Dear Annie: After my parents died, my sister, "Estelle," moved into our old family home. Three siblings own the house, but Estelle and her husband have lived there for the past six years, rent-free.
There were always a lot of cats in our neighborhood, and my mother used to put out food for them. Estelle now does the same, and it seems every cat in the area has migrated to our property. There are at least 30. My sister has named them all and spent a fair amount of money on veterinary bills. Worse, she now lets the cats inside the house, and they are everywhere. The backyard is one big litter box. Her husband doesn't care. He's at his office all day.
Estelle spends her entire day feeding and cleaning up after these cats. I worry that they will pick up some disease from the skunks and raccoons that hang around the yards. I recently noticed that she has covered the cooktop, and I don't think she uses it anymore. She showed me a picture of a dozen cats roaming over the kitchen table. She thought it was delightful.
I have talked to both of my sisters about giving the cats to a shelter, but they refuse. I know it costs a lot of money to feed and house these cats, and Estelle doesn't have a lot. I guess I enable her, because I often give her money. I feel like a pushover, and my husband resents it. It's hard to visit her and too expensive to stay in motels and eat out every night.
I think Estelle is depressed. She complains about feeling gloomy. Her children rarely visit. When I think of my old homestead, it makes me sad. It's as if my family home was stolen from me. What can I do?
- No Cat Lover
Dear No: Estelle seems to be an animal hoarder. We are surprised her husband isn't more bothered by this, and perhaps you could enlist his help in limiting the presence of the cats. If you believe Estelle is not taking proper care of the cats that are living with her, you can report the situation to the ASPCA. You also could tell Estelle that you are worried about her health and the condition of the family home. Otherwise, unless you and your other sister decide to sell the house, your choice is simply whether or not to visit and how often.
Dear Annie: I totally agree with "Just One More Day," whose family members have all died, and she finds it difficult to listen to co-workers gripe about their relatives.
My mother and three sisters have passed away, and I am only 36. I live next door to my 82-year-old dad and treasure my time with him. My only brother lives almost 3,000 miles away, but we make sure to call each other regularly and visit once a year. Families need to stop holding grudges.
- Nicole in Pennsylvania
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