How much to charge for long-term cat-sitting for a good friends?
January 29, 2012 5:41 PM   Subscribe

How much to charge for long-term cat-sitting for a good friends?

Background: one of my good friends is moving to Argentina but is planning to return here in two years. He asked me about possibly watching his cat for $20/week a few months ago and I agreed; it sounded kind of cool at the time and I love the cat and love cats in general and lived with them for many years in the past, but I acknowledge there's a lot of responsibility tied up in this commitment and it is certainly a significant imposition beyond a "favor."

Now that his departure date is rapidly approaching, he reached out to ask if I was still up to the task. I said yes, and reminded him about the compensation. He hemmed and hawed a bit and basically put it back on me to ask for something reasonable, and the sense I got from his body language and previous conversations about his financial state is "I'm a broke student trying to live on a shoestring budget in another country and I'll hope you'll accept the bare minimum, lower than what I mentioned before when this eventuality seemed distant and non-threatening." This was at a going-away get together and I didn't want to make a big deal out of it at the time, but this needs to be settled so that I'm not resentful about this from here on out.

It definitely sounds like he's trying to back out on $20/week and here are the considerations bouncing around in my head:

I need to pay for food, water, litter, etc, and will have to keep up more on dusting, vacuuming, etc to reduce allergens around the house.

I love cats but am mildly allergic to them. I have a young son and daughter and the son loves pets but is somewhat allergic to cats too (though I feel he may be young enough yet to benefit by the presence of an animal, obviously from an emotional standpoint but also by being desensitized by certain allergens). The allergies are not severe and the cat won't be sleeping in our bedrooms, but it will have an impact on us.

Historically I grew up with cats and I tend to quickly get a "tolerance" for their allergens rather than experiencing severe reactions. Obviously if it just won't work out after a week or two and the health of my family is in question, this won't be possible and I'm under no contractual obligation to suffer needlessly (I will have contact info for family members who are able to watch the cat if it just won't work out or I need a cat-sitter for vacations, etc).

My kids will almost certainly fall in love with the cat (a super friendly gray tabby with a long history of getting along with very small children), and losing it after two years will be upsetting to say the least.

The "requestor" is a great friend of mine; we've helped each other move countless times and have helped each other through times of significant turmoil and we have a good relationship in general. I'd hate for it to go sour over something like this.

I think $20 is quite a deal for him; I'm certainly giving up a certain amount of time and freedom and accepting a significant responsibility. There will likely be veterinary bills from time to time, possibly damage to property, etc.

I'm seeing that the obvious answer is "you both agreed on $20 a week, stick with it." From my perspective I [almost] certainly wouldn't ask for more, but on the other hand he did basically open up a previous agreement to negotiation, and if the internets tell me I'm setting myself up for a massive headache far outweighed by any compensation I could see myself at the very least saying "I should be charging X, but because we agreed on Y, and I want to do this for you as a friend, I don't think it's fair for you to ask for anything less."

I'm in a Denver metro area suburb and this will be an indoor cat. We have a 3/4-finished basement where we can keep the litter box and bed and the spayed, female cat has no spaying issues.
posted by aydeejones to Human Relations (51 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
How much do you value money over bruising this friendship? That's what you need to ask yourself.
posted by royalsong at 5:43 PM on January 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

If its a good friend, I would just ask for food and litter costs.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:44 PM on January 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

Cat has no spraying issues, that is. And title should be "How much to charge for long-term cat-sitting for a good friend?" but that's probably a Freudian since my friend is married and I consider his wife a good friend too.
posted by aydeejones at 5:44 PM on January 29, 2012

Have you totaled out the cost for two years? I did, it comes to US$ 2080. That's A LOT of money, for anyone! I don't have any idea of what would actually be a fair amount, but it would be a damn sight short of 2k.

