Cut this person off OR stop being so judgemental?
November 13, 2011 7:51 AM   Subscribe

Am I being too judgmental regarding this casual friendship?

I have a casual friendship with "Bob," someone I met around the beginning of 2011 at a place where I used to work. (I'm female, FWIW)

Bob and I have occasionally met up at the gym to work out, and we keep in touch via GChat and texts. We don't see each other that often.

Saturday, I texted him to let him know that I'd be headed to the gym, but he said that he had plans until after 11am, so suggested meeting up afterwards so I could see his new car. I met him over at a local park, and since he had his young son with him, we chatted while following the (extremely cute) little boy around the playground.

In the course of this conversation, he mentioned that he was planning to "get rid of all of his pets." I asked him what he meant. He explained that he has four cats and a dog. Two of the cats belong to his sister, who's moving out soon, but he wants to "give away" the other two cats and his dog. They're all around 3-4 years old. His reasons are that he just isn't "interested" in having pets anymore, the house will be cleaner without all the pet hair, his roommate (who's been there for months) is allergic to cats, yada yada. He said he was willing to pay someone to take them, he didn't want them, but didn't want them to be put down, either.

I was so repulsed by this that I texted a friend to say "Please call me in the next five minutes" - and when they did, I pretended that they were calling about needing some help with something, so I'd have to leave early - Bob and I had planned on getting lunch after the park visit.

So instead, Bob and I went to get sandwiches, instead of a sit-down place like we'd planned, then he dropped me off at my car, and I left.

So my questions are :

1. I realize that not everyone thinks of pets the same way. However, since my pets are so important to me (and by extension, the treatment of pets in general), I find the idea of associating with Bob in the future to be extremely undesirable. Is this reasonable?

2. Would you have said anything to Bob if you were in my situation? I did not, because he's only a casual friend, and because it seemed like his mind was made up.
posted by HopperFan to Human Relations (34 answers total)
1. I realize that not everyone thinks of pets the same way. However, since my pets are so important to me (and by extension, the treatment of pets in general), I find the idea of associating with Bob in the future to be extremely undesirable. Is this reasonable?

Only you can decide if Bob's actions make it intolerable for you to be his friend.

Having pets is a big responsibility, and it sounds like he doesn't feel up to the task. It isn't ideal but if he finds suitable homes for the animals...well, they wouldn't be the first cats to switch homes for frivolous reasons. The sun will still come up tomorrow and the cats will quite possibly be happier in a home where they are appreciated and wanted.
posted by ian1977 at 7:58 AM on November 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

What would you rather him do? He's admitted the pet thing is not for him and would like to see his current pets in better homes where they would be appreciated more and doesn't want them put down. He seems to be handling this in a responsible way. I know its hard as a pet lover (I have one too) but pets really aren't for everyone.

As far as your future compatibility with him, this could be a deal breaker for you, but I wouldn't be repulsed by this at all.
posted by NoraCharles at 7:59 AM on November 13, 2011 [29 favorites]

This, to me, would be a lot less upsetting than some friends of mine who keep their pets but don't care for them (don't spay/neuter, don't give them much attention). If you're really concerned about the animals themselves, why don't you offer to help him find homes for them?
posted by chaiminda at 8:06 AM on November 13, 2011

stop being so judgmental
posted by Exchequer at 8:07 AM on November 13, 2011 [14 favorites]

Your friend said he was willing to PAY someone to take them. If anything, that should make you feel good about your friend. Do you know how many people simply dump their animals outside to fend for themselves when they don't want them anymore? Or leave them behind during a move? Or drop them off at a kill shelter where they'll be put to sleep in a matter of days if no one adopts them?
posted by unannihilated at 8:08 AM on November 13, 2011 [8 favorites]

Others have pointed out that you're being judgmental. Why not help him find new homes for them?

