Picks of the Litter and Catcalls

Picks of the Litter and Catcalls

Picks of the Litter and Catcalls

Advice on manners and morals.
Sept. 10 1999 3:30 AM

Picks of the Litter and Catcalls

Please send your questions for publication to prudence@slate.com.

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Prudie would like to say a word about the letter regarding the cat-sitter and the $2,000 veterinary bill. That word is oy. Never has so much mail descended on Prudie, if you don't count the handicapped stall imbroglio. Prudie wishes to report that there was a boatload of comment ... some supportive of the advice, some ... well, catcalls. Herewith are the picks of the litter, pardon the expression, and a very unexpected, though satisfying resolution.

Prudie,

Are you nuts? You say the cat-sitter should be reimbursed for the vet bill of $2,000 when the owner specifically told him not to incur any expense? No rational person would pay two grand for a cat (a dog, perhaps, but not a cat). And letting an animal die from natural causes is not and never has been a crime. If you think I am heartless, think about all the charities that could use $2,000, including the SPCA, which would not dream of blowing it on one animal.

--As Indifferent to Cats as They Are to People

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Dear As,

You make some valid points, though Prudie detects dogist sentiments in your saying one might understandably lay out two big ones for a dog, but not for a cat. You are fortunate in not having a column of your own, since the dog favoritism would surely invite much correspondence from the cat people. But do read on.

Dear Prudence,

From the time our cat Chappaquiddick (don't ask) was 19 until she died at 20 or 21, we took her to the vet twice a week for dialysis. This wonderful, magical cat raised all four of our sons (with some help from my wife, but not much in my judgment), and she became as much a part of the family as any of us. Because of kidney problems she had accidents from time to time, but we always overlooked them. "ZM" performed a saintly act in the eyes of anyone lucky enough to ever share space with man's noblest companion.

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--C.K.

Dear C.,

What a lovely tribute to your cat, the feline Mary Poppins, but Prudie suggests you hide this letter from your wife. Please keep reading for another point of view--probably not the cat's.

Prudence,

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I usually enjoy and agree with your advice, but I have to take issue with your reply to the cat-sitter who loved too much. I am not a cold or cruel person (and I am actually a cat lover), but I think the owner's wishes about managing the health of the cat should have been heeded. Two thousand dollars is a lot of money to most people, and I think the financial sacrifices people are willing to make for their pets are their decisions. Who knows, the owner might have had children who needed shoes (though since the owner was in Europe, I doubt it). Or maybe the owner thinks the two grand would be better spent as a donation to UNICEF to help save starving children (again unlikely, but possible). The point is, people can't be forced to spend big bucks on pets.

--Respectfully,

Dan D.

Dear Dandy,

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Prudie cannot quibble with you.

Dear Prudence,

My first reaction to this letter was to wonder if the cat could be taken away from such an indifferent owner. My second was to admire ZM for compassion and tenacity. If there is no satisfactory legal solution to reimbursing ZM, I'm sure there are many animal lovers among your readers who would be happy to contribute toward replacing some of the money ZM spent. I would certainly like to.

--A.C.

Dear A.,

You are admirably generous, but Prudie does not pass the hat, feeling certain that Messrs. Gates and Kinsley would frown on such a practice. However, the following letter--from ZM himself--provides us all with a most interesting denouement.

Dear Prudence,

Thank you for replying to my letter about the sick cat. Your advice was, as expected, good--and I'm not just saying that because you were on my side. I thought you might like to know that I did begin legal proceedings in small claims court, but the cat's former owner and I settled. I say, "former owner" because in the process of working out an agreement, I demanded and got the cat in question. The owner was only willing to pay half the vet expenses, so I said, "Well then, the cat will be half mine." He said, "You want it so bad, you can have it." I'm not fond of cats in general, but I feel a bond with this one--he's very smart and well behaved--and I certainly feel he's better off in my care. So, we have a happy ending.

--Regards,

ZM

Dear, dear Z.,

Amen. And on behalf of all those who feel as you do, Prudie categorically thanks you.