Maybe it would be better if he found a different solution for his cat, I think asking that much money would be exorbitant.
posted by msali at 5:46 PM on January 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am strongly considering just keeping all receipts and charging for "parts" :)

I do have a history of watching pets for another close friend and it did not go over well and left me quite a bit resentful, but these were very different circumstances. And yet, I need to look out for myself too and ensure I'm not being taken advantage of because I tend to have trouble saying "no," especially to those closest to me.
posted by aydeejones at 5:48 PM on January 29, 2012

Two years is a long time, but honestly, I would only ask a friend to cover food & vet costs

hypothetically, for me at least, seeing as I'm allergic and so have no real idea of the impositions of cat ownership.
posted by smirkette at 5:48 PM on January 29, 2012

That is, I'd only asked to be compensated for food & vet costs.
posted by smirkette at 5:50 PM on January 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Like others have said, I think he should pay the costs of the cat, but that you shouldn't charge him. He should take your family out for dinner or something when he gets back (and let your kids come visit the cat if they want). Or tell him he owes you a bunch of babysitting.
posted by hoyland at 5:54 PM on January 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

$2080 for a two year commitment doesn't sound all that bad to me; I have two small children that demand a ton of attention and a high-stress IT job that leaves me pretty wiped out at the end of most days. I struggle with this, because I was reluctant and didn't agree to anything initially until seeing him a second time, and only then did he did bring up the $20 to help grease the wheels after having no luck getting any of his other friends, in-laws, and friends-of-wife to help him out.
posted by aydeejones at 5:55 PM on January 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

$20 a week for two years is insane. Asking for coverage of food & vet costs is reasonable. But I also think that if you can't take the cat in as a member of your own family, maybe you shouldn't do it at all. Your friend will be off in another country and you might not want to hold your breath on getting your regular cat allowance. And how would you feel if he never ended up coming back for his cat? I think maybe you should back out on this whole deal. I don't foresee things ending well.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:55 PM on January 29, 2012 [8 favorites]

I think that the friends should be expected to pay for food, litter, and vet costs. Possibly for damage to property, if it's severe.
posted by k8lin at 5:55 PM on January 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I know it sounds woo-woo but I would like to recommend that both of you consider this from the perspective of the cat.

Cats love their humans, but they also love the security of their spaces. You are practically talking about rehoming her at this point... right now, and then again in two years. So she moves now, she gets used to the new circumstances, gets to know her new people... and then she'll be asked to change everything again. That sounds pretty tough. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see some behavioral issues pop up.

And what happens if your friend's plans change? What if he stays 3-4 years? Will he keep paying regardless? And rehoming the cat once again at that point is almost cruel because it seems needless.

What if your friend doesn't come home? The cat will be with you forever at that point anyway, presumably.

As has already been pointed out, I can't conceive a way that your friend sticks to his end of the bargain on the money. If he's balking now, he's surely not going to keep paying for the whole term of his trip. And what happens if there is a need for a surgery, or medicine? Do you think that someone who is reluctant to pay $20/week for food will fork over the hundreds that might be needed in case of medical emergency.

And of course the money issue puts the friendship at real risk too.

I think that the thing to do here which is most fair to all three parties (including your children, who will grow quite attached to your new guest, as you pointed out quite rightly) is for you to just take the cat into your home and assume it will be staying with you forever. Your friend would essentially be surrendering his pet, which sucks... but that's the trade-off for him leaving the country for two years and not taking her along.

If he's not okay with that, then he maybe should seek another solution.
posted by pineapple at 5:56 PM on January 29, 2012 [18 favorites]

I'd think that food, litter and vet costs should be covered by your friend, who should tell you in advance what he thinks of as a max budget for a vet bill, should something bad happen. Cat treats and toys -- which you will end up buying for the cat, because everyone does -- you should pay for yourself. Cats are cheap -- food and litter is no thousand dollars a year for one cat.

If he's paying you 20/week, you're on the hook for food, litter and any non-catastrophic vet bills (broken leg yes, cancer no). But you might have trouble collecting.

You don't seem to want to do it, so just say after reconsidering/talking to your pediatrician/whatever, you don't think your/your kids' allergies will allow you to live with a cat for two years.
posted by jeather at 5:59 PM on January 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Two things. I once lost a friend over cat-sitting costs, and also this sort of thing is how I acquired my cat. Of course there's nothing saying you will also lose a friend or gain a cat, but you're definitely right that it's important to settle this resentment-free - and as others have said, be aware that this might constitute an adoption.
posted by treefort at 5:59 PM on January 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Food / litter / vet costs. Your allergies & your kid's allergies are things to consider when deciding whether to do it at all, but not fair to consider when figuring costs.

