DEAR KELLY: My good friend loves cats, and has four of them at her house. I’m not a big cat fan but I can tolerate them. Every time I come home from her house I’m covered in cat hair. Even if I don’t sit on their couch or the floor and I just sit on her bed, my clothes have cat hair all over them. They also let the cats roam all over the house.
When I sleep over they lay on me, which drives me crazy and kind of freaks me out. I asked her if we could shut the door to her room. She said no, that one of her cats will whine or cry all night if they can’t come in and her parents will eventually get up and get mad because they will be woken up.
I love hanging out with her, but I can’t stand all the cat hair and the cats all around me. Last time I was there she was making us food and the cat was walking on the kitchen counter. It was grossing me out. The cat kept walking over and around all the food. When I told her it grossed me out, she got upset and said that the cat never touched the food and I was dramatic.
Last night she posted a picture on Instagram of her and two cats and it said, “Stay calm and kitty on.” I know it was directed at me, so now I don’t know what to do. Am I wrong to be totally creeped out by the cats and the cat hair? How do I tell her I would rather not go over to her house any more because it’s nasty?
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DEAR DOG PERSON: If you value her friendship, saying that her house is nasty or gross won’t help you two become closer. Harsh words like that might be enough to end a friendship. You don’t have to like cats or cat hair to still enjoy spending time with her and being her friend. Talking this situation out with her would be best, but the words you choose and how you choose to say them will dictate where this friendship goes.
Perhaps you need to consider starting with an apology. When you told her you were grossed out, she probably had her feelings hurt by your tone or the words you used. Start by saying that you are sorry if you offended her. You don’t have to be sorry for what you said (if it seemed unsanitary or made the food less appealing), but if you said it in a way that somehow hurt her feelings or made her think you were saying something mean about her or her house.
Tell her that you are more of a dog person but you know she loves her cats and you respect that. Ask her if you can tell her how you are feeling because you want to be able to hang out and not keep having pet issues come between the two of you. Hopefully she is open to hearing what you have to say. If she isn’t and still seems angry, then your best bet is to make sure that when you are hanging out, it is not at her house. She might not be ready to hear what you have to say, and therefore nothing will be different.
If she is open, tread lightly and respectfully. Cat hair is cat hair. I don’t think you even bring this up. It’s the reality of having four cats. Just be prepared that when you go over there, you will leave with cat hair on you. Invest in a good lint roller. If you enjoy the company, you accept the hair.
Be gentle but honest that when the cat walked on the kitchen counter, even though it may not have come close to your food, it still didn’t make you want to eat. Share that your intent wasn’t to blame her or make her feel bad, it just made you uncomfortable. Maybe she agrees that when you come over, she won’t let the cats on the counter if she is cooking for you. Or you plan ahead and go to her house with a full stomach. If she knows this is something that bothers you, hopefully she is mindful and tries to make you feel more comfortable the next time you are making food together.
Let her know it scares you when you sleep over and the cats lay on you. Tell her it’s not her cats, it’s all cats. Because it scares you and you respect that she can’t shut her door, perhaps the sleepovers are at your house. Or you wait until it’s warmer outside and you offer to camp in her backyard while the cats roam inside. She might have some better solutions and you may be able to figure this one out. Again, tone and word choice will dictate the direction the conversation and the friendship go.
Most people view their pets as part of the family, so talk with kindness and understanding about her pets. Don’t insult her home. See if you can come to a mutual understanding about the cats so both of you are comfortable if you are visiting. Remember, it is her house and you shouldn’t expect her to change, but just to be mindful of what makes you uneasy. First and foremost, if you love your friend and enjoy hanging out with her, don’t offend her or her pets. There is always a kind way to say things, and learning to tame our tongue is a great life lesson.
Write to Kelly Richardson at Teen Talk, The Sacramento Bee, P.O. Box 15880, Sacramento, CA 95852, or email krichardson@ sacbee.com.