cat fight
April 3, 2012 1:08 PM   Subscribe

Trivial "problem" filter: Significant other and I had a fight over how he treats his cat.

TL, DR at the end.

Background: I'm a late 20s female, he's an early 30s male. We've been together a couple months shy of a year. Things escalated to a very intense emotional pitch in our relationship very quickly. He has 3 roommates, and a cat.

We disagreed rather vehemently the other night over how he takes care of this cat.

The cat is very overweight, and whenever she meows, he just feeds her. The fight started because I said the cat might want other things, like to play, or go outside, or be pet. He said, basically, that he knew his cat and that his cat was hungry. Indeed, the cat did start eating. HOWEVER, the cat lives in one small upstairs bedroom and never leaves that room. Two of his roommates have dogs that the cat is afraid of.

While we were having this discussion, which would eventually escalate into me (sort of) calmly leaving his house after I'd planned to stay over, the cat scratched me, hard. (I was just petting her and it was like a jekyll/hyde thing.)

And after the cat scratched me, my boyfriend kept petting her and saying, "See? She's just a nasty creature," or something like that.

That was confusing/upsetting to me, because I don't believe some animals are "just bad;" I believe that animals are taught what's acceptable (with some exceptions, I'm not a hardliner.) So, I was upset because I thought he should not have positively reinforced the cat scratching me.

I was also upset because I think the cat is legitimately neglected. Now I guess is a good time to mention that she has worms. Lots and lots of worms. I told him he needed to take her to the vet to get them cleared up. He disagreed, saying he didn't have enough money to take her to the vet.

This is sort of true. He is a freelance writer and doesn't make a lot of money. But he has money for other things. For example, a few weeks ago he spent 30 dollars on tea. On the other hand, he goes without a lot of stuff that he wants, owed a lot in taxes, doesn't have a car, etc. He isn't completely irresponsible. But I feel like he should either take better care of the cat or give her to someone with the means to take care of her. He points out that if he just takes her to the pound or something, she may be euthanized. So I'm not for that option.

Although he disagrees and seems to be attached to her, her life seems to me to be below the standards of acceptable petdom. And beyond that: I didn't say this, but I think the worms all over his carpet are really gross and it really makes me depressed to visit him because I have to see them. It also makes me worry that he neglects the relationships around him/will one day take me for granted. Also that he wouldn't be the best nurturer should we decide to have kids.

I like this guy a lot otherwise, even love him. But this bugs me and I don't know what to do.

So my questions are:

1. What should I do about this? My mom said that if it bothers me so much, I should just take the cat to the vet myself. However, I don't think that's my place. Maybe it will set a precedent of me taking on too many of my boyfriend's responsibilities.
2. I've only ever had indoor-outdoor cats, so I'm open to the possibility that this is a clash of cat-cultures. For indoor cat people, how do you take care of your cats? Is one room enough? Do you exercise your cats? When you go out of town, do you just sort of put a big pile of food out for your cat and leave?
3. Do you consider this to be a red flag, personality- or compatibility- wise? Or am I blowing this out of proportion, and it's none of my business to begin with? Or both?
4. I have a history of ending relationships with people I really love over kind of trivial things. My therapist suggested that it's a way of assuaging my insecurity: if my SO always takes me back then he must *really* love me. But it puts a lot of stress on my relationships and if they do end, I grieve and grieve and grieve for months after that person has moved on. Is this one of those trivial things? This is not my first relationship after I realized that I do this, but I'm on guard about it because I don't want to break up.

TL, DR: My boyfriend's standard of petcare is much, much lower than mine, and it bothers me. Discussion ended badly. History of intimacy problems (mine). What now?

Thank you for your time, askmefi.
posted by ferngully to Human Relations (72 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The worms thing is awful.

I am not sure I could stand this. If it is at all negotiable, you might find materials about the effects of say, WORMS ALL OVER THE PLACE on the animal's health and well-being. The thing about pets is that we don't really know if they are uncomfortable or not.

There are low-cost places that provide care. Worming pills might not be that expensive.
posted by angrycat at 1:11 PM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Sounds disgusting and I would never go to his house. Don't take it to the vet yourself, but if it's genuinely a money issue, hand him an envelope of cash and tell him to use it for the vet. (or equivalent, like ring the vet and ask if you can have him bill you or a blank cheque or whatever). If you don't have the money either, then I don't know what you can do.

I do not think this is a trivial thing and I'd consider ending the relationship over it to be reasonable.
posted by jacalata at 1:14 PM on April 3, 2012 [18 favorites]

I am thisclose to telling you to report the guy to the ASPCA. You are not blowing this out of proportion - I could see letting the overfeeding slide, or the "she's just a nasty thing," but not treating the worms even when they are emerging from the cat and coming out onto the carpet, that is just beyond anything.

Then you go on to talk about how he's got wacked-out financial stability to begin with, even separate from the cat -- you say "he isn't completely irresponsible," but a guy who owes taxes and spends thirty dollars on TEA is the textbook definition of "irresponsible."

This is the one and only time I have also been tempted to drop the "DTMFA" bomb, as well. I won't, because that's up to you. But good CHRIST get that cat to a vet.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:15 PM on April 3, 2012 [44 favorites]

I am confused about what you mean by worms on the carpet. That sounds terrifying and disgusting. However, if he genuinely is in bad financial straits, he may be embarrassed to admit to you just how bad. Because someone has 30$ doesn't mean that he has 150-300$ to get the cat treated. If you care about the cat being dewormed, I suggest you do it yourself if you have the means to.

That said, just because someone is a haphazard pet owner doesn't mean they'll be a haphazard parent or boyfriend. People place differing values on animals. For example, I myself would spend maybe 500 but not >1000 for pet care. Others differ, either higher or lower.

This is a small issue, but it's totally okay to be freaked out. Maybe also suggesting he comes to your place is the answer?

That said, in his thirties, with multiple roommates and not being able to afford to care for a pet is not a great financial sign, if you care about that sort of thing.
posted by corb at 1:15 PM on April 3, 2012 [7 favorites]

It sounds to me like this isn't really about the cat, this is about how you feel about your boyfriend's standard of living and his approach to life. That's the real issue you have to focus on. The cat's just a stand-in for the bigger issues here.
posted by minorcadence at 1:16 PM on April 3, 2012 [11 favorites]


You can buy worm medicine at Walmart and everywhere else. If he won't, then you should.

...I think the worms all over his carpet are really gross...

Your guy sounds dangerously neglectful.
posted by General Tonic at 1:17 PM on April 3, 2012 [8 favorites]

First take care of the cat and associated worms, then get the hell out. He is not someone you want for a partner.
posted by stormygrey at 1:22 PM on April 3, 2012 [10 favorites]

De-worm the cat, then run for your life.

I think you should report him, honestly, but I know that's overkill. Except it isn't. This sounds AWFUL and absolutely cruel.

Please stop dating him. Don't let him think his approach to his life is OK. Get yourself out of this.
posted by jbenben at 1:23 PM on April 3, 2012 [12 favorites]

Hardware store (ace, not home depot) is a good place to get worm treatments. In an adult cat, once you get rid of the worms, they probably won't come back. Leaving the cat full of worms (and worms on the carpet) is an unacceptable standard of pet ownership and of housekeeping.
posted by toodleydoodley at 1:23 PM on April 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

Things you should look for in a Good Boyfriend include the ability to prioritize one's life in such a manner that there is a some sort of plan to get the goddamn worms out of an animal he has decided to become responsible for. Seriously, I am not the sort of person who generally goes around to telling people how to spend their money but "$30 on tea" rather than "$30 in an envelope that says 'Upcoming Vet Bill'" is a sign of this dude being someone who is just generally going to have to be cleaned up after for the length of your relationship.

If you want to do the right thing, call the vet, ask how much it would cost, put that money in an envelope, give it to your now-ex-boyfriend and go find a guy who knows what the hell he's doing when it comes to caring for living things.
posted by griphus at 1:25 PM on April 3, 2012 [13 favorites]

I've a hard time understanding how reasonably decent people want to be around people who treat animals like that. This is a huge read flag and it is not trivial. (The guy sounds like a complete jackass.)
posted by ambient2 at 1:26 PM on April 3, 2012 [6 favorites]

1. Offer to pay the full cost of getting rid of the cat's worms. If you're not able to do that, then maybe he's right about it costing too much.
2. One room is probably on the small side of things, but it's not like the cat is in a pet carrier all day. I've never known anyone who ever exercised their indoor cat. I've known several who have cut open a big bag of cat food when they left town, or who called me like 2 days into a trip and asked me to check in on their cats.
3. AskMe will overwhelmingly think that your boyfriend is the worst person ever. I'll disagree and say that you're either over-reacting or trying to make this about cat-care when really it's about more than that.
4. I think this is a trivial thing.
posted by 23skidoo at 1:29 PM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

Re #2., this has nothing to do with having indoor cats. One room is fine, if one room is all you have, but he should absolutely play with the cat. Going out of town for 1-2 days and just leaving food and water is fine, any longer and he really should have someone come and make sure the cat has food, water, and a clean litter box. I think if you can afford it, you should offer to pay to take the cat to the vet. If he's extremely grateful and thinks you are very sweet to do that for him and the cat, maaaaaybe he's just been clueless up to now and there's hope. If he gets all weird and defensive and refuses, which sadly I suspect will happen, that's a bad sign.

Oh, and this also has nothing to do with being a poor freelance writer!

And, the worms thing is foul.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 1:29 PM on April 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

This has horrified me and I'm not even a cat person. I'm poor and I know what it's like to have $30 to splurge on tea but not enough for a $300 bill, but I would still make this a top priority. Plus, you can buy worm treatments at the store?? So I'm pretty confused about what's stopping him from getting the worms out of his cat and carpet.
posted by stoneandstar at 1:31 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

You are not overreacting at all, in my estimation. People who can't afford to or don't have the will to take care of their pets should not have pets, period. He can't care for his animal as a freelance writer? Time to get a second job.

Seriously. This is upsetting and appalling.
posted by sugarbomb at 1:32 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

This guy is neglecting his cat. He is not providing a basic level of care. I get not being able to afford an expensive surgery for a pet or something like that, but if he cannot afford basic veterinary care, then he can't afford to own the pet.

