Cat scratch = money fever?
June 5, 2014 7:18 PM   Subscribe

A friend who is catsittting claims that my cat has "gashed" her nose. She included a photo of her face and it's setting off alarm bells. Details inside.

I invited a friend, let's call her Mary, to stay at my apartment for a week to care for my cat. I live in a city she really wants to move to, and I needed someone to care for the kitty (no pics as this is my sockpuppet acct, sorry). Win-win, I thought.

Today, I get an email from her that my cat "tom" has "gashed her nose," saying they were both on the couch, he was purring, and "out of nowhere" he scratches her face.

This is very unlike "Tom." He's never done that to me, to any cat sitter, to any friends or boyfriends. I've had him for 10 years. Just not his style. She includes a photo of her face in the email, with a large scratch on her nose.

And, here my instincts start going nuts. I've known Mary for many years. We've only recently got back in touch. She's drama, which is why I distanced myself from here years ago. We both live in the same state again and she reached out. I decided to try and be friends again. I learned she has massive debt, defaulted on her student loans, and is struggling to get a job.

The photo looks old. She's got an iphone 5 but there's pixilation near her chin. I can't see the background at all, and it feels... Off.

I'm hoping I'm wrong, but I can't shake this feeling. I won't be able to see the scratch in person, so I'd like some way to verify this actually happened because, I realized, I wouldn't put it past her.

Here's what I want: another picture with my stuff in the background. Is there a tactful way to ask for this? Or, am I getting carried away here? Would people not do stuff like this?
posted by wxysock to Human Relations (32 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Is there EXIF data on the photo? That could really clear things up.
posted by stopgap at 7:24 PM on June 5, 2014 [15 favorites]

Has she actually asked for money? If you suspect she wasn't really injured, you could always tell her to go to an urgent care clinic, have the scratch treated and tell them to send the bill to you.
posted by Bardolph at 7:25 PM on June 5, 2014 [15 favorites]

Did she specifically ask for money? For what, exactly? Because, I mean a cat scratch isn't really a deadly injury. If it's serious enough to warrant some kind of compensation or even medical attention it'll still be there when you get back for you to see it.

If she feels she needs medical attention, you could suggest a walk-in / urgent care clinic near you and call them in advance to pre-arrange to pay for the visit.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:27 PM on June 5, 2014

Can you ask to Skype/Facetime? Use the pretense that you're worried about Tom's alleged aggression and would feel better if you could see him, live action, in real time.
posted by payoto at 7:29 PM on June 5, 2014 [39 favorites]

Say the photo isn't coming through (but keep it!), apologize and say you're shocked it happened, and assess the damage when you see her in person. Don't offer anything or agree to anything at this stage. See what happens. Don't mention money. I've been slashed by two cats near my eye, and both times it shocked onlookers. It happens.
posted by studioaudience at 7:30 PM on June 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would assume this was a request for consolation and apology, not compensation. I would supply her with those things.

If you're getting back in only a week, a nasty scratch that didn't actually happen will be conspicuously absent upon your return. If she's trying to scam you somehow, it's a pretty weird scam, especially given what else she could get up to alone in your home for a week.

I wouldn't act suspicious of her. I'd just say sorry, I guess you'd better stay away from Tom, please keep feeding him even if you don't like him much now, and I'm really sorry.
posted by mattu at 7:48 PM on June 5, 2014 [9 favorites]

There's something weird about this.

She knows you're coming back in a week, right? I mean, if your cat really "gashed her nose," the injury would still be there when you got back. So, she's either running a really short con or there's something else going on.

On preview, what mattu said.
posted by elmer benson at 7:52 PM on June 5, 2014

Do you know someone you can send over there to "check on her and make sure she's OK"? Or a neighbor who could return some Tupperware or something and see if there is a gash or not.
posted by BoscosMom at 7:56 PM on June 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

To answer a question:

* she's gone before I get back. She lives in another town, several hours away. It will be a while before I see her again.
posted by wxysock at 8:02 PM on June 5, 2014

