How do I tell my next door neighbor to take care of her own cat?
May 9, 2013 11:42 AM   Subscribe

She has an ancient, diabetic cat that she's been trying to get rid of, offering people $150 to take him off her hands. She keeps asking me to feed him and give him insulin twice a day on weekends. She's moving out June 1.

I'm allergic to cats, but when she first started asking, I agreed, to be neighborly. I didn't tell her I was allergic. If I literally just did the bare minimum (didn't spend any time with the cat) it was fine. But then the requests became more and more frequent.

I don't own any pets for a reason - I don't want the responsibility, and obviously, especially no cats because of the allergies. I know it's only a matter of time before she asks if I'll take him permanently when she moves out on June 1, she's already hinted that she doesn't know how she's going to find a permanent home for her poor little cat...

For the past month or so I've been having constant allergies (unrelated to the cat) so when she asked me to take care of him for a whole week (!!!), I said I have allergies and I am actually allergic to cats, sorry, no. She then asked if I could take care of him just on the Saturday of that week, I said I wouldn't be around. This has all happened via text even though we live next door.

Yesterday she texted yet again, asking me to take care of him this Saturday and Sunday because she's spending the weekend at her mothers - which is in town. (She was actually in town the whole week she asked me to care for him as well, just not staying at her house.) Is it reasonable to simply say "I don't want to take care of your cat anymore"? Should I pre-emptively tell her I don't want to own him, either?
posted by thrasher to Human Relations (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This is where, "I'm sorry, but that just won't be possible" comes in really handy. No need for explanations, just say no, consistently. She'll get the hint.
posted by xingcat at 11:44 AM on May 9, 2013 [18 favorites]

Poor kitty.

This shouldn't be hard. "I'm very allergic and I'm having a terrible allergy reaction right now. It's not possible for me to take care of your cat."

Leave it at that. The first sentence is just to be nice. You can actually use the second sentence if you like.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:46 AM on May 9, 2013 [5 favorites]

If she's moving out on June 1, there's hardly any "anymore" to be worried about. This weekend? "Sorry, I can't--good luck finding someone!" Next weekend? "Sorry, that doesn't work--good luck!" etc.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:46 AM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

I wouldn't even give the allergy excuse because she'll possibly try to make "helpful" suggestions to make you say yes. Just say it's not possible.
posted by joan_holloway at 11:47 AM on May 9, 2013 [5 favorites]

Tell her you can't take care of the cat anymore. Don't offer reasons (because people like your neighbor tend to "yabbut" others a lot "Yeah, but your allergies didn't stop you before..." etc.).

It sounds like she's guilt-tripping people into taking care of the poor beast for her. Grr. If she doesn't want the cat anymore, the kindest thing might be to have it euthanized. Normally I'm not in favor of just having unwanted pets "put down" but an ancient, diabetic cat might be better off with a peaceful death rather than a slow death from neglect.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:47 AM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yeah, this is a situation of your own making.

I am allergic to cats and I also strongly dislike cats. If she had asked me to come feed the cat, I would have done it for one day in an emergency situation. MAYBE TWO. Probably not.

You've just gotta sac up here and trot out the tried and true Miss Manners-ism, "I'm sorry, but that won't be possible." It is NOT a rude thing to say at all. It's just the way it is.
posted by phunniemee at 11:48 AM on May 9, 2013

That's totally reasonable.

If you want to be super-duper-beyond kind, you can remind her that kitty's vet likely has good boarding with medical care. You could also give her the names of a couple of accomplished pet sitters and rescues willing to hold a kitty for an in-kind donation (the kitty moves into one of their facilities, and the surrendering guardian gives them a certain amount of money for this peace of mind).

You could also potentially give her suggestions of other places to offer the kitty - CL, the local subreddit, vet offices - if you wanted to go even more above and beyond than you've done already.

But, really, the classic "That won't be possible." is a perfectly valid answer.
posted by batmonkey at 11:49 AM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

I would go one step further to be very clear: "I'm sorry, that won't be possible. Please don't ask me again."
posted by payoto at 12:08 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Mod note: Few comments removed, answer the question being asked.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:32 PM on May 9, 2013

Oh my gawd, that poor kitty.

Yes, as others say, your response doesn't need to be more that "Im sorry, but that won't be possible", repeated as often as needed; no further explanation required.