Call a vet, ask how much a visit and deworming would be, and ask the vet if a deworming medication that you can get at Petco would be sufficient (there are two deworming items on their site that are less than $7 apiece). If you want to go the extra mile, make the vet appointment, make him take the cat to the vet, and go with him and pay for it. Then consider whether you want to be with a person who has such blatant disregard for the comfort of the living creature he is responsible for.
posted by bedhead at 1:33 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

What Griphus said. If you have a pet, you prioritize money for vet care. Yes, it may suck to have to drink Lipton tea or something, but it sucks worse for poor kitty to have worms. This is a living, feeling creature who cannot just walk into a free clinic to get rid of the worms. Besides, worms on the CARPET? Ick, ick, ick! (And some kinds of parasites are transmissible to humans, too - double ick!)

I'd take the cat to the vet myself and have the worm problem solved - and you can paint this as a "do YOU want worms? do you want ME to get worms?" issue. And if you are living together, you can feel free to play with the cat and so on. If he gets weird and territorial and grouchy about it, then you might want to think twice.

I know I'll get some flack for this, but if his attitude is "it's MY cat to treat as I please even if it means letting her suffer, and don't you DARE interfere!" is to a pet, and he thinks WORMS OMG are no big deal because he just had to spend that extra $30 on fancy tea - if you had a child with him, would he be pissed off if that kid got ill and required a doctor visit that cost money? There are people who do care for their kids even if they don't for their pets, but this kind of selfishness is a red flag. Think long and hard about what kind of person this is.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 1:33 PM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

That poor creature. This is neglect, plain and simple. The red flags are waving. As DestinationUnknown has stated above, offer to take the cat to the vet and see how he reacts. Unfortunately from what I've read here, my bet is on him getting defensive.

I have a few cat lover friends who struggle to make ends meet and I'm pretty damn sure they would sell their prized possessions to keep their beloved kitties from suffering.

her life seems to me to be below the standards of acceptable petdom.

It is indeed. This would be a dealbreaker for me.
posted by futureisunwritten at 1:36 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Adjusting for new data: if you can buy deworming pills for stupidly cheap, I would excitedly tell him about it and see if he does it/is excited he can fix the problem for cheap. That will tell you a lot about if it's a money issue or "pets live, they die, eh" issue.
posted by corb at 1:36 PM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

BTW, unless his credit is truly in the crapper, CareCredit is an option at most vet clinics. I used CareCredit to cover a vet bill (and dentist bill) when I was broke, and my credit was less-than-stellar at that time. The terms are not ideal, but it's do-able especially if you can pay off the bill ASAP, and it's FAR better than letting the cat suffer.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 1:38 PM on April 3, 2012

This isn't about the cat.

Well, on an immediate level it is; the cat is being seriously neglected. The worms thing is disgusting, and is cruel to the poor animal. I think you should take whatever steps you can to get it care -- not because you want to set a precedence for taking on his responsbilities (more on that below) but because it's the humane thing to do for an animal that is being harmed.

But beyond the cat, this is a much bigger question of seeing who your boyfriend really is. Note that this is different from it being about his profession or income. Millions of people (freelance writers among them) manage to live on a shoestring without doing all these things your boyfriend is choosing to do (neglect the cat, not pay his taxes, etc.). This doesn't mean he's a bad person, but it does mean that when it comes down to it, he evidently doesn't prioritize what you (rightly) consider his basic adult responsibilities. This is a pretty essential statement about who he is that is unlikely to spontaneously improve in the future. It's up to you to decide what you want to do with that knowledge.
posted by scody at 1:40 PM on April 3, 2012 [26 favorites]

1. Deworm the cat - it's not that hard or expensive. But it most likely will take multiple rounds of treatment to get all the worms out - you know they kind of have a nest full of eggs inside the intestines of the cat. So meds kill the living worms but might not kill the eggs right away. (There are different kinds of worms, not sure which kind it is).

2. Cats can adjust to many many things, which does not mean that does things are humane or right for them. The one room/small room thing might be not such a big deal - but the cat lives in constant fear due to the two dogs! I have personal experience with cats who overate because of stress. (Just like humans, cats can get diabetic among other health issues from wrong feeding. )

3. To me it is not a trivial things. If he treats a pet he is supposed to love like this, how does he treat people he loves?
posted by travelwithcats at 1:43 PM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

But I feel like he should either take better care of the cat or give her to someone with the means to take care of her.

I would push for this. Just get this cat away from this dude and this situation - regardless of anything else.

Maybe there is a no-kill shelter in your community?
posted by foxhat10 at 1:46 PM on April 3, 2012

This is who your bf is. I equate treatment of animals to treatment of waitstaff. Anyone who treats either without respect is a turd and you would do well by yourself and that cat to take it and just go.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 1:53 PM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

One of the top qualities I look for in a partner is someone who cares about animals and will make sacrifices when necessary for the health of a pet. It sounds like your boyfriend is the type of person who puts his needs above everyone else's needs. You mention he's a freelance writer, but is he even trying to get a job that would provide him with the income to appropriately take care of a cat? I could understand if he was out of a job and desperate, but it's unclear from your question whether he's even trying.