Ask to Skype with her about it.
posted by k8t at 8:05 PM on June 5, 2014

Have a friend that you trust go by and see her and take a pic if skype/facetime isn't an option (or do it in addition).
posted by HermitDog at 8:10 PM on June 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Um, so what? Part of catsitting involves knowing that you will probably get a scratch or two, as the unfamiliar and scary new addition to the cat's life. If she's not asking for money or demanding anything I would just chalk it up to her keeping you informed of his behavior and would just respond with something like "oh no, Tom must be really scared. How is he acting today? Maybe give him some treats and rub him on his [favorite spot]. He just needs to warm up to you a bit."
posted by joan_holloway at 8:56 PM on June 5, 2014 [12 favorites]

Seconding what joan_holloway said. Hell, I got blood poisoning from a friend's cat who flipped out and bit me out of nowhere. I never even told said friend because I knew they'd feel horrible and it was just their cat being their cat (I mean, this cat is a jerk, but still. Cat.). My hope is she's not asking for compensation - and Skyping with her would be a good idea, under the pretense of checking on the cat, just so you have all the info about whether or not this injury is legit - but probably just misplaced sympathy. Platitudes might be all that are necessary (and another catsitter in the future).
posted by AthenaPolias at 9:02 PM on June 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

As HermitDog said, perhaps you can get a friend to drop by and subtly take a look? Maybe the friend can be "returning" something to you and get the house-sitter to "sign a receipt" if necessary. That way you don't even need to set off alarm bells by demanding that the house-sitter present herself for a video examination.If she won't open the door under any circumstances, well, that's problematic in itself.

And I'm sorry this happened to you.
posted by ICanHazQuestion at 9:37 PM on June 5, 2014

I third that it is at least somewhat reasonable that even a tame friendly cat might scratch a total stranger hanging out in the house.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:26 PM on June 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Not trying to freak you out or anything(seriously), but i've had TWO people spring this sort of thing on me where they implicitly, and eventually explicitly try and shake me down and harass me for weeks/months afterwards. Both times there was an initial contact like this where i was pretty much like "Woah really? hmm", and then a second aggressive message/call/whatever wherein they had expected me to just offer something in the first one, and were now offended and super angry. From the photos, these were annoying/ugly looking, but slap a bandaid on it cuts. They both went to the ER, and were basically laughed at and put at the end of the line where after harassing a doctor one was sent home, and the other got a tiny dab of glue because it wasn't even enough for stitches.

Neither time i was ever asked for a dollar amount of money. It was like a little kid having a tantrum that they stubbed their toe wanting me to "make it better".

I'm not replying to say i think that's what this is(although you did say she's "drama", ugh), but just that if it goes that direction at all to just block her number, block her on social media, and never fucking talk to her again.

My biggest regret in either of those situations was responding, at all. them thinking you're a cock for ignoring them is way better than any of the stress, hassle, or harassment i got from that.(one, way into the drama after a week or two, tried to get the pet put down... and was literally laughed at by animal control... but the gap inbetween with daily threats was INCREDIBLY stressful)

to her defense though, from a technical standpoint:

Today, I get an email ... The photo looks old. She's got an iphone 5 but there's pixilation near her chin. I can't see the background at all, and it feels... Off.

When you email a photo on an iphone, it asks you(example google screenshot) if you want to send the original bazillion MB image, or a smaller image. Seemingly everyone but me taps "smallest". This sends a TINY pixelated shitty looking photo that looks like it came out the junky, early-gen camera phone i had senior year of high school. Part of the reason it looks so bad is that your phone scales it back up to the size of the screen despite the fact that it's lower resolution than even that.

Why anyone does this beats me. Save data on their plan? Because it sends quickly?. But yea, EVEYRONE seems to hit that "small" button, judging by the photos i receive in emails and see around.
posted by emptythought at 10:29 PM on June 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

She has an iPhone?

Can you facetime or skype with her?

If not, what about comparing the photo to recent images on Facebook or the like? Does she have that haircut right now?

FWIW I have totally been scratched by cats that would "never" scratch their owners.