I find it strange that you agreed to this and confirmed when your friend followed up to see if you were still on board, but still think it's ok to back out & foist the responsibility on others because you're "under no contractual obligation." That's why your friend followed up to reconfirm: are you on board or not? It sounds like "yes, but ..."
posted by headnsouth at 6:00 PM on January 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree completely with pineapple. If I were leaving my cat for over a year, I would put her up for adoption because it's not fair to her to have her shuffle through homes nor is it fair to whoever I would pick to watch her, since she's going to adapt to that person. Two years is a very, very long time, especially when the cat is around your kids.

It's going to become your cat if you agree to take care of it. Between the kids, the length of your friend's departure, and the fact that cats are awesome, I think it'll be your cat and no longer his cat in no time at all. The question is how you're going to get the friend to understand that.
posted by Modica at 6:01 PM on January 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wow, I take quite offense to the use of "insane" here -- maybe it's because I'm bipolar and it reminds me of the flippancy with which people describe things as "retarded." I didn't propose $20/week, the friend did. He asked me if I'm still on-board, I asked him if HE was still on board in keeping his end of the deal. He asked me to come up with what I thought would be reasonable. Have anyone of you paid to have your pet boarded? I am aware that I may end up adopting the cat. And I'd appreciate if you could keep the hectoring to a minimum, unless your intention is to discourage people from asking questions here. I don't need the lecture.
posted by aydeejones at 6:05 PM on January 29, 2012

I don't know what this cat eats, but for convenience, let's assume she eats canned friskies. A pack of 24 cans is around $12, and the average cat eats 1 can a day. That's $15 for food. Let's say another $15 for litter every month. That's $1 a day, or $7 a week, barring any vet bills (which I think he should pay). $20 a week is a lot.

On the other hand, that's a really awful thing to do both to a cat and to your kids. My next-door neighbors let my very friendly indoor-outdoor cat hang out in their house with their young children, and the kids were absolutely crushed when I moved away (and I had to deal with the parents trying to buy my cat as I was on my way to the airport). Your family is going to get very very attached. How will you get the money? A monthly check? All upfront? When he gets back and asks for the cat back?

(I understand that he would be charged way way more to board the cat, but if that were his only option I'm assuming he'd give the cat away. Would you take it then?)
posted by ke rose ne at 6:08 PM on January 29, 2012

Have anyone of you paid to have your pet boarded?

Well sure, and it's more like $20 a day (at least here in NYC). That's the whole point of having a friend watch your pet, cutting down on those high costs. Ideally, you find someone who either loves your pet so dearly it's not an imposition, or who you can return the favor for. I apologize if the word "insane" was the wrong word in terms of describing the expectation of having a broke friend in another country give you $20 a week for two years; I suppose a more finely tuned phrase is "unrealistic".
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:13 PM on January 29, 2012

Hmmm... looking through Mint, I only spend $35 a month on cat things, and I have two cats. I must be a wizard!
posted by ke rose ne at 6:13 PM on January 29, 2012

It sounds like this friend is broke.. rather than having the risk of vet bills coming up and him not being able to afford them, why don't you insist upon food, litter, and cat insurance? That way, if the cat does get sick he will be covered. The ASPCA has highly-recommended insurance.
posted by zug at 6:14 PM on January 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'll stop moderating my post and accept everything without being all dramatic. It is a highly charged thing now that it's "getting real" and the most appreciated feedback so far centers around how the kids and cat will handle this. Thank you.
posted by aydeejones at 6:15 PM on January 29, 2012

I'd agree with others that food, litter and vet costs are a given. On top of that, I'd ask him to buy you a decent supply of anti-allergy medication. I'd maybe also ask for a "cat deposit", for potential damage to the house. Or for some sort of lump sum for food/vet bills up front (I figured out that my cat cost me around $500 a year in food, vet bills, flea/worming medication, etc). So $1000 up front doesn't sound unreasonable, and you could then ask for extra if it goes over due to unexpected large vet bills. It might be hard for him to get cash to you once he is overseas, but I guess it's likely he doesn't have $1000 right now either.