What would he do if you were sick and needed care? If he can't summon the decency to take care of his cat, why would you think he would take care of you? I can imagine him saying, "Sorry honey, I can't afford to get you a can of chicken soup."
posted by parakeetdog at 1:55 PM on April 3, 2012

I will just encourage you to respond separately here to the cat's suffering and your boyfriend's dickish/abusive treatment of his cat. You can treat the cat yourself to alleviate the cat's suffering, not because you want to enable your boyfriend. You can still break up with him over it.
posted by slow graffiti at 1:58 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

if that's how he takes care of a cat, how's he going to take care of you?
posted by facetious at 2:01 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think you might be confused because you're lumping things of varying seriousnss all in one pile and the obvious fact that this guy is neglecting his cat is getting obscured.

"Rewarding" the cat for scratching you isn't a good idea, but it's also not that big of a deal. Overfeeding the cat is more serious - it can have health consequences - but it's not the kind of thing I would worry about fixing immediately. It's not good that the cat has only a small area to live in, but it's not like being in a small cage.

These things are getting in the way of the obvious fact, that you didn't mention until later in your post: THE CAT IS SICK AND IS NOT GETTING MEDICAL CARE BECAUSE YOUR BOYFRIEND CAN'T BE BOTHERED. That's neglect, plain and simple.

He can't afford to treat the cat? Has he tried? Has he called vets' offices to ask how much it costs, if they have a sliding scale system, or if he can set up a payment plan? I understand difficulty getting medical care for a pet when you are having hard times - but he sounds like he's just brushed off the urgency of the situation, and hasn't even considered it.

Do what you can to get the cat treated. As for the relationship, it's your call, but for me this would be a dealbreaker. Whatever the case, there is no reason that you should feel doubt that your concern for this cat is justified. It totally is - you are in the right here, at least about this cat's basic HEALTH.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 2:03 PM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

1. If you care about the cat, offer to pay for the vet visit. If your boyfriend cares that this sets a precedent, offer him a plan to pay you back. If he doesn't care that this sets a precedent, pay for the visit because it's the humane thing to do for the cat - don't let your boyfriend be the measure of the person you want to be - but let it set the new standard, not the precedent. If certain standards in cat care and other things can't be maintained, that is because this isn't just about the cat.

2. Cats get regular vet visits, any emergency care as needed, love and affection and attention and daily care to ensure their good health. When away for a day or two, enough food and water is left out. Beyond that, the neighbour/roommate/friend comes by every day for fresh water, food, and litter scooping. Cat can live in many variations of horrible conditions - but there is a difference between surviving and thriving. The same can be said for relationships.

3. "The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good." Yes, I do think this is a red flag. This is something that shows character, and quality and compassion and responsibility. It's your business because he already doesn't seem to be bringing much more than not being completely irresponsible and whatever nice qualities you admire to the table, and a cat isn't something that should be that hard to meet a minimum with. It affects your health, comfort and emotional well-being in this relationship, and it is not a big thing to ask of any caring person. The worms on the carpet are disturbing and disheartening, and while his cat's life seems to you to be below the standards of acceptable petdom - your boyfriend's life, to me, is below the standards of acceptable boyfriendom. But I freely admit that this is something wherein everybody's mileage varies.

4. This is not a trivial thing - this is tangential to they guy you're in a relationship with and are contemplating a future with. Someone who is not securely employed and not financially comfortable, let alone successful, at his age, and who is mistreating a cat. I don't think he's awful. He's just maybe not where you are in life, and may not be progressing, or even willing to progress (especially if you're talking about having babies with him) at the same rate as you are. Why don't you want to break up? To prove what? Please, let this be the beginning of a discussion not just about pet care, but about relationship care. It's time for him to start stepping up. Because it's a pretty steep curve to go from living in one small room with a fat wormy cat that scratches your girlfriend while you drink fancy tea and owe lots of taxes at thirty, to setting up a comfortable, happy home and being a responsible parent and partner. You, and that poor cat, deserve better - either from him stepping up or from someone else.
posted by peagood at 2:10 PM on April 3, 2012 [9 favorites]

Damn. I am eating lunch right now...

The cat is probably hungry all the time as the nutrients of the food is being taken from it by the worms.

My advice:

Offer to take the cat to the vet or buy 10 bucks of dewormer.

Offer to rehome the cat.

Offer to get yourself an awesome new boyfriend who has a bit more compassion and cleanliness whilst going through life.
posted by Vaike at 2:13 PM on April 3, 2012 [10 favorites]

On preview, ditto what Vaike said. One of the reasons the cat is over-eating is because the worms are stealing the nutrition that the cat is supposed to be getting from the food. Your boyfriend is allowing his cat to be malnourished. This is animal abuse, plain and simple.

If it were me in your shoes, this would be an absolute deal breaker. My stance would be "the cat gets treated or the SPCA gets called", and yeah, this speaks volumes about who this guy is. I'm sorry.
posted by lunaazul at 2:18 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

How people treat animals is a HUGE indicator of who they are. And I am not talking about how much money they are willing to spend on them.

I really, really hope you help that cat.
posted by Ink-stained wretch at 2:25 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

He is gross and mean. DTMFA.
posted by empath at 2:31 PM on April 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

Check your mail!
posted by DeltaForce at 2:32 PM on April 3, 2012

I pet my cats while insulting them all the time. That's not animal abuse.