Not everyone can handle the responsibility of one pet, let alone four. Four! I love having pets but that would be a doozy.
posted by so much modern time at 8:10 AM on November 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

There's a difference between "got pets on a whim and then got bored of them and let them loose on a freeway" and this.
I think you need to figure out what this says about your friend - that he is irresponsible? Casually Cruel? (not IMO but it's your opinion that counts). Is something offputting like this likely to happen again? And then you'll know what to do.
posted by Omnomnom at 8:13 AM on November 13, 2011

I think you're probably being a little overly-judgmental. He is trying to do the right thing, which shows he has a proper humanitarian concern for these pets, and that he realizes he's not the best owner for them. Pets can be a lot of work, which can inhibit the pleasure we get from them, if we're overworked already and they become a burden. He sounds like a responsible guy, with a slightly different attitude about animals than you. It's not a character flaw. If he was neglecting them or dumping them by the side of the road, or having them put to sleep, that would be a character flaw. Let it go as an honest personality difference.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:23 AM on November 13, 2011 [10 favorites]

Thanks, everyone - MeFi is awesome. It really helps to have things re-framed like this.
posted by HopperFan at 8:25 AM on November 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

Many people were raised thinking of pets as pets, not family members. I know I certainly was--every time my family moved, we'd leave our cats with other families. I do not feel this way (if I ever get an animal, it will certainly be for life), but I don't think my parents were bad people for doing this. The cultural idea of what role a pet should play is just different for different people. I'm proud of you for not calling him out; I imagine it must have been pretty difficult.
posted by 200burritos at 8:39 AM on November 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

2. Would you have said anything to Bob if you were in my situation? I did not, because he's only a casual friend, and because it seemed like his mind was made up.

Since he said he wasn't "interested in having pets anymore", after acquiring so many, I would have asked him if he was feeling ok, i.e. was he depressed or things getting tough for him in some manner. I also would have said I'd keep an ear out for anyone who was interested in a pet and offered suggestions on how to make the transition easier on the pets and their new owner, such as paying for their shots for that first year and including any toys or comfort items when passing on the pets.

You feel what you feel, but I'd suggest finding a way to help your friend.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:54 AM on November 13, 2011 [4 favorites]

If he actually rehomes his pets, well, I don't think that's bad. Life happens, pets need new homes. Even I have rehomed a cat when he was clearly unhappy, and I am a crazy pet person. (I rehomed him at my parents' house, where he is clearly very happy. But I still feel sad about this sometimes.)

If he dumps them somewhere, or leaves them at a shelter, or has them put down, then, yeah, that would be (for me) too much of a difference in how we think of animals to stay friends. But taking all the time needed to find a new home for an animal is a responsible decision, and a responsible way to get rid of a pet.

(Although I have also left a pet at a shelter! It wasn't mine, and it was 8 weeks old and adorable, and we had a do not destroy on it, and there are reasons -- ultimately it was adopted within 2 days of being medically cleared, which is what I predicted would happen.)
posted by jeather at 8:59 AM on November 13, 2011

I think you're being ridiculous, but that doesn't matter. He's a casual friend and it's now distasteful to you to associate with the guy -- that's plenty of reason not to associate with him.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:59 AM on November 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

I am a huge animal lover and I'm not sure why you are repulsed by this. If he is trying to find them new homes, what is the big deal? It's not like he's dumping them out in the woods or shopping for a vet to have them put down.

Here's an example of repulsive: when I was a kid, my neighbor's dad decided that he didn't want their adult cat because it didn't get along with the 2 younger cats they got, so he put the older cat(poor thing was like 15) in the garage in a covered play pen and that was her living situation for months. Instead of searching for a new home, this man finally took the cat around to several vets until he could find one that would put the cat to sleep.
posted by fromageball at 9:15 AM on November 13, 2011

This is a situation in which I think you should trust your own feelings. You are asking us what is reasonable, and it's admirable for you to care whether you're being reasonable, but I'm of the school of thought that, when you're the one who has to do the work of being a friend, it is not dispositive of the matter that other people think you are being reasonable. In the law, we would say this is a subjective standard (how you actually feel is what matters), not an objective, reasonable person standard.
posted by jayder at 9:17 AM on November 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

He specifically said that he did not want them to be put down and that he would actually pay someone to take them -- that's pretty much the best you can hope to hear when someone is talking about rehoming a pet.

I love the hell out of pets but I have rehomed a cat who was unhappy in my care after having had him for a couple of years. I sure hope the friends that were around me at that time didn't think I was a bad person for doing so, that would have crushed me, to be thought of as a bad person when I was trying to do the most loving thing possible for the cat.