But: considering her previous behavior, please keep an eye out on and after June 1: --- I could see someone like this either just shoving the poor cat outside to fend for itself, or leaving it locked in the empty apartment. Not that I'm recommending you take over ownership of the cat, just that if she does abandon the animal, could you please see that it gets to a shelter or rescue organization? (Even getting put down quickly by some over-full shelter would be better than a slow terror-filled death by starvation and/or diabetes.)
posted by easily confused at 12:50 PM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yes, totally just tell her that you can't take care of the cat. That is totally reasonable.

Depending what your building is like you might also let others like neighbors, building management, know that you aren't taking the cat so that no one else drops the cat off at your door saying that neighbor said you'd take it.

Also as a precaution you might also want to look up a shelter or a rescue group in case kitty does get left behind.
posted by oneear at 1:19 PM on May 9, 2013

Response by poster: Coincidentally she texted again just after I opened this thread and asked if I could just take care of him Saturday, "pretty please." I said sorry, I can't take care of the cat anymore, good luck! Her response: "no worries. Are you ok?" Have been in a meeting and haven't been able to answer yet.
posted by thrasher at 1:23 PM on May 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

Ugh, needy people. Echoing that you need to be firm with her.
posted by radioamy at 1:38 PM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

"I'm sorry, my allergies are getting worse and worse and I really need to not be around cats any longer. It won't be possible for me to care for him/her again."

You can go the 'it's impossible' route, which is great in that it doesn't allow people to argue but in this case, you've got a pretty iron-clad, non-arguable (by reasonable people, anyway) reason anyway, so may as well use it. If she still argues with that, then go with 'I'm sorry, it's just not possible for me to care for your cat any longer.'
posted by jacquilynne at 1:38 PM on May 9, 2013

Her response: "no worries. Are you ok?" Have been in a meeting and haven't been able to answer yet.

I wouldn't answer it and I'd cool down pretty dramatically on future exchanges with her, but that's because people who will behave as she has in this situation will frequently behave that way in others.
posted by winna at 3:10 PM on May 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yup, just don't answer. Or just write back, "Sure, I'm fine!"
posted by htid at 4:39 PM on May 9, 2013

Perfect opportunity. This is a good time to set her straight. I wouldn't write back that I'm fine. I'd write back that actually I'm not ok, the cat is aggravating my allergies. Please don't ask me to look after it again, that wont be possible. She should now consider boarding it at a vet or looking at a different long term strategy as you are no longer available. She keeps trying because you haven't definitively shut it down. Now is the time to do this. Don't worry about offending her, she clearly doesn't care if she causes you inconvenience or suffering.
posted by Jubey at 6:06 PM on May 9, 2013

Echoing what a couple of other people have said about this: you do need to be absolutely clear and firm that you cannot under any circumstances take care of the cat at all any more, because, yeah, she may be planning to leave him on your hands when she moves. It happened to me (well, our building). A former neighbor moved out and told us that she didn't want the cats at the new place because of all the moving chaos and they might run away, but she'd pick them up in a couple of days when things were settled. Four or five months later (after many, many calls asking her to come get her cats), she finally picked them up... which I actually thought would never happen. So, just a word to the wise.
posted by taz at 5:46 AM on May 10, 2013

Response by poster: taz, that's exactly the sort of thing I'm concerned about.

I did end up responding and said the absolute truth: allergies are getting worse, and my partner and I have been getting sick a lot, like once a month for the past six months. We're getting over sickness right now, and trying to function normally in spite of all that (to head off any comments like "but I saw you guys walking to the park to play frisbee...")

She hasn't responded. I'm hoping we're done with this discussion. And if the cat does end up left behind, I have no qualms about taking it to a shelter where it may be euthanized. I've watched too many old, decrepit cats suffer.

Thanks all for the input.
posted by thrasher at 8:10 AM on May 10, 2013

Response by poster: Update: she's blocked me on Facebook! Her move out date was extended to June 15 last I heard, and we still have some tenant-y stuff we have to deal with together (fencing repair and parking during an upcoming event) so... fun.
posted by thrasher at 3:09 PM on May 17, 2013

Well, it's understandable seeing as you're clearly of no use to her any more so why bother keeping in contact, right? The obvious upside is that once she moves out, you're done, yay! Hope she treats the cat a little better though.
posted by Jubey at 3:25 AM on May 19, 2013

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