The severely untreated worms? Different question. I'd be tempted to take the cat and then dump him, though stealing a pet is a bad, illegal idea.
posted by jeather at 2:33 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just to reiterate, dewormer isn't enough. You have to clean the litter every day (always), and replace it with new litter every couple days (until the worms are gone), and give the dewormer such as Revolution every month. The worms lay eggs inside the cat so you have to kill off several generations and make sure the cat doesn't reinfect itself with eggs from the litter box and carpet.
posted by DeltaForce at 2:34 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is a problem, and it is NOT trivial. As a cat owner, hearing how he treats that cat is horrifying. And as a human being, I've discovered that people who treat cats and other animals in a horrifying manner are ultimately not very nice people, and that lack of niceness always comes out in the end.

If I knew anyone who was doing that to their cat, I would make it a priority to find a way to get that cat into a better environment, period. And I wouldn't stay acquaintances with the person either.
posted by barc0001 at 2:34 PM on April 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

This is just horrible neglect from your boyfriend, and honestly I can't believe you are even dating him. I'd have called the ASPCA on him by now at the very least.

Yes, you can buy de-worming treatments over the counter. You need to know what kind of worms the cat has, though, because you can't treat them all the same, and de-worming treatments can be dangerous to the cat, too. And if the cat has worms and is still overweight--well, that cat may have other serious health problems.

I'm not sure your boyfriend would even give the cat the medicine it needs anyway--he doesn't sound like he cares at all about putting any effort into taking care of the poor animal. Plus he would also have to make sure all trace of worms AND eggs were completely cleaned from his place, or they would just come back. Do you think your boyfriend could be trusted to do that?

I also wonder how a strictly inside cat could even get worms. Where did this cat get worms from? Do the roommates' dogs have worms, too? I'm wondering about your boyfriend's hygiene just hearing about this now. Really, why are you with this guy?!

Plus, if the worms the cat has are roundworms or hookworms, you and your boyfriend can get sick from these worms, too. Did you know that?

I wouldn't want to even touch a cat with worms this bad, but my compassion would compel me to help this animal in any way possible, including calling the ASPCA, physically taking the cat to the vet myself for treatment, finding a foster home or no-kill shelter, or even providing a home myself if I were able to.

The fact that your boyfriend can just act like it's no big deal is incredibly upsetting, and has nothing to do with his financial situation, except that his irresponsibility is probably why he is in such dire financial straits in the first place.

Again, I cannot imagine why you would be dating someone like this. I'm feeling sick just reading about it.
posted by misha at 2:37 PM on April 3, 2012 [8 favorites]

I would just like to advise NOT using the worming stuff found at wal-mart. Please take the cat to the vet if the worms are as bad as it sounds. If you can afford to help him take the cat to the vet, I would do so. Even if he gets defensive, etc, I think that the well-being of another living thing is worth the fight you might have to put up. If he doesn't argue, all the better.

Everyone else has said many of the things I would also say about the boyfriend. I would only say: to me, this is not trivial and would be an absolute dealbreaker. But I am also a cat lady and one of the things that I love about my own boyfriend is how much he loves my cats.
posted by itsacover at 2:37 PM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

A serious worm infestation will eventually kill a cat. If they're all over the carpet (oh my God that is gross) then we have passed "serious worm infestation" point. Have you looked for low-cost vets in the area? At the SPCA or somewhere similar? Many areas have cat rescues, animal shelters, and groups specifically set up to help owners find low-cost pet care. I know of a number of shelters in my area that do low cost vaccinations and de-worming on a regular basis, like $25 for a treatment (i.e. less than he spends on tea).

This is not a trivial thing. This is you observing how your boyfriend treats a helpless creature under his care.
posted by schroedinger at 3:03 PM on April 3, 2012 [7 favorites]

Yes, neglect, yes, take the cat to the vet yourself if you possibly can, yes, after you do this, run away as fast as you can. Everything you said about this guy screams "extreme unfixable loser." Gross gross gross gross
posted by a_girl_irl at 3:11 PM on April 3, 2012

Wow, I've never even heard of anything so disgusting. I can tell you that if I knew someone had worms in their carpet, I would absolutely refuse to set foot in their home. I definitely would not be contemplating having kids with them. And that's just from a hygiene and general competence point of view, never mind the criminal neglect of another creature.
posted by HotToddy at 3:36 PM on April 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

Your willingness to label this matter as trivial makes me wonder if you're been too hard on yourself regarding the other breakups. You might want to consider talking to your therapist about figuring out what is and isn't trivial.

It seems like you've mostly made up your mind. Here are the pros and cons of this person, according to what you've written:

+You like him
+He's not completely irresponsible

-He is neglectful and abusive towards his cat.
-He accepts or does not see filth around him.
-He's an awful roommate or at the very least incredibly inconsiderate. Many people would kick him out for having a pet that dropped worms everywhere. I wouldn't be surprised if his roommates aren't already plotting to get rid of him.
-He takes the people around him for granted. You are afraid he might start taking you for granted. Maintaining relationships is important to you. Keep in mind that it isn't easy to maintain social goodwill when your partner is doing the opposite. You are a unit; if he's a dick or inconsiderate of others, people will start avoiding you, too.
-He's not good at accepting criticism or listening to your legitimate concerns. Imagine trying to make decisions about raising a kid or buying a house with him. He's like this over a cat; do you think it will get better?
-He's irresponsible with money and makes his lack of it his excuse for not dealing with unpleasant responsibilities.