Also, how bad is the photo really? Does it look like something a cat could do? What could she possibly shake you down for, beyond a band-aid and an advil? Assuming Mary is not a supermodel, unless the cat went to town on her face there's no real compensation that she could ask of you. On the off chance that she was seriously injured by this and there are medical bills, just ask to see copies before reimbursing her.
posted by Sara C. at 11:57 PM on June 5, 2014

i think the more drama-filled response is to block her, ignore her, send your friends to spy on her, etc. as other commenters are suggesting. Seriously, the most likely scenario is that she actually got scratched by the cat and was scared or hurt and also surprised because tom is such a sweet cat normally. so she thought you should know.

if this was some sort of a con, she would have said she fell down the stairs because of something you left on the top of the stairs and she hurt her neck. way easier to fake. nobody truly asks for compensation for a cat scratch.

just apologize for your cat's very uncharacteristic behaviour and don't worry about the rest of it.
posted by andreapandrea at 12:20 AM on June 6, 2014 [11 favorites]

I agree with andreapendrea. Taking a picture and passing it on to show how serious the situation is seems like an authentic and honest response. It is her duty as a catsitter to keep you informed of changes in tom's behavior - that shows the seriousness of it. It sounds like she isn't asking you for money at all but rather for how to proceed in best taking care of your cat like you two agreed.

I would focus on your cat. What might have happened? Has he been showing any other strange behavior recently? 10 is getting a bit up there in age; plus things can always go wrong. I've have cats show aggression when they were in pain, sometimes really shockingly. I got five stitches on my calf when my now departed, very gentle kitty first got urinary crystals very late in his life. Poor guy. Tom probably needs looked at. The humans can figure their stuff out later.

And hey, I'd hesitate to engage with this person again unless you can shed some major baggage and superiority. You say "she's drama." How would you know after five years? I don't see any drama on her part here; I see a lot of your confirmation bias blinding you from just handling an utterly mundane situation like an adult. I bet she's just taking care of your cat. If you dislike and distrust somebody this much, don't give her the keys to your house again. She probably has no idea how much you're scrutinizing everything she says for fishiness and bad faith. It would probably hurt her really badly. There's no point in maintaining a nominal "friendship" with somebody you don't respect like this.
posted by sweltering at 3:51 AM on June 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, your home owner's or renter's insurance (provided you have it) likely covers liability for any injuries. Mine does, anyway. If your friend was hurt, you should avail yourself of this resource to pay for treatment of her injury - just like anybody else injured in your home. Occam's razor says it's not a vast conspiracy.
posted by sweltering at 4:12 AM on June 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

My cat, who's always been pretty laid back, attacked a catsitter out of the blue while we were on vacation. The catsitter called me, told me what happened, and said she wouldn't go back. Basically the cat hissed at her, blocked her way into the bathroom, and scratched her when she tried to put new food down. Why, I don't know. There was something about her at that moment that triggered that reaction. What goes on in that almond-sized brain is a mystery to everyone except Jackson Galaxy.

When we returned, I insisted that she keep the payment for the days of catsitting she was unable to perform because of the attack. She didn't want to, but I thought that was the right thing to do.

Why do you assume the worst? If you want to ask her for a higher-quality photo, that should be OK, but even that seems like a pretty obnoxious move unless she starts making weird demands. Cat scratches can be dangerous--in 99% of cases they're not--but there is a chance she could be injured from this, and cat scratch fever is serious business. I would tell her that if she's worried, she should go see a doctor immediately and save the bill for you. And in your conversations, focus on her and how concerned you are about her well-being, which should be your paramount concern right now. She is your friend, right? Apologize profusely and bring back a special gift for her, gift card to nice local restaurant, something like that to make up for your cat's attacking her. Bottom line is, your cat attacked her, which is not pleasant, and a nice gesture would go a long way.

If you automatically assume that your friends are trying to extort you, maybe you should think about who you consider a friend.
posted by Leatherstocking at 4:46 AM on June 6, 2014 [6 favorites]

If she's trying to scam you somehow, it's a pretty weird scam, especially given what else she could get up to alone in your home for a week.

This would be my concern, if she were starting to seem sketchy on other grounds. But it would be a big step from getting over-dramatic about a cat scratch to some kind of out and out fraud. Still, it might be time to consider changing passwords and things, if you left your computers and accounts easily accessible.
posted by BibiRose at 5:08 AM on June 6, 2014

And, uh, count your silverware when you get back just in case.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 5:19 AM on June 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd text back and say, "OMG, I'm so sorry that happened to you. Cats amirite? Neosporin is in the medicine cabinet next to the Tums."

That should be the sum total of anything going on.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:52 AM on June 6, 2014 [20 favorites]

seconding have a friend go by and check up on her. Just call the other friend and ask them to go by. He/she can stop by and ask if there's anything they can do for her like get neosporin or anything. And the friend can look at the nose and see for his or herself and tell you.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:20 AM on June 6, 2014

nobody truly asks for compensation for a cat scratch.

Oh man, I couldn't disagree with this more. People ask for compensation for everything, but it doesn't mean they get it!

OP, do you have homeowners or renters insurance?

If your friend seeks medical treatment, it's very likely that her health insurance company will want to know exactly where she was when she got injured--because usually your insurance company would pay for any treatment.

That being said, I don't see anything that fishy going on here. Your cat scratched your friend and she's probably upset and freaked out. If I was catsitting and a cat all of a sudden freaked out and scratched me I would assume that a) this cat has issues the owner didn't tell me about; or b) this cat is sick or hurt and behaving uncharacteristically.
posted by inertia at 8:37 AM on June 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Or, am I getting carried away here?

I think so, yes.

She hasn't mentioned doctors, ER, pain, future scarring, possible new origin story of Cat Woman? Because saying her cat scratched you and sending a photo seems pretty matter-of-fact.

She's drama, which is why I distanced myself from here years ago.

Drama would be an overreaction, mention of doctors and pain and possible scarring, an ER visit, insisting on boarding the cat until you return. A friend's normally-docile cat once went ape-shit on me from 0-60; this is not unheard of.

It sounds like your reaction is the dramatic one. Or at least premature. She hasn't asked you for anything and doesn't appear to be laying the groundwork for a shakedown and you want another picture -- in front of your stuff -- to prove...? If it's a close-up of her nose taken with an iphone that's why you probably didn't see the background. You don't mention your reaction when she told you. Did you apologize? How did she take that?

I learned she has massive debt, defaulted on her student loans, and is struggling to get a job.

How is this relevant? A cat scratch on the nose that doesn't require immediate attention is not a potential goldmine.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:29 AM on June 6, 2014 [7 favorites]

My neighbors cat flipped out on me when I was cat-sitting. I did get scratched and it was kind of scary because I was petting her and she was purring, and then she turned on me. I put first aid ointment on it, no big deal. I certainly didn't try to pet her again though.

I did mention it to them and they were surprised, but you know cats can get stressed out when their owners are gone, they don't understand why, and there is some weird new person in their territory.

I would simply text and ask how things are going.
posted by melissam at 1:48 PM on June 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

This is very unlike "Tom." He's never done that to me, to any cat sitter, to any friends or boyfriends. I've had him for 10 years. Just not his style.

This was what the owner of a dog who bit me said. This is also what the owner of a dog who attacked my dog said. This is also what a girl whose face I helped sew up in the ER with 40 stitches said about HER OWN DOG . . . see the pattern? All I'm saying is, whatever the truth may be, this isn't at the root of it. You don't know what your animal might do. So focus on the other, concrete details (details of the photo itself, or use Skyping, etc.)
posted by GastrocNemesis at 4:40 PM on June 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

All of these answers are well and good - but the answer is simple. Check the EXIF data. It will show the date the photo was taken, and a lot of other data as well.
posted by squirbel at 3:30 AM on June 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Buy her a tube of skin cream
posted by edtut at 11:23 PM on June 8, 2014

an update:

I responded to her email with both seriousness and sympathy. Told her to have the "gash" looked at in urgent care, gave her the location and offered to pay. She told me it wasn't necessary, she cleaned the wound, but she was worried about getting cat scratch fever (I actually laughed when I read this, because of my Ask MeFi title) and might have to go to the doctor. She said she'd let me know if it comes to it.

I told Mary that I never got the original photo in the email and asked her to text me the photo. Claims she did several times. I never received it.

I got a few bizarre texts and emails from her after my initial reply that pretty much are all drama. Not sure what's going on, but none of it feels authentic.

EXIF file: tried a few times but it all came up as the date and time I've downloaded the image. I'll google more about how to get the original info.

Thanks all. Still weird. Still unresolved.
posted by wxysock at 10:44 AM on June 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

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