One thing to bear in mind is that it might be the case that, if the cat suffers a serious illness or accident, he would not want to pay for the treatment and would put the cat down instead. You and your children might disagree. What will you do then? You should figure out this stuff in advance.
posted by lollusc at 6:16 PM on January 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here is the thing, if he is out of the country, you may never see the money at all. Not that he would try to screw you necessarily, just that it may be hard for him to send the money, he may forget as life gets in the way, etc.

Also, he may never return, and you may never see him again.

Keep this in mind, as you may end up stuck with the cat permanently as well as all the associated costs. Would you be ok with that?
posted by Shouraku at 6:17 PM on January 29, 2012

Let me get this straight. He wants to saddle you with the cost and responsibility of caring for his cat for two years?

Maybe the real question here is what kind of a friend is this who would put you in such an awkward position.

The cat is his. As is the choice to move to Argentina for two years. Those are his problems to solve--not yours. And as others have mentioned, the responsible, decent and adult thing for him to do would be to find a good home for fluffy. Two years is a very long time in the life of a cat.
posted by runningdogofcapitalism at 6:20 PM on January 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

I don't think you can reasonably charge your friend for allergy medications or the inconvenience of extra vacuuming. If those things represent a hardship, you should say you reconsidered and don't think you can make a 2 year commitment to catsitting.

I do think you can charge for food and litter.

You should also have an agreement in place for how much of a vet bill he's willing to pay if something happens to the cat and agree that for bills over that amount, the cat will be put to sleep. That amount should be an amount you, personally, are able and willing to pay, because the likelihood is, you'll never actually get the money out of this person.

If you actually want a cat, you should consider the possibility of adopting this one from your friend -- it takes away the financial hand waving, it avoids the problems of your kids getting attached and having to give up the cat (you'll probably end up with a cat at the end of the 2 years, whether it's this one or another one) and it absolves your friend of potential vet bills, as well. If he's open to that, it's probably the wiser route.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:23 PM on January 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

It really sounds like you don't want to do this. That's fine, taking care of a living creature is a lot to be responsible for and the weight of responsibility tends to feel even heavier when the living creature belongs to someone else. Perhaps it would be a useful exercise to ask yourself how you would feel about adopting a cat? If the answer is yes, then the hesitation you're feeling isn't about how much money your friend should pay.

Here's what I would do: if you find you are indeed willing to adopt a cat, offer to adopt this cat. No take-backsies when your friend returns home, no weird twilight zone of ownership nor stress about feeling taken advantage of. Your cat, free and clear now and forevermore.

If friend is not willing to do that, then yeah, $20/week or more and he can take it or leave it. This pricing is based on what you personally need to feel comfortable taking on this huge responsibility as the issue is not at all about you being competitive with pet kennels or pet sitters.
posted by jamaro at 6:27 PM on January 29, 2012 [10 favorites]

Remember when I promised to stop moderating? I lied. (Let off some steam, Bennet.) Hard numeric estimates are super-helpful, just "$35" is a huge piece of information that answers the original question with a constant, even if it just represents an average that is not even adjusted for standard of living costs in the Denver Metro Area :)

Clearly I had an unreasonable figure in my head and didn't seriously question it because I didn't make it up myself. I wrongly assumed I'd get a bone-stock "you both agreed to X, just do it" and shouldn't have created such an expectation. While there is obviously a lot of emotion and anxiety behind my question, there is also the cold analytical desire just to know what the right dollar amount might be, almost from an actuarial point of view, but obviously human relations aren't that simple and that's an ongoing life-learning process for me.
posted by aydeejones at 6:30 PM on January 29, 2012

If friend is not willing to do that, then yeah, $20/week or more and he can take it or leave it. This pricing is based on what you personally need to feel comfortable taking on this huge responsibility as the issue is not at all about you being competitive with pet kennels or pet sitters.