You can do better.
posted by sockomatic at 3:48 PM on April 3, 2012 [7 favorites]

For me, this is neglectful and abusive pet ownership. I’m actually in tears right now. This is horrendous and disgusting. I love animals, own two cats (amongst other animals), and work in veterinary medicine. People do terrible things to their animals and allowing their pet to fester with worms to a point where you are finding them in your carpet is a terrible thing. This is insane and I think it says a lot about your boyfriend’s character and morals. That or he is a complete idiot.

1. What should I do about this? Take this cat to a vet ASAP. If you can’t do this you need to talk to your boyfriend about finding a pet rescue that will take in his cat. If you live in NYC or in a 30-mile radius I can personally help you do this. Please feel free to contact me. A private rescue I volunteered at regularly took in cats and dogs that are victims of neglect and abuse without a surrender fee.

2. This has nothing to do with indoor-outdoor status at all. This is not normal or expectable behavior. Yes I exercise my cats by playing with them. I give fresh water every day, fresh food everyday. Vet once a year for my little guy and 2x a year for my senior guy. I am honestly horrified to imagine what your boyfriend’s litter box looks like. I scoop 2x a day. Change litter and wash box once a week.

3. Do you consider this to be a red flag: OH MY GOD YES. A GIGANTIC RED PULSATING FLAG THAT SCREAMS RUN!!!!

4. This is not trivial. It’s abuse by way of neglect.

5. What now? Have a serious discussion with your boyfriend and lay down the law in regards to cat care. Then take cat to vet. Then run. I know unemployed folks who take better care of their cats.

This is so upsetting and disturbing. You deserve better. The cat deserves better. My god.
posted by OsoMeaty at 3:50 PM on April 3, 2012 [6 favorites]

Does your boyfriend have unaddressed mental health issues? It sounds like he's functioning at an extremely low level, which is an indicator of untreated mental illness.

Look at how people on Hoarders usually treat their animals. Some of the people featured on that show strike me as genuinely bad people, but plenty are obviously not, and the serious mental illnesses involved make it difficult to say if any of them are really "bad." They're sick.

It's possible that your boyfriend does not have the emotional resources to care for his pet right now. This can be embarrassing and disheartening to admit, especially if one self-identifies as an independent, dedicated writer and a drinker of fancy tea.

He probably needs help as much as the cat does.
posted by gentian at 3:55 PM on April 3, 2012 [13 favorites]

When he got the cat, he knew would get sick at some point. It sounds like he can't be bothered to do what he signed up to do. I think a lot of us have been there at some point but I had that crap mostly figured out by the time I hit 26. Not a good sign of maturity. For the cat, you will need to do what your man won't. See about a vet appt or, at the very least, go to Petco and get something over the counter because worms coming out of the cat's anus and all over the carpet is gross.
posted by Foam Pants at 3:57 PM on April 3, 2012

I think basically that this is not a great guy for you and you should not be contemplating spending much more time with him let alone considering having children with him.
posted by mleigh at 4:25 PM on April 3, 2012

That said, just because someone is a haphazard pet owner doesn't mean they'll be a haphazard parent or boyfriend. People place differing values on animals.

NO. This is not haphazard pet ownership. This is abusive neglect. Your boyfriend's cat depends completely on him for it's survival and he's barely doing the minimum to care for her. Imagine what he'd let your child's diaper turn into.
posted by OsoMeaty at 4:30 PM on April 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

This guy is severely neglecting his cat. That would be a deal breaker for me.

The cat needs a dewormer (Revolution works like a charm and it's topical so no need to pill a cat); and no wonder it's hungry all the time. Also, if the cat has worms, the dogs have worms and the dogs are probably the source of the worms. Unless they all get treated at the same time, it's probably a useless gesture.

The other issues:

Keeping the cat in one room is not abusive. Cats can and do adjust to small living spaces. He shouldn't have kept petting the cat after it scratched you. A loud "NO" or "OW" and ignoring the cat is what should have happened. As for you paying for the vet, that's up to you and how important this relationship is to you. If it were me I'd get the cat to a vet and then dump the boyfriend.
posted by deborah at 4:42 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Someone who treats animals badly will eventually start treating people badly. End of story. Run away.
posted by gjc at 4:49 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I didn't say this, but I think the worms all over his carpet are really gross and it really makes me depressed to visit him because I have to see them.

Parasites are not trivial, for all the excellent reasons people have already listed. It would absolutely be a dealbreaker for me. I would not continue this relationship, much less contemplate having kids or any kind of future with somebody who did this.

