DEAR MISS MANNERS: How do you gently bring up or remind somebody, like a relative or significant other, that gifts they give to you that are really gifts for your pets aren't really gifts for you?
If it was pet food or litter, or something you would normally spend your own money on, that's one thing, because it saves you a future expense. But when it's something your pet doesn't need that you wouldn't get them anyway, it just feels like a disappointing gift to receive, because you thought they would put a modicum of thought into giving you something you would enjoy, but instead gave you something your pet would enjoy.
I feel like it almost can't be brought up without being rude. Am I wrong?
GENTLE READER: Your definition of a good gift -- something that displays both knowledge of the recipient and a thought for her enjoyment -- agrees with Miss Manners' own. Where we apparently disagree is not on whether a gift to a third party counts -- it does not -- but on what constitutes a third party.
As a general rule, you are correct: Your friend cannot buy a gift for someone else, and, simply by naming you as the recipient, transfer the obligation to yourself. Pleasant as it may be to you when your daughter receives a thoughtful wedding gift from your friend, it is your daughter who will have to write the thank-you note, because she is in possession of the goods. For the same reason, people who try to pass off charitable donations as gifts should not expect gratitude -- at least not from the empty-handed bride.
But cats, like babies, are not considered wholly independent actors. For this reason, they are exempted from writing thank-you notes. Also because they cannot spell.
Although she agrees that such presents should be the exception, rather than the norm, Miss Manners would let pass the one you describe, assuming that your friend knew how close you are to your cat -- and therefore was reasonable in presuming that the attention would be welcome.