You are preforming a service for a friend, not running a pet shop/hotel. If $20 a week feels reasonable to you, then that is what you should charge (or whatever price you personally see fit). He can take it or leave it.
posted by Shouraku at 6:46 PM on January 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Well since the financial figures are helpful, i'll break down my answer a bit more and you can investigate whether these figures are similar in your area.

Food: she goes through about 5 cans of mid-range quality wet food a week @ $1.20 each, plus about $1 worth of organ meat and bones. Cats fed only dry food or mostly dry food cost less to feed.

Worming/flea meds. I give her Revolution once a month, which comes in 6-packs for $50 (bought online). My cat is an outdoor/indoor cat. An indoor only cat needs less in the way of flea and worming stuff. On the other hand, an indoor cat needs cat litter. When ours was a kitten, I think a big bag of cat litter cost about $10 and we went through about one and a half bags a month. (Ours now just goes outside and gets a litter box when it's raining).

Vet bills: vaccination updates once yearly at about $100, including a check up.

Those are all the essential costs. We also spend a little bit on things like toys, treats and scratching posts, which are not really essentials. I'd say we've spent maybe $100 on that stuff in the past year, which included buying the stuff to build a scratching post and some cat shelves.

So the minimum to cover essentials for our cat works out to $7 a week for food, $3.50 a week for litter and/or $2 a week for flea/worming meds, and $1.90 a week for vet bills, assuming no unexpected illness or injury. So total = $10.90 a week = $567 a year.

I also paid around $40 a month for allergy medication when staying with friends whose cat I hadn't yet adjusted to. So allergy meds are not an insignificant cost!

I think our country and specifically my town have a high cost of living, so food and vet bills may be significantly cheaper where you are.
posted by lollusc at 6:47 PM on January 29, 2012

I don't understand why you think you'd need more money than whatever the actual costs are for food, vet visits, and other incidentals. Cats are not particularly taxing pets - it's not as if you're going to have to go out of your way to go home in the middle of the day or take it for walks, for example. They just sit there and eat and sleep and sometimes run around a little bit.
posted by something something at 6:58 PM on January 29, 2012

If you are planning on keeping the cat on the same food and litter you could ask your friend what they are using and price it out as well as getting the name of the cat's current vet who you could call for pricing on an annual visit + shots. Also I've had friends put a credit card on file with a vet when they were out of town so that petsitter would be able to get care for the pet if it got ill. I think that will be the big variable. Food, litter, toys and even meds for you should be fairly constant but a medical emergency can easily go to hundreds and thousands. I guess that should be another conversation to have now. If Fluffy gets sick how much will your friend be willing to pay? Also putting a pet to sleep also costs money.
posted by oneear at 7:04 PM on January 29, 2012

Two years? Too long. They should give you the cat, maybe some cash to get you started and ease the move-in, and if they come back in two years, they get another cat. This way there's just one transition, no risk to the friendship on the far end, and everybody gets to not worry about two years or whatever down the line. This proposed plan is just too complicated not to get screwed up somewhere down the line.

As for allergies, my experience is that exposure works to alleviate at-least-some of it. Start buying your Claritin at CostCo.
posted by rhizome at 7:14 PM on January 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

You're allergic, and so is your son? Ixnay on the atcay!
posted by lulu68 at 7:23 PM on January 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

This is not a good idea. You're allergic! What are you going to do if your allergies become unbearable? You can't get rid of the cat for two years! I don't think that I would ever agree to do anything for two years.
posted by Ragged Richard at 7:37 PM on January 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

You don't cat-sit for two years. You adopt. Your friend needs to understand that this goes beyond a regular holiday arrangement (as do you). In two years, will you be happy to return a pet that you've grown to love and cherish?
posted by twirlypen at 7:55 PM on January 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Cats are not particularly taxing pets.

Yeah, shurrre!

That's why AxMeCat is one of the biggest cat-egories on AskMe. I would say taxing depends on the cat!

If you do nothing else, get some kind of written contract spelling out some upper limit for medical expenses and detailing who is responsible for vet bills. Also make sure if the cat needs to be euthanized that your friend will be willing to accept your decision as to the gravity of the circumstances without coming unglued. Be prepared to keep the cat when the friend comes back. Absence often doesn't make the heart grow fonder, and your friends' situation may change drastically--they may stay longer than anticipated, may migrate to another country, may decide to get a job in another city, might not be able to find housing that allows cats, yadda yadda yadda....