If you still don't want to break it off, it is possible to tell him how it really makes you feel. Just to see IF he's open to shaping up. I've had to do this kind of thing myself, with my sweet-as-pie hoarder mother in law with a high parasite tolerance. Obviously it's incredibly difficult, saying something that's in essence "Your living conditions disgust me" as gently, lovingly, non-judgmentally as possible. On the bright side, it's an invaluable communication skill to have acquired. Suggestions:

"I love you. I hope you know that. You know how hard I fell for you. We've talked about growing old together, having kids, all that. I think about our future a lot."
"And, I have to say, this situation with the cat's's a dealbreaker for me."
"I'm not trying to convince you." (This is useful because 1. if you really are just stating your case and not wanting badly to convince him of the rightness of your views, it can help you not be hurt by whatever hurtful thing might come out of his mouth, and 2. it can decrease the risk that he'll feel cornered or unwillingly pushed -- so he might be more receptive to hearing you)
"I just think you should know how I feel about it. Me plus worms in a pet or worms on the carpet AIN'T GONNA WORK. Parasites depress me. It really, really, seriously bothers me." (could include cat health and human health/hygiene reasons here. Could include ethical pet-neglect reasons here too, bearing in mind that that might trigger anger, defensiveness, shutting down.)
"I'm sorry to have to say something that hurts you."
"I don't WANT to hurt you."
"I want to avoid more conflict over this. Do you think we can work something out that lets us both feel happy?"
"I really hope we can work it out. Have you already looked into low-cost vet clinics? What do you think about us both maybe setting aside money from our tea/coffee budget for Cat's de-worming costs?"

Things that can help with awkward conversations: Visualize it in your head, saying it as neutrally as possible. Practice saying it out loud by yourself, until it feels less stupid and awkward and more "OK these things are reasonable for me to say." Get a friend to role play it out with you.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 4:56 PM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

Hmm, I guess my reaction is a little less strong than most peoples'. The worms issue sounds sad (and really disgusting, honestly), and I definitely think it raises questions about the BF in terms of money management and responsibility, but....

Some non-monstrous people are poor pet owners. They probably shouldn't have pets, but lots of them do, and they weren't raised thinking of their pet's health as a top priority. It sounds like the BF might be one of those people who maybe had a dog in a pen in the backyard growing up and they fed it and stuff, but weren't too concerned, and that's how he now thinks of pet ownership. Which is not great, but doesn't necessarily make him a surefire deadbeat dad or abusive husband or tell volumes about his inner character, imo. It also sounds like he's not really aware of how serious worms can be. I would make sure he does, and if he still doesn't take action I'd be more concerned. (And probably take care of the cat myself, regardless of any precedent that it might set, 'cos the cat needs to be taken care of.)
posted by geegollygosh at 5:15 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

This isn't trivial. At all. He's in his 30s, geegollygosh, not 15. Ew. Keeping a cat in one room, fat, with no space to run around, is abusive. Leaving the cat with worms is abusive. I would tell him how disgusted this situation makes you feel, and how bad it is for the cat, and how bad it is for him, and if he is still blank then dtmfa. He's 30, he should learn from it (and hopefully treat his cats and girlfriends better). Ew, dude
posted by goo at 5:46 PM on April 3, 2012

I didn't say it was trivial. All I'm saying is that there are millions (billions?) of pets kept across the world with a much, much lower standard of care than people in this thread would be happy with. I am not saying that it's right or good, and if you read my answer I advocate for the cat's care regardless of what happens with the bf. I'm just saying that people's ideas about what level of care is appropriate for their pets are often more of a reflection on their upbringing than on their inner values and/or moral goodness.
posted by geegollygosh at 6:03 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks everybody. I'm going to call him right now and offer to pay for the cat's medical treatment.
posted by ferngully at 6:05 PM on April 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

The OP said it was trivial, geegollygosh, not you. On preview, good! I also hope this situation makes you and he reevaluate your relationship, because it should.
posted by goo at 6:21 PM on April 3, 2012

Augh. Auuuuuugh. Regardless of your standards of pet care, that is gross. I feel crawly just reading it. I think that someone who cannot be bothered to do something about a worm infestation (and in his carpet, ewwww) is not functional enough to be in an adult relationship.
posted by naoko at 7:51 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

How about this:

"Look, here's the bottom line for me: this cat is suffering extremely badly from worms, and you claim you can't afford the vet bill to heal it. Yet you just spent $30 on tea, among other things, which means you can afford it and you simply value your own comfort more than the health of this animal that depends on you. Yet you claim to care about this cat! If that's the way you show care for a pet, then I shouldn't be surprised that you don't know how to show me proper care, either. I'm coming by to take the cat to the vet, and I'm paying the bill. After that, you and it are on your own, and I hope you'll take the little bit of time and attention you gave me and use it to give the cat a proper amount of love."

Well, at least that's the feel-good ranty version. The better version would probably be to pay for the cat's health, then once it has been taken care of, let him know that you can't spend any more time with someone who doesn't know how to properly tend for a cat in his care, much less another human being.
posted by davejay at 8:15 PM on April 3, 2012

How did the conversation go? I think you're doing the right thing by getting the cat treated but I would worry this will set a precedent whereby your boyfriend does stupid and cruel things and expects you to bail him out.

When we first got our kitten who had been feral she had terrible worms that disgusted me even in the litter tray. I can't imagine having them on the carpet. A few rounds of worming powder from the vet that we mixed with her food took care of them and it wasn't expensive at all.

