Yokohama vet doesn’t have an after-hours hotline — GAH!), I continued trying to tempt Brandy with “chicken water” (plain cooked chicken, boiled in water; cool and serve) laced with a little apple cider vinegar and Buck Mountain Uva Ursi for Animals and Pro-Bloom goat milk. She’d lap a little, cry a little, then poop or pee a small amount. This went on for hours.

Finally around 1 a.m. I heard her scratching around my shoes. Thinking that maybe she was trying to relieve herself in a different place because of her discomfort, I went to investigate. She’d vomited her dinner up all over my shoes.

And while I did REALLY start to freak out for a moment, before I had a chance to call every vet clinic I could find in our prefecture, I heard her quietly scratching around in her litter box. Peeking around the corner so as not to make her self-conscious, I saw her in “the position” in her box. She scratched, she exited, hopped up on our bed, and curled up.

Peering into her litter box, it was like Christmas. She’d taken a nice substantial pee and significant (albeit a bit soft) poop. I did a little dance.

The rest of the night, Brandy went to the bathroom more than usual, and she had a little diarrhea, but she did not seem to be in distress. She drank her goat milk and her chicken water, and peed and pooped like a champ. I was up until 4 a.m. with her, gleefully cleaning her litter box.

It’s a couple of days later now, and Brandy is back to normal. We have an appointment with her vet, just for good measure, but he seems to think that stress and the deviled eggs did a number on her digestion, and she didn’t know what to do.

I’m being extra vigilant with her urinary and digestive health, keeping her on a regimen of Pro-Bloom and a little more Uva Ursi than usual (Uva Ursi has really helped her general urinary tract health; it was a recommendation of her previous vet). One of my husband’s heavy textbooks now lives on top of the garbage can so she can’t get into it.

And every time she scratches in her litter box, it’s music to my ears.

Does your cat have urinary tract issues? Digestive issues? Have you ever kept watch over her litter box all night? How do you deal with your cat’s urinary tract/digestive health? Tell us in the comments!

Read more by Louise Hung:

About the author: Louise Hung is a morbidly inclined cat lady living in Yokohama, Japan, with her cat, her man, and probably a couple ghost cats. She also writes for xoJane. You can follow her on Twitter or drop her a line at IamLouiseMicaela@gmail.com.