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by Abigail Van Buren

Hosting Overnight Guests Proves Prickly for Family With Six Cats

DEAR ABBY: We have a small house, and family and friends are always welcome. We also have six cats, and their care and comfort are paramount. We keep our cats separated so they don't fight, so two cats occupy what used to be our guest room. We have explained this to overnight guests, several of whom are allergic to cats or don't like them, and they insist "everything will be fine." They then refuse to let the cats into the room during the day, while our distressed feline family members howl and claw the door.

There are simple things that must be done when living with cats, like making sure they don't run outside (they are all indoor cats), keeping toilet lids down and breakable things out of their reach. Our guests don't seem to care and they don't comply. Frankly, I wouldn't care if the cats took their jewelry, but I would care if one of them choked on it.

Why is this so hard to understand? Our cats need care and consideration; they are not disposable furry houseplants. To be fair, we visit with these petless folks, so we can't ask them not to stay with us. I've even tried putting Post-it notes around the house, reminding guests to keep doors and toilet lids closed, etc. They reacted like they thought I was rude! How do we handle this politely so there are no hurt feelings? -- NEW ENGLAND CAT LOVER

DEAR CAT LOVER: It's time to end the tradition of staying in each other's homes. There will be fewer hurt feelings all the way around -- your pets included -- if, when you visit these folks you stay someplace other than in their home and suggest to them that they do likewise. This doesn't mean you won't see and entertain them -- it only means they won't be subject to your house rules, which clearly are not acceptable to them.