Order your copy of Minding Miss Manners now.

Miss Manners by Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Can I Ask About My Hairstylist’s Vaccine Status?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Our neighbors of 40 years ask us to take care of their cat when they go away for more than one night. It’s usually for four days or so, and we are happy to go next door to make sure the cat has fresh water and food and to give him some people-time.

When we had a dog, these same neighbors were insistent that we not board her when we traveled -- frequently for 10 days to two weeks -- because she would be better off in her own house, and that they were happy to come over to give her food, water and people-time. I always brought something back for them from our travels, or made something for them as a thank-you gift -- a basket that I made, filled with homemade goodies, for example.

We recently took care of the cat for a few days -- Thursday to Monday, maybe -- and as thanks, we were given a couple of very nice homemade hot pads and a $50 gift card. The time before was a $50 gift certificate to a local restaurant.

It’s way too much for the little that is asked of us. We would like to give the gift card back to them, but we don’t want any hurt feelings or to have them think that they can’t ask us to watch the cat in the future. Help?

GENTLE READER: Turning down presents already given is an insult, so Miss Manners wishes you joy with the hot pads and the gift card. But it will be charming when you assure them that you love Sugar and are thrilled to be able to return the favor after all those years in which they looked after Chester.

(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, dearmissmanners@gmail.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)