Please keep in mind that your friend is actually doing the most loving and caring thing possible for those animals -- he recognizes that he is not able to care for them adequately, and he wants to find good homes for them to go to. That is SO MUCH BETTER than how most people get rid of pets they no longer want.

If you know the number of a good no kill shelter in your area that can take those pets, help your friend out and give them a call. If you know of any cat rescue groups, or anyone willing to take on those pets, call them!

If you want to end your friendship with him, you have every right to do so, but if you do I would suggest that you examine your "requirements of friendship" -- to feel comfortable, do you need to have friends who share 100% of your values, no variance allowed? Or is there wiggle room in there?
posted by palomar at 9:17 AM on November 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

It's possible there's more to his reasoning than he's telling you. It helps me to remember that sometime the biggest reasons to do things are things people don't want to talk about.

I've had to re-home some cats in the past. I have a feeling that one of my cat-loving friends judged me particularly harshly for it, but I had to move, my financial situation was crappy, I was having enough trouble taking care of myself - and I was able to find a home that in all honesty was probably better for them - outdoor space to play in, stable cat-loving couple. I didn't feel that I owed her any but a superficial explanation for this - we weren't that close.

If Bob is not very, very close to you, he's not likely to tell you if he's depressed or if he's having money problems. Or if his crazy sister is abusing the pets and he has to get them out.

I'd err on the side of giving him the benefit of the doubt, remember he doesn't have to be perfect to be good, and count it to his credit that he's trying to place them in good homes rather than dumping them at the side of the road. And try to help him find a home for them. On the grand scale of pet care, with serious animal torture at 1 and missing rent to buy cat food at 10, this is about a 6 or 7 in my book.

All that said you clearly had a strong visceral reaction to the situation, and that's not something you can simply shrug off - something about this hit close to home for you. I think that's worth exploring on your own. You may find that being true to yourself means not being (close) friends with people who don't take their commitment to their pets very seriously. That's up to you. If you can't let this go and you cringe inside every time you think of it - well, you can't really be friends under those circumstances. If you can find a little space in yourself to accept Bob's different ideas about pets then perhaps you can continue hanging out.
posted by bunderful at 9:17 AM on November 13, 2011 [6 favorites]

Others have pointed out that you're being judgmental. Why not help him find new homes for them?

This. If you can help him find good, stable homes for the pets, or locate a reputable no-kill shelter that accepts surrendered animals, you can ensure that his pets have the best chance of getting a happy future after they leave him. And if what's bothering you so much is what you're seeing as a callous attitude toward the animals, then you as an animal-lover can do the best thing for those animals by doing so.

I might agree from the given information that you're being somewhat judgmental, but really, in this particular situation the primary issue is the welfare of his pets. Wouldn't you prefer to see them go to someone who really, really wants them than someone who's keeping them around out of a sense of obligation? (At the risk of editorialising, I'd feel like a bit of a hypocrite if I dropped someone for a callous attitude toward their animals but at the same time did nothing to help the animals into a better situation.)

If nothing else, helping him find a place to rehome them might allow you to get a better grasp of why he's doing it. If you are still bothered by it, you can let the friendship go once you know the pets are better off.
posted by the luke parker fiasco at 9:27 AM on November 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

I can't tell you what you should do, but I would help him rehome the animals and then drop him like a hot potato. He's rehoming his pets because he's *bored* with them, and I find that repugnant. I don't spend time with people who do do repugnant things. There's a disconnect between his values and your values, and if that makes you judgmental, then so be it.
posted by crankylex at 9:32 AM on November 13, 2011

However, since my pets are so important to me (and by extension, the treatment of pets in general), I find the idea of associating with Bob in the future to be extremely undesirable. Is this reasonable?

I don't like to hang out with people who don't like people who don't view animals in the same light as you do.

Whats the problem here? I don't see one.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:35 AM on November 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

ian1997 and others have the only 'right' answer about whether you should be his friend. We all make our own decisions about what values are important to use and what we find beyond the pale and what sort of shared values we need in our loved ones.

I am more questioning why you want to associate with someone who you can't even share such a strong reaction with. In your shoes I'd have said how hard that would be for me and the level of attachment I felt to my own pets, etc. I'd have stopped short of being condemning. About ten years ago I had to leave my two darling cats with my brother when I moved to another city and a situation that didn't allow me to have pets in tow.

It was hard, and for years I thought about them every day. But they had a good life there for the remainder of their days and I believe I made the best possible decision for them and me.

When it came up I was frank about the difficulty it caused me, but maybe Bob isn't as open about his feelings. You weren't frank with him about your reaction to the decision, so perhaps that's just not a relationship you two have.

It's a casual enough relationship that if you feel like this lack of shared ground is an issue for you then you can just peter out the contact. If you can't get over it then that's the best thing for both of you. That doesn't make you a bad person, it just means you have something you feel so strongly about that you need the people close to you to feel at least somewhat similarly. Everyone has those dealbreaker things.
posted by phearlez at 10:22 AM on November 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

jeez, you'd hate me.

i just took care of my late wife's 7 cats until the last of them died... 12 long years.

flip side, however, is that my beagle is my backup protein source in case The End Timez start next week. well, that and shoe material.

yeah, since no one else above said it, please, give the guy a break. he sounds responsible, if unattached to his animals. there are many, many worse folks on the planet.
posted by FauxScot at 10:55 AM on November 13, 2011

I think it is really odd that he somehow ended up with 5 pets if he is not a pet person - that seems like a lot of pets even for an animal lover. I like that he wants to be responsible about finding them new homes, but it does kind of rub me the wrong way that he was so casually collecting pets in the first place. Something about this guy just seems a little off to me.
posted by naoko at 11:23 AM on November 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would just point out that of these five pets, 2 are not his but arrived with another person, and you don't know how the other three arrived. "La la la cute widdle kitten!" is a terrible reason to get and then predictably grow bored with an animal, but these could have been left with him by his ex, a room mate or been strays who adopted him that he never really made a choice to take on.

So yeah, I think you rushed to a judgement that may or may not be valid, and that in your situation I would have backed down from the instant hostility and maybe teased out a little more info.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:14 PM on November 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is this reasonable? No... and yes. Your reaction is/was not reasonable to me, but this doesn't mean you have to be friends with him, close or casual, but your reaction seemed unreasonable to me. If it really bothers you that much, then it's reasonable for you to close the relationship.

Would you have said anything to Bob if you were in my situation? No. What would have been the purpose?
posted by sm1tten at 12:32 PM on November 13, 2011

Would you have said anything to Bob if you were in my situation?

Maybe something like, "Wow. That's a big step. What brought this about?"
posted by dhartung at 1:47 PM on November 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

It's nice that he wants to make sure the cats have a new home, but I think for me this would come down to body language and attitude.
Maybe it's weird but I'd expect to hear some level of guilt about it, versus just disliking the cat hair and willing to spend some money to solve a problem.
Personally when got my cats I knew I was making a commitment to them, and I won't just get rid of them over a minor inconvenience. I might rehome them in certain circumstances, but it would be a big deal, not a minor matter.
Maybe that is what is bothering you, he was taking it too flippantly? I could see not being his friend over that.
posted by fruit sandwich at 1:58 PM on November 13, 2011

My $.02 - Allergies can be a thing that creeps up. And/or the roommate can have been suffering for a while and only now figured out exactly what the problem has been.
posted by randomkeystrike at 2:28 PM on November 13, 2011

Yeah, I lived with a cat for over a year even though I have pretty bad allergies and cat-induced asthma. When it came time to move we rehomed the cat, not because we didn't love him, but because my allergist put her foot down and refused to see me any more until I dealt with the cat. (And then she quit her job, damn her eyes.) It wasn't the sort of thing we were going to hash over with casual friends, because it was really painful and because people are kind of judgmental about one's obligation to one's animals.
posted by gingerest at 3:33 PM on November 13, 2011

I am going with you, and the minority here: I am judging this guy. Ditch his shit.

It is absolutely one thing to have a cat or a dog and then go through a major life change (move, allergic significant other, financial problems) that require you to rehome that animal. But three pets? If having a pet isn't for him, due to mess, etc, then why did he get three pets?

