Sage Advice: My Cats Are Equivalent to Children

January 3rd, 2018


Crazy cat lady Image

Dear Amy: My sister-in-law says she is very allergic to cats. She lives six hours away from my mom. My sister and I have cats and bring them with us when we visit our mom.

My sister-in-law has asked us if we could put the cats behind a gate or upstairs when she and my brother visit. But we believe that our cats are our family members. We refuse to put our cats away just because someone wants us to.

Because of this, our sister-in-law stopped visiting.

Now she has a baby and this is the first grandchild in the family. She has again asked if we would put the cats away while she visits so my mom can visit with her granddaughter. And again, we have refused to do this because our cats are just as important family members as her baby.

We told her that she should drop off the baby with my mom, sister and me and that she can relax at the hotel while we visit. She has refused to do this, and now just doesn’t visit. She tells my brother to visit whenever he wants, but that she and her baby will stay home.

My mom cannot drive to their house, and now my mom has not seen her granddaughter at all. She is very upset. How do we fix this for our mom’s sake, without giving up our principles?

We need help soon because my sister-in-law is pregnant with her second child and we haven’t even met the first one!

– Animal-Loving Aunt

Dear Aunt: As a fellow cat-lover, I’ve often wondered why “cat ladies” sometimes get such a bad rap as being eccentric, sheltered and basically bananas.

Thank you for clearing that up.

You don’t mention your brother’s role in this. If he isn’t allergic to cats, he could handle a visit with the baby.

This is not a matter of “principles.” Given your collective attitude toward your sister-in-law, and your refusal to even attempt to make the house less toxic for her during a visit, she has no choice but to stay away. And no responsible mother would surrender her baby for an unsupervised visit with family members who are so obviously ill-equipped to care for a human.

If you want your mother to meet this grandchild, it would be kindest for you to drive your mother to your sister-in-law’s house for a visit.


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.

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