My partner and I were lucky to find a home in a sleepy neighborhood, with mostly nice and friendly neighbors. We’re not super social people, but we’ve enjoyed getting to know our neighbors, and feel glad to have largely positive friendships with folks close by who can sometimes lend a cup of flour, pick up a piece of mail, or water your plants when you’re out of town for a few days. We are, of course, happy to return these favors and are often asked to house or pet-sit for neighbors who are away.
The problem is one household who we pet-sit for. These are otherwise kind and reasonable people, but it has become clear that they don’t place a lot of value on hygiene in their home or for their animals. Think: bugs in the pet food, dried up feces on the floor, litter pans and food dishes crusted over, open bags of used litter sitting around, stacks of papers falling, and more. We’re asked to pet-sit more than a dozen times a year, and this problem is escalating to the point where it’s upsetting to see and smell their animals living in such conditions. It seems like the health of the animals is declining as well. Sometimes we’re asked to pet-sit for weeks at a time!
What can be done in this situation so we don’t ruin the relationship with these neighbors? We don’t mind the occasional pet-sitting, but this has become uncomfortable and troubling given the frequency with which we’re asked to help out. If it’s rude to comment on other people’s parenting, it’s probably rude to say something about how they keep their home and animals–right? What’s a socially acceptable way to move forward here, knowing we’re going to get another spur of the moment text to pet-sit soon?
— Smelly House, Why Aren’t They Cleaning You?