I boarded 3 horses for a gal that was sooooo madly in love with them that she couldn't part with them for the two years her husband was stationed overseas. The board $$ stopped coming around seven months, the feed store account stopped getting paid at about nine months, and after that there was a short period of moaning and then silence. When the colt (who had colicked before with her and had surgery) colicked and twisted a gut for the second time, I made the decision, with imput from two vets, to put him down rather than let him die slowly. A week later, I was finally able to get into communication with her, and she threatened to sue me for killing her horse--which was BS, of course. The long and the short of it was she never took the horses back after she returned, and I wound up selling the two left for less than the feed and vet bills.

Live and learn.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:15 PM on January 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

I'm sorry but this cat needs to be rehomed. Help your friend adopt it out to a person or persons who won't fiduciate the transaction down into a nothingless morass of fifty cents here, a dollar there. Cats are very inexpensive to care for properly, unless there is an existing medical complaint.
posted by tumid dahlia at 8:44 PM on January 29, 2012

I'd worry about your little kids getting super-attached to the cat. Two months is one thing, but two years seems excessive.
posted by leahwrenn at 9:24 PM on January 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

Answering your original question: I currently keep 3 cats and probably spend around $80 or so in them per month. ($15 a week, depending for them all).

That said, it honestly doesn't sound to me like you want to keep the cat for the two years and since you're doubting it, the answer is: don't do it! Seriously, unless you come to terms that this is it and drop all anxiety, the cat will most likely pick up on it and may or not become nervous itself (you didn't mention the cat's age? Older cats are less likely to come around, especially if they've been with the same family for their whole lives).
posted by Trexsock at 10:11 PM on January 29, 2012

I would just ask your friend if he can ask a family member to take care of the cat for the two years instead. I also don't think you should have agreed to this in the first place as you're so clearly ambivalent, and the fact that you're quibbling over dollar amounts makes it sound like you were at least partly in it to make money off your friend who's a broke student rather than just doing a friend a favor.

All the reasons you have against taking in the cat (kids, allergies, etc) are reasons for not doing it, not reasons for charging more from your friend. But if you don't do it then at this point you may have put him in a tough spot if it's close to the time he needs to leave and he thought he already had this sorted out.

So yeah, try to find someone else but if that's not possible then try to get food and pet insurance money first because there's no way he's going to keep making regular payments and your friendship is likely to fall apart if you go ahead under the current deal.
posted by hazyjane at 10:53 PM on January 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Your son is allergic to cats. Full stop.
Please put your childs health and well-being above your friend's wishy-washy cat-subsidization scheme.
posted by blueberry at 12:34 AM on January 30, 2012

I'm of the opinion that kitty should be rehomed permanently. If this isn't a possibility for your friend, $20/week is reasonable to me. Having owned a cat, I can safely say $20 wouldn't cover my weekly costs. However, I put forth the extra money for high quality food and litter, in addition to buying him new toys on a regular basis. You two need to get together and have a frank discussion on what's best for the cat, without any weird bush-beating about price.
posted by plaintiff6r at 7:53 AM on January 30, 2012

Adopt the cat if possible. Your kids are going to get attached and be heart broken when it goes in 2 years. Also you will resent it less if it's your responsibility, and in those first few months while you and your son get used to the dander that's going to be important, nothing like itchy eyes to put a damper on cat sitting.
posted by wwax at 8:02 AM on January 30, 2012

If you go on vacation for a week you will be paying $20 a day for boarding, in that one week you will have spent almost two months of his weekly payments. And at some point in the next two years you will have a vacation (or a business trip or a wedding...). So to me, $20 a week plus vet bills is reasonable. It is more reasonable for short term agreements but leaving a pet for two years is well into the "re-homing for the sake of the cat" territory.
posted by saucysault at 8:54 AM on January 30, 2012

$20 a week seems to me like the basic minimum a person would need to take care of a cat. You have to factor in vet costs and food and toys and treats. How has your friend been able to take care of his cat up until now?

I think he is asking you too much. He should ask you if you want to adopt the cat. It's not fair to the cat to have it shuffle from one home to another on your friend's whim. Part of being an adult, like your friend, is taking responsibility for one's pets. It sounds like he's dumping his cat on you because he decided he wants to move. He needs to be the one to stand up here and take responsibility. $20 a week really isn't that much. He is being selfish in putting his needs above both yours and his cat's needs. He needs to find someone who is willing to adopt his cat and if that fails, then he needs to step up and pay you the $20 a week as agreed. Frankly, the $20 a week doesn't sound like enough. As Saucysault points out, what happens when you want to take a trip sometime in the next two years and you have to pay a cat sitter $30 a day?
posted by parakeetdog at 3:17 PM on January 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yep, I spend easily $800 a year on my cat on toys, food and litter alone, another $200-$300 on vaccinations and the occasional bladder issue, and probably an extra $100-$200 on cat-related damage: blinds, rugs, things peed/puked on or chewed/shredded. Toss in your Claritin and Swiffers and you're even closer to what he initially offered. $20 per week is not at all unreasonable in a purely monetary sense.

That said, you should only take this cat in if you actually do want to have a cat and both you and he are willing to consider it rehomed, and yours. This is far too much to ask of someone who does not already have a cat and for whom it would therefore be less of a change in routine. It already sounds like you'd be a little resentful of the disruption with compensation. How would you feel if there were a sudden uptick in expenses due to an accident or illness? Unless you actively want this cat, politely decline and offer to help him find a more suitable home for the kitty.
posted by OompaLoompa at 11:14 PM on January 30, 2012

I haven't gone through every comment since I last checked in, but I really gotta say I resent the occasional judgmental comments about my dastardly desire to assign some sort of quantitative value to what I consider a pretty major commitment. Maybe I'm overreacting because I "short-circuited" my reading process at the first comment that got my goat, but that whole mentality seems unfit for AskMe and has always bothered me, and not only when it happens to me :)

No wonder there are so many otherwise unnecessarily anonymous questions! It's disheartening to read self-righteous jabs and to know it's being associated with this community perception of "who you are" when I'm earnestly just struggling to answer a complicated question.

I realize in retrospect that I framed my question poorly and came off with too much of a sense of entitlement about the figure initially proposed to me. Clearly many folks consider $20/week unreasonable, even if the figure was proposed by the person asking for the two year commitment, which no one else was willing to accept: dozens of friends, family, in-laws, wife's friends, wife's family, etc.

I'm not saying "so that means I can shake him down for whatever the market will bear! Ha ha!" It means "I'm the only person he can apparently count on to even offer to help, and I am often THAT guy who is the 'only person' who is willing to help, so I don't want to feel like a dumbass pushover later and go along with 'whatever' when I was basically begged to do this with a carrot dangled in front of me." Yes, this guy is a friend. Yes, he asked me for something major. No, I don't think he's nefariously trying to manipulate me, but he offered me something knew it was a major request with the original intent of addressing the time and energy commitment he was asking of me, and now he's just doing his due diligence to see how much he can get me to come down on what he offered after deciding that he offered too much initially. And I'm doing my due diligence so I don't feel like a schmuck. Is that OK?

I've spent at least 20 years of my life with cats and I do *tolerate* the allergies (I'm considering shaving my beard right now, yeesh), but they are certainly at the very least an inconvenience that has some impact on my quality of life.

And one of the best ways to manage this inconvenience is to spend a not-insignificant amount of time vacuuming, brushing, buying lint rollers, etc. It's not just "a favor for a friend" that anyone would just do without a second thought for their friend just because, gosh darnit, that's what friends are for. We all have to strike a balance between what people ask of us and what we are willing and able to do. And there is such a thing as doing a huge favor for a friend, and getting compensated in *some* way that is no-way-even-close-to-what-professional-services-would cost, but at least greases the wheels. Like when I do something for a co-worker that would cost $350 at Geek Squad and charge them $50. My time isn't entirely worthless and if I act like it is, people do notice :)

Commitment:favor :: project:task. I'm sorry I think this way but I do. If I don't think about these things ahead of time, I am easily predisposed towards over-committing myself, and underestimating the amount of effort that goes into some commitments. I've burned myself many times. Many of you read this hemming and hawing and assume "you shouldn't do this." Sorry, but I kind of have to dissect anything that is asked of me, it's how I figure shit out. It doesn't mean my heart is in the wrong place, it means I'm trying to not fuck myself over awhile also trying to help whenever I realistically can.