You had also asked if it's ok for a cat to be confined to one room. I would say no, not at all. Most indoor cats get the run of the house and many people feel they should have another cat to keep them company, though in your boyfriend's case obviously don't get another cat. The best thing would be to see if you can find someone to adopt the cat and give her a happy home, because even beyond the worm problem the cat is going to be miserable staying alone in one room with nothing to do. If you can't do that, please get the cat some nice toys, a scratching post, etc.
posted by hazyjane at 10:32 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I can't nth Revolution enough. And you can buy it online.

That said, this parasitic infection sounds that it has progressed to a very serious state requiring actual vet care.

- Don't be afraid to google around and call places - there IS low-cost vet care available. Do you have a veterinary school in your area? You might start there.

- This level of neglect is NOT "trivial."

OP when you update us about the happy outcome for the cat (you will update? right??) Don't hesitate to use proper AskMe form and post a pic of the cat.

Thank you.
posted by jbenben at 10:39 PM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

Eww, worms on the carpet... uhh. Depending on the kind of worm, can't they transmit to humans with bare feet? Maybe he needs a de-worming too. MEGA GROSS.
posted by XhaustedProphet at 12:21 AM on April 4, 2012

Cats that are heavily infested with worms can have a bloated hard-feeling distended abdomen. The cat probably does feel hungry. When the worms are gone, the cat will look thinner when the distended belly loosens up. BF is shortsighted to ignore this easily treated problem. It's good of you to do the decent thing for this cat.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 12:46 AM on April 4, 2012

I'm so glad that the cat will be getting care! Please do let us know how it goes. (And you!)
posted by corb at 4:28 AM on April 4, 2012

Thinking of you and this incredibly tough situation. I really do with you all the best. The cat (and the boyfriend) are both lucky to have someone like you in their lives. You deserve so much more.
posted by OsoMeaty at 5:46 AM on April 4, 2012

I am also thinking of you ferngully (and thank you for taking care of the poor cat!).

This is not just about the cat, I wish you best of luck in navigating this situation.
Will you update us on the cat though?
(sorry for all the typos in my last post)
posted by travelwithcats at 7:17 AM on April 4, 2012

OP: Thanks everybody. I'm going to call him right now and offer to pay for the cat's medical treatment.

I think it's better to pay the vet directly rather than give cash to your boyfriend - hopefully this is what you meant. I only say this because your boyfriend might take the money and use it for something else.

To be honest, given the state of that poor cat, I wouldn't even suggest involving the boyfriend; I would just put the cat in a carrier and take it to the vet and pay the bill right away.
posted by cranberrymonger at 7:41 AM on April 4, 2012

As others have implied, he is pretty much starving the cat at this point, no matter what he feeds it. Of course, I am not a vet/dr/ect, but that is seriously what it sounds like. This dude sounds CREEPY.
posted by Jacen at 7:44 AM on April 4, 2012

Poor kitty! Please let us know how it goes. (And yes, I'd just get the kitty treatment directly rather than asking the BF, who might just take the money).
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 7:46 AM on April 4, 2012

1) I'm not sure about who he was referring to with the "nasty creature" comment, either.

2) You're doing this for the cat, not for him. He sounds like he'll be ungrateful for trying to help the cat. He doesn't sound like a very nice person anyway, the way he responded to your concerns. He doesn't give a shit about the cat, the worms in the carpet, or how it affects anyone. Big red flag, there. If I were in your situation, he wouldn't be visiting my place, at all. I'd be afraid of what he's carrying around on or in him.

3) If your therapist's response to this particular situation was that it was stemming from your insecurities, you might want to find a new therapist.
Although he disagrees and seems to be attached to her, her life seems to me to be below the standards of acceptable petdom. And beyond that: I didn't say this, but I think the worms all over his carpet are really gross and it really makes me depressed to visit him because I have to see them. It also makes me worry that he neglects the relationships around him/will one day take me for granted. Also that he wouldn't be the best nurturer should we decide to have kids.
I think you should listen to what your spidey-sense is trying to tell you, and also read The Gift of Fear. It's okay to raise concerns and not try to be "nice" when a situation doesn't warrant it.
posted by SillyShepherd at 10:13 AM on April 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Okay, so it's cliche that everyone always says DTMFA but I judge people on how they treat things that cannot fight back, i.e. animals, children and, of course, waiters. Which leads me to...

I was also upset because I think the cat is legitimately neglected. Now I guess is a good time to mention that she has worms. Lots and lots of worms. I told him he needed to take her to the vet to get them cleared up. He disagreed, saying he didn't have enough money to take her to the vet.

I would never stay with someone who did this. I just wouldn't. If someone won't provide basic care, and that is what having INTESTINAL PARASITES comes down to, for an animal they own, I will not speak to that person again.

I would offer to adopt the cat from the guy then dump him.

The end.

Life is seldom this cut and dried but... worms all over the floor? INTESTINAL PARASITES. Seriously, he could have fixed this for $100 or less. I am utterly disgusted at humanity.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 1:17 PM on April 4, 2012

I am bothered by the worms thing in general, but what really shocks me is he lets you in the room with worms in the carpet and acts as if it's no big deal like "hey, just some worms in the carpet?" That's weird.
posted by amodelcitizen at 4:00 PM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

How did it go? How's the cat doing?
posted by KathrynT at 5:41 PM on April 26, 2012

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