Dear Prudence

Cat-Sitters Who Love Too Much

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Dear Prudence,

This question may be more of a moral or ethical sort, but my behavior is being called into question, and I’d like it if you could answer this for me. A friend asked me to watch his cat while he was abroad for two weeks. I came by every day and noticed that the cat was looking a little under the weather. I wasn’t concerned, though, and thought the cat was just missing his owner. (I’m not much of a cat person.) The situation got rapidly worse, and one day when I came to the house the cat was obviously very, very sick. It could barely walk. I called the owner in Europe and explained the situation and asked if I should take Kitty to the vet. He said, “No.” I explained again that the cat looked to be at death’s door. The owner said he’d take care of it when he got home (in three days).

After I got off the phone I just couldn’t leave the pathetic animal there to suffer, so I took Kitty to an animal hospital where he was treated for a deadly cat stomach problem. I saved the cat’s life. And paid a couple thousand dollars to do so. The owner is refusing to reimburse me and is saying that I shouldn’t have gone against his wishes. I feel like I did the right thing. Of course I’ve written off this friendship, but am I within the limits of proper behavior to demand reimbursement for Kitty’s operation? Or did I, as the owner says, intrude into an area where I didn’t belong?

–Thank you,


Dear Z.,

How unfortunate that you wound up looking after a pet whose owner decreed it was a Christian Science cat. (“Let’s wait three days,” indeed.) Your experience, alas, is a perfect example of the old saying, “No good deed goes unpunished.”

Prudie is on your side, however, and the side of Kitty. There are animal cruelty statutes (which are criminal), which differ from state to state, but Prudie thinks your best avenue is a civil suit, probably in small claims court. The vet’s records should attest to the cat’s precarious condition. You did the only humane thing. One wonders what the outcome would have been had The Traveler been in residence when his pet’s condition was moving toward … well, catatonic. In any case, Prudie hopes you prevail in court and that Kitty’s remaining eight lives will be uneventful.

–Prudie, litigiously

Dear Prudence,

A former (almost) significant other thinks I’m stalking her, but I’m really not. I need a way of conveying that without seeming like a stalker. Telephone, letter, and direct contact are all out of the question. Also, it needs to fit into my budget ($15), so no airplane stunts. And what, exactly, is the line between stalking and not stalking, anyway?


Dear Caught,

Prudie thinks you meant your signature to be “Catch-22,” which suggests either English is not your first language or you have made quite a Freudian slip. When you say that phone, letter, and direct contact are out of the question, Prudie infers that there may be a restraining order.

The line of stalking/not stalking, in general nonlegal terms, would probably be drawn where the person feels he or she is receiving unwanted attention. Being in the general proximity of such a person would be unwelcome, as would written communications–even skywriting. Prudie suggests you “convey” your nonstalking status by forgetting this girl exists, which means not trying to be where she is and stopping all communications of any kind. That is the surefire way for her to know you are not stalking her. And Prudie just saved you $15.

–Prudie, definitively

Prudie dear,

Don’t you get just the least bit uncomfortable presuming to explain and comment on the motives of folks who choose to keep company with Hef? Are you saying you wouldn’t let yourself be found in that situation? Good for you! (Some might wonder if you would ever be invited to be in that situation–but that would be very catty of them.)

I thought the general rule was: If it’s not affecting you or anyone else adversely, then your reactions to it are not of interest and should not be shared. Or, as Dear Abby might say, “MYOB.”

–Speaking of Hef’s Harem

Dear Speak,

To borrow a technique of our president, the answer to your question depends on what the meaning of “situation” is. Prudie has never been asked to share Hef’s bed, but she has been invited to both his “mansions,” as he likes to call them. And she has gone. (Yes, Prudie is that old.) And the parties were quite sufficient for Prudie, if you receive her drift.

As for the MYOB rule (originated by Ann Landers, a woman of whom Prudie is extremely fond), Prudie must point out that her job description is specifically to mind other people’s business. Granted, it’s a thankless task, but she’s got a lot of karma to burn.

–Prudie, busily

Dear Prudence,

I’d like to quibble with your response to “In Need of Help in Ohio.” My mother taught me that one excuse is plausible. Four excuses sound like you’re holding back the real reason. (I can’t go out Friday night because I have to wash my hair. Besides, my grandmother is sick. Also, I have a lot of homework. Oh, yes, and I promised my dad I’d clean the garage. Universally understood translation: I wouldn’t be seen in public with you for a million dollars.) Ohio should stick with, “Let’s do dinner instead.”

–MMD, a wise woman’s daughter

Dear MM,

Your mother is wise indeed, and Prudie laughed at your wonderful example. In the main you are correct, though there are occasions when stringing together emotionally sequential reasons, as it were, is useful. Prudie leaves this decision to the discretion of each excuse-maker.

–Prudie, plausibly