I'm that IT guy who had to learn how to draw sensible boundaries once my friends and family realized there was some considerable value in my ability to fix their computer issues. I struggle with this stuff. Every day.

So here's the skinny:

I have the cat now.

$1000 is the vet-max-bill (if I can't get a hold of them to authorize more).

They want me to call and have all vet bills paid for via phone / CC# whenever possible.

I have 3-4 months' worth of food and litter that they had stockpiled previously.

I was given $120 which is intended to get us through at least six months, probably more since we do have the aforementioned stockpile.

I told him I'd keep track of the food / litter / vet / toy / etc expenses over time and keep in touch if / when we need more money.

I warned him to be prepared to accept the possibility that the cat lives here permanently. He acknowledged the possibility. I told him that it will likely be very traumatic for the cat to "re-home" yet again and that the kids will "probably" fall in love with the cat and won't ever understand the concept that "we're just watching the cat for two years for a friend, but it's not our cat." My boy already calls her "my kitty."

What I anticipate happening is that we will amicably agree that he can stop paying for anything if I can just keep the cat. When this will happen, I'm not sure (perhaps once the provisions and money are spent, and I've racked up $100 or so in additional expenses). We've been friends for 18 years and we both are tentative "guesser" people who sometimes fumble our way through dealing with each other on difficult subjects and it hasn't damaged our relationship thus far. It's not this big ominous fragile dramatic friendship model that I keep hearing about on the internets, but this was a significant request for me to evaluate.

If we keep the cat, I could see myself offering to give him his money back (cue comments saying "of course you should give it back if you keep the cat how could you even think otherwise" in 5..4..3..). I can acknowledge at this point in our lives the money would make a much bigger difference to him than it would me.

He's in Argentina trying to get a job and scrape by and just hang out for awhile, because he figures he'd be doing the same thing here and why not try something different for awhile. I'm a father with two kids who struggles with finding a work/life balance and my time is fucking valuable, hello!?

The kids love the cat and she's currently in "hide constantly and trust no one who makes any noise" mode but occasionally comes out for attention and is eating and drinking and using the litter box. This is pretty standard new-home behavior and I'm keeping my friend apprised of everything via facebook.

I am a cat person, but I think some people do underestimate how responsibilities and commitments conditionally affect people based on their existing responsibilities and commitments. This was a complex question and I appreciate the helpful advice I got.
posted by aydeejones at 12:47 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have the cat now.

Cool. You know how this works, where's the pics?
posted by jamaro at 9:48 PM on February 4, 2012

You are a good egg for taking in your friend's pet. Again, from the perspective of the cat, it's not her fault that her humans decided to change continents to "try something new for a while." And you saved her from getting surrendered at a shelter, or to a home that wasn't suitable with fosters who weren't really committed. So on behalf of the cat people, I'll say thanks for the most important part. =^.^=
posted by pineapple at 8:22 AM on February 5, 2012

I've generally found that if someone pays me less than market value for a favor, I feel less good about the whole situation ('I'm an awesome friend for helping out like this') and more resentful ('No way is this enough money to be worth doing this! Why am I wasting all this time doing this for such shitty pay? I'm such a sucker.')

It seems you have some personal experience with doing favors for less than market value and not feeling bad about that, so YMMV -- but for a lot of people, accepting compensation for a favor makes them feel like shmucks instead of heroes, and that may be where your sense of being judged comes in. Either because they are judging you or because you're reading judgement into relatively non-judgey statements -- 'I feel awesome for doing this' can pretty easily turn into 'If you don't do this the way I would, you are not awesome', both in our own minds and in the minds of others.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:26 AM on February 5, 2012

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