Sage Advice: Cat-Proofing Thanksgiving

By Amy Dickinson | November 13th, 2018


Dear Amy: I’m not sure how to handle Thanksgiving and Christmas meals at my in-law’s house.

Last year, right before the meal, I watched my mother-in-law’s cat eating on the dining room table. It was hard not to vomit. I noticed the salad dressing had expired years ago.

In addition to all this, she leaves the dog and cat bowls on the same counter as the food being cooked. While it probably is not an actual safety threat, this is incredibly unappetizing.

Over the years, I’ve found ways to get around eating most meals at the house. I sneak out for errands and run to a fast-food joint. I’ve also convinced them that I love cheese puffs that come in one of those huge containers. I can roll through a gallon of puffs in a few days if we are staying with them.

My wife has spoken to both her parents about this several times. Nothing has changed.

What should I do over the holidays? I don’t want to ruin these meals, but I also don’t think I can sit at the table and eat the food in front of me.

I’m also not sure I want my children eating food that is unsanitary. Your advice?

– Holiday Hungry

Dear Hungry: First of all, much as anyone might love to wear one of those cheese puff containers over their face like a feed bag, if you are sneaking food into the house, there are healthier options. (An apple, for instance, comes in a cat-proof container.)

To your larger point, my suggestions are as follows: 1) Invite the in-laws to stay with you for the holidays. (Yes, I know, they won’t leave their pets at home…)

2) You and your family find a nearby Airbnb with a kitchen. You can all hang at the in-laws’ house, but this will take the meal-prep pressure off of them.

3) You and your family announce that you would like to bring much (or all) of the Thanksgiving feast to their house. You can prepare most in advance and perhaps cook only the main dish at their house. Ask your mother-in-law to prepare one of her favorite dishes.

Yes, the prospect of cats on the table is disgusting (I have cats in my own household).

Yes, having pet food bowls on the counter is unappetizing — and encourages them to graze on the counter.

Your wife has spoken with her folks several times about this, so assume that conditions at the house will not change. Be gentle, diplomatic and friendly: “We’re going to give you a break this year about cooking meals. We hope you’ll let us do the shopping and cooking.”

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2018 by Amy Dickinson

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