DEAR ABBY: My mom passed away unexpectedly, leaving behind two cats. My mother-in-law graciously took them in temporarily, which included shouldering the financial burden of a few vet visits.
After everything quieted, we asked her if she would be willing to keep the cats indefinitely because we rent, and re-homing them wasn't an option in our area. She agreed, but said when we want to take them, we can. We offered to compensate her for the vet bills, but she refused. Our relationship has always been strained, but, in that moment, she was very kind and generous.
Now, a year later, the cats have been renamed and are well cared for beyond what we could have ever given them. I, however, feel guilty. My husband and I don't want the cats. We will be buying a home soon, and our daughter is hoping to adopt a dog.
I do not want to take on a new obligation if I already have one to my mother-in-law. Those cats are my mom's final unfinished business, and I want to do right by them. How can I do right by my mother-in-law as well? -- NOT A CAT PERSON
DEAR NOT A CAT PERSON: The cats have acclimated well to living with your mother-in-law -- and it is entirely possible that she has grown to love them in the year they have been with her.
If she is aware that you will be buying a home, she should be told that your daughter has her heart set on having a dog. Because three animals would be too much for you, ask if she would mind keeping the kitties after you move. She may surprise you and say she doesn't mind at all.
(From where I sit, she sounds like a doll, so regard her generosity as a chance to mend fences and express your gratitude equally generously.)