Cat sitting from around the corner
August 6, 2019 12:14 AM   Subscribe

I asked an acquaintance who lives close by if she would feed my cat a couple of times when I went away for one night. When I got back, she then asked me if I would do the same for her cat, for one week.

She said it was not so much the feeding that the cat needed but the company and the letting in and out of the house. She suggested that I spend every evening at her house with the cat, leave the door open so he can come in and out and sit and watch TV. She says it depends how much time I want to invest in it. But she suggested I stay until 10 PM, call him in and then leave him locked in overnight and then go round very early the next day to let him out again, and then give him an hour or so outside and then call him back in and leave him locked up all day. She says he doesn’t always come back when called and he does have a litter tray but she doesn’t really want him to use it. I would then need to let him out as soon as possible in the evening and stay as suggested till 10 PM. Thing is, I am not normally awake at this time.
I don’t see how this will work. I have to work all day so am not sure how I can negotiate the morning thing of letting him out and then waiting there or going back and letting him back in. And what about my own cat. I will never see him all week. I don’t mind popping in and out but don’t want to spend hours there. I feel very much obliged to do this as she helped me out and I do want to help but not so much to the extent that she wants me to. Also, this is a well known cat in her street. He goes in and out of everyone’s houses. He even used to belong to one of her neighbours but somehow he adopted my friend and chooses to live mainly with her family. The neighbours will probably be very much keeping tabs on my comings and goings.
posted by charlen to Human Relations (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This request is so far out of line that it should be met with a simple, "I'm sorry, that won't be possible." Seriously, any attempt to explain why is just going to reel you into a pointless discussion you don't want to have.

If you're feeling especially generous, give her contact info for professional cat sitter.
posted by she's not there at 12:39 AM on August 6, 2019 [10 favorites]

Just tell her what you're happy to do. You said you don't mind popping in and out, so tell her that.

Also, I might try to find someone else to feed your cat the next time you're away, as she seems to think that favour gives her the right to make unreasonable demands in return (and you seem to agree that you can't say no).
posted by Dwardles at 1:08 AM on August 6, 2019 [19 favorites]

I'd suggest that she look for a cat sitter who can actually move into her house for a week, or someone who can take the cat in if the cat's adventurous enough. That was the only way that worked for me when I was taking care of a big dog who needed three hours of structured walks every day, and even that was a big ask for a good friend.

(The folk wisdom is that cats hate moving and other cats unless introduced with the kind of care usually encountered with radioactive material, but I've known multiple cats who happily explore new places and get along with new animals - all depends on the cat.)
posted by I claim sanctuary at 1:43 AM on August 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

You haven't asked a question, but it sounds like you're trying to gauge whether it's okay to say no?

This is not a reasonable request. You are not obligated to sacrifice your sleep and all your free time for a week (and also, as you say, abandon your own cat) in order to take care of someone else's cat because she fed yours a couple of times.

My cat doesn't do well when she's left alone too much. When I go away overnight I ask a friend who's very fond of her to come around for an hour or so to feed her and cuddle as needed, but no more than a couple of times a year and only on the weekend. If I'm going away longer than that I board her at a cattery where there will be people around all day.

In general I don't think it's okay to ask people to house-sit/pet-sit longer than a day or two without offering them compensation, especially if litter tray cleaning is involved.
posted by aussie_powerlifter at 3:01 AM on August 6, 2019 [4 favorites]

Just tell her you have work and other obligations which mean the most you’ll be able to do is stop in and feed it, if she requires more, you recommend hiring a pet sitter. If she gets annoyed, that’s great. It means she won’t ask again.
posted by Jubey at 3:10 AM on August 6, 2019 [14 favorites]

I find that giving people a choice is a great way to set boundaries in a friendly way — that is, when you set the options of the choice.

That is, you could say something like: “oh, unfortunately my work schedule means I can’t do that. I could feed the cat at night [insert what you would be 100% happy to do here], or if that doesn’t work, I also know some great cat sitters that I can recommend. What works for you?”

To me, this way of speaking is a way of setting healthy boundaries while also sending the message that you care, and want to help, by offering a choice.
posted by many more sunsets at 4:02 AM on August 6, 2019 [34 favorites]

Asking you to spend 5+ hours at her house for a week is in no way equivalent to feeding your cat a couple of times when you were away for a night.

If you want to help, let her know what you're able to do. If you only have the time to pop in and feed morning and evening for the week then tell her that. You're already offering way more than she did for you so you need not feel any guilt about not helping her in exactly the way she wants. Make it clear what you're able to offer her and then its her choice to accept that or find someone else.
Really, if her cat needs that much company and letting in and out, she should be hiring a cat sitter.
posted by missmagenta at 4:06 AM on August 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

I thought this question was going to be something along the lines of "A week is much longer than a day, and that doesn't seem fair" and I was going to suggest that you suck it up, as you may have longer vacations in the future, and this is a nice, neighborly thing to do that will even out in the long run.

After reading it, however, her request is just beyond the pale. That's an intense level of interaction for a professional petsitter, and completely inappropriate as a friendly favor. Agree that you can feel completely fine about proposing a counteroffer ("I can pop in before and after work, let him in or out and give him some food, but that's about all that I can manage on my schedule") that she is free to accept or decline as a way of meeting your obligation to her.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:11 AM on August 6, 2019 [6 favorites]

I also give you permission to say you can't do that. Offer what you can. E.G. you can come over to give food in the morning and 5 minutes of scratchies/petting in the morning. You can come back in the evening and do 10-30 minutes of laser pen, or string chasingly along with a liter scooping. You don't feel comfortable letting her cat out knowing that the cat doesn't come when called by her owner, much less a stranger.
posted by nobeagle at 6:48 AM on August 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Yeah. Adding to the chorus that doing a favor for someone does not entail turning your entire life upside down. Checking in once or twice the day to feed the cat is a reasonable thing to ask of a neighbor (particularly if the neighbor asked that of you). Asking a neighbor to, essentially, move in to cater to the cat's whims is not reasonable. I might ask that of a very, very good friend if I was in a pinch and had exhausted all other possibilities, but asking it of a neighbor as your first idea is not reasonable.

Just kindly and cheerfully let her know it won't be possible. If you like, decide on something that you would be willing to do and let her know that.
posted by Betelgeuse at 8:11 AM on August 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

You are absolutely in the clear for telling her no and suggesting a professional cat-sitter if you can recommend one. And failing that, are you in a college town? When I was a college and graduate student I LOVED to hang out at someone's house in the evenings (and in fact was paid to do so) and watch tv with their cat for a while since I missed my cat and didn't have a tv.
posted by TwoStride at 8:29 AM on August 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Popping in once or twice a day to give food and cuddles seems reasonable. However, if it were me I would not feel at all comfortable with letting someone else's cat outside while the owner is gone. What if it doesn't come home on time? Are you obligated to stay longer than you planned? Do you have to take a day off work if the little shit decides to wander off for a day or two? What if it gets hit by a car or eaten by a coyote? No way would I let a cat I've assumed responsibility for go outside to do his shady cat business, that sounds like a recipe for trouble.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 12:48 PM on August 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

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