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by Abigail Van Buren

Family Pet-Sitter Helps Herself to Homeowner's Possessions

DEAR ABBY: A trusted and beloved family member who takes care of my cats -- and therefore has a key to my house -- has been stealing things like cleaning supplies, knickknacks, family pictures, etc. Most of them have little monetary value. But imagine my surprise when I spotted some of my missing seashell collection in her fish tank!

Naturally, I can't accuse her of taking things like seashells that anyone can pick up free on the beach, but I select ones with distinct markings, which is why I know they are mine. It's frustrating to run out of toothpaste and find that the spare tube I just bought is missing. It's not like she doesn't have the money to buy her own.

She does so much for me and my kids. Should I just continue to ignore it? -- SEASHELLS BY THE SEASHORE

DEAR S.B.T.S.: Your family member may have a touch of kleptomania -- a compulsion to steal -- or perhaps she takes the items because she feels entitled to "payment" for the favors she does for you.

If you confront her, she will probably deny it. This is not to imply that you must continue putting up with it until she takes something with greater sentimental (or tangible) value. Ask her to return your key "because you have made other arrangements to care for your cats," or change your locks. Then follow through with someone who won't take advantage of your trust.

Read more in: Family & Parenting