Many people in this thread have provided anecdotes about reasonable, responsible pet owners rehoming their pets. I certainly have those anecdotes as well. But I have also known flaky, irresponsible pet collectors who get kitties and puppies on a whim because they are just so cute and then almost immediately neglect them because gee, it didn't occur to them that pets require time, effort and cleaning. I personally do feel that it does reflect badly on someone to acquire three animals, at approximately the same time, and then decide you can't be bothered anymore. I do question the judgement and responsibility of that person - it makes him seem like a flake. So his roommate is allergic - maybe the allergies just developed, or maybe he was dumb enough to get pets with an allergic roommate, or move a roommate into a house with two pets. I'm judging. I'm turned off.
posted by Ladysin at 5:14 PM on November 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Alright. So Bob has a roommate and a son. So Bob is a single dad? So Bob is trying to make ends meet? Who knows. So two of the cats are his sister's and they'll be gone soon anyway. Bob having two cats and a dog by himself or from his marriage/previous relationship isn't that hard to fathom.

Going from taking care of a set of animals with two and a half people (half being the kid) to one person for all three is stressful. Bob has a job. Bob has a kid. Bob has a baby mama somewhere he's dealing with.

It sounds like this guy has other things going on in his life and regardless of if he wanted the animals at one point or another, he can't take care of them now. He knows that they need to be with people that love them, and he's willing to go the extra mile(s) to ensure they are not put down because of his decision.

Honestly, I'd stop hanging out with you if I were Bob or the friend you texted over this. Unless this dude was giving off creepy vibes you weren't down with, bailing on plans because you somehow couldn't navigate through dialogue with him regarding this topic was pretty lame if you're such an advocate. Why didn't you suggest something if you felt he was in the wrong? If you love animals so much and are so sensitive about their care, why react so adversely to making sure it was done right?

I mean what would you have done if he'd told you he was going to drop them off at a shelter? Still run away? None of this even adds up. If you were truly comfortable and in control of yourself during your interactions with him, I don't see why you couldn't have just told him how you really feel, and I still don't see how that is so different, at the core, from how Bob feels.

My mother would let dogs run out of the front door when she didn't want them anymore and just keep buying animals in pairs so they could entertain themselves. Her problem is mental illness, but it doesn't change the fact that a LOT of people don't do what Bob is doing and you need to get a grip. He probably only even brought it up so he could get some better perspective of his options from you.

.. Also why are you marking so many [conflicting] responses as solutions? That's not how this works.
posted by june made him a gemini at 8:42 PM on November 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm friends with people for a lot of reasons, but moral perfection is never one of them.

Don't judge your friends. I mean you don't have to be friends with anyone, but this is a pretty minor flaw. You may be projecting (like some folks itt are) some big significance to this flaw, but in the long run, when you do something stupid or horrible, let's hope your friends show you more mercy than you do this dude.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:34 PM on November 13, 2011

"Also why are you marking so many [conflicting] responses as solutions?"

Because I realized, after reading them, that most people wouldn't see this thing as a big deal - but at the same time, there was a small percentage who had responses similar to my initial reaction. They were all helpful, albeit in different ways, and now I understand (though I suspected it before) that my response was kind of over the top, but it's up to me to decide who I want to be friends with and what my dealbreakers are.

"I'd stop hanging out with you if I were...the friend you texted over this"

That friend actually agreed with what I felt initially, and said they'd ditch Bob too. I was kind of wondering why it bugged me so much, though, and felt like one person was not enough of a sample size, so voila, AskMe to the rescue. Luckily you and I are not friends, so we don't have to worry about even starting to hang out, much less stopping! This place is awesome.

"If you were truly comfortable and in control of yourself during your interactions with him, I don't see why you couldn't have just told him how you really feel"

CASUAL. Friend. Those who suggested that I could have just offered to help him re-home were right. Telling Bob how I really feel, i.e. that he's being flippant about getting rid of his pets - not an option.

"That's not how this works."

Um, yeah. That's not for you to say.
posted by HopperFan at 10:28 PM on November 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Its a red flag and you're right to keep your distance.
posted by sgt.serenity at 9:10 PM on December 12, 2011

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