The Cat’s Crawlspace Toilet and my Broken Brain

Three days without a poop or a pee in my cat’s litter box. No amount of digging in the eco-friendly “if you were hungry enough you could eat it!” corn-based litter produced a sign that my cat was doing two of the few things that she does on a daily basis. Full disclosure: I have no idea how bodies work. Human, feline, or otherwise. But I have enough experience with going to the bathroom to know that if I didn’t do it for three days, the odds of me dying would be high. And the same stuff comes out of the cat. Therefore, I deduced that the cat is dying.

To silence the part of my brain repeating “the cat is dying,” I did the thing that I do best – 30 seconds of frantic internet research. “Cat+no+poop+pee+3+days” produced thousands of results, all saying the same thing – if your cat isn’t dying, it’s already dead. I tried reasoning with the results. “But I’m looking at my very much alive cat right now, she seems fine.” The word “NO” flashed on the screen, followed by pixelated skulls screaming the words “CAT KILLER.”


Please don’t let me die.

It was time to gently break the news to my wife. Maybe I could start referring to the cat in the past tense, reflecting on the good times before her excretory system shut down. No. Too confusing. The charade falls apart when the cat is rubbing on my leg as I tearfully recount the time we had a cat that was alive. Instead, I used my best “this is an extremely casual conversation” voice. It’s the voice I use to hide the fact that my brain is broken by even the slightest change in routine. The voice that I run through a calming translator, that turns frantic sentence fragments into complete thoughts, punctuated with very cool chuckles and the sense that, look, I could totally handle this situation on my own, but I just wanted to have a quick chat sesh with you first and I’m not overthinking this. I’m NOT OVERTHINKING THIS.

“OK, first of all you need to calm down,” was my wife’s response. Clearly my calming translator was malfunctioning. “She’s probably just going somewhere else in the house.” This notion seemed ridiculous to me, as her top-of-the-line litter box was the winner of the 2009 International Contemporary Furniture Fair design award, and I was promised “an unparalleled experience” not just for my cat, but for me as well. A litter box so well-designed that a video of Jony Ive comparing the feeling you get when you scoop a clump of pee out of the box to a religious experience would not seem out of place.

We checked under the beds. We checked the closets. Basement corners. Nothing. Then I remembered the weird crawlspace underneath the basement stairs, where we store house crap that we have no memory of inheriting (two folding chairs) and broken electronics (two dustbusters and a stereo receiver). I turned on my phone’s flash and shone it into the dark corners of the crawlspace and saw what could only be described as the gates of hell. Three days of cat waste in awful piles. Rivers of urine staining the concrete floor, obscured only by the shadows of hot pipes overhead. These were the missing scenes from Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer” video that they could only show at 2 in the morning.

Cleaning the crawlspace involved crawling on my hands and knees, scrubbing the concrete floor with heavy duty pet urine cleaner, waiting five to ten minutes for the chemicals to do their thing, then wiping up the runoff with a thousand paper towels, all while bashing my head against the previously mentioned hot pipes. We moved her litter box into the crawlspace, since she was making it obvious that this was where she would like to go the bathroom please, but she still wouldn’t use it. This continued for a week, and after the third day my brain started to produce a chemical that made me think I was smelling cat piss twenty four hours a day. This was Christmas day. I kept this fun development from my wife until I brewed a pot of the fancy coffee she bought for me, and had myself a merry nervous breakdown when it tasted like the floor of the cat’s crawlspace toilet.

“Don’t you like it?” she asked. I held up one finger, which is the international sign for “Give me a minute while I google ‘coffee+urine+taste+?’ and get real sad about the ways in which my brain doesn’t work in stressful situations.” Because, you see, I never assume that things will be ok again. There’s a straight line running through my mind labeled “everything is fine,” then the cat goes to the bathroom on the floor, the line skyrockets, and then nothing is fine. I obsess and obsess then obsess over the fact that I’m obsessing but I can’t let anyone know that I’m obsessing over something so small so I bottle it up and then obsess some more until, ultimately, coffee tastes like cat piss.

Welcome to hell, where everything is normal and fine.

Welcome to hell, where everything is normal and fine.

In the end, all the cat wanted was less bougie litter and a litter box that would disgust Jony Ive with its pedestrian gray plainness. Perhaps it was a sign from God, punishing us for our pretensions. Instead of receiving a savior for Christmas, we received a half-feral eight pound furball, hell-bent on the destruction of our crawlspace through urine and feces-based protest. But, her new setup seemed to be working. I gave the floor one last chemical scrub and we packed every large bin in the house into the offending area, leaving just enough room for the litterbox. Since that now meant we couldn’t reach it without climbing into the crawlspace (which would send me spiralling back into my self-created prison of self doubt and “fuck”-laced tirades), we bought a long extendable claw arm to grab the box for daily scooping. Also, since her bathroom is completely devoid of light, we bought a battery powered lantern, which creates unholy shadows as the mechanical claw disappears into the void of the crawlspace. This setup turns litter box maintenance into a bizarre game of chance, where every prize is sandy cat waste. And while I’m grateful, the real prize is the bandaid on my broken brain, placed like a badge of honor after successfully winning a battle of wills against a feline basement ISIS.

One Comment

  1. I bet you shit in the crawlspace too nerd dick

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