questionshow would you handle this problem with inlaws?


I really want to tell my in-laws that their house is nasty and that we won't come over again until it's in a better state. We had to eat dinner next to the cat litter box while fruitflies swarmed around the table. It's nasty. How would you handle this situation?


Stop going there! If it is bad for you then stop! Get your dogs a professional flee bath and bug bomb your house. Explain to your MIL and FIL that you are have a difficult time going when conditions are the way they are and that you will return when they improve. If they don't, you have saved your self 6 hours of driving on what ever occasion you visit.

Show them you are serious by leaving if you get there and conditions have not improved. Not only is that bad for you but flees can cause a problem for both your and their neighborhoods, and eating that close to a litter box is unsanitary.


The question should be: "What the heck did they do to breed these super-fleas?" Seriously, immune to Frontline and Advantage?


This sounds like an all-out minefield.

First, is your husband with you on this? You said he laughed the whole thing off, which makes me wonder if he disagrees with you about the sanitation problem at his parents' house? My sense is that adults who grow up in that sort of environment are either hyper-sensitive to the degree of filth, or totally oblivious about it.

Talk to him first before making any decisions. Try to bring it up without putting him on the defensive (he may end up feeling attacked by virtue of his parents, or feel embarrassed for them and become reflexively upset). Tell him how you feel; not only is it uncomfortable for you to be at their house when it is so unsanitary, but things really escalated when, last time, their sanitation problems literally followed you home. That is a SERIOUS intrusion.



You may want to base a conversation with your in-laws on this, because it is the most concrete issue which would dissuade you from visiting. You can't take the dogs because they will get fleas, and that is neither fair to you nor your dogs (poor things!). Since you can't take the dogs, you can't leave them. Thus, you can't visit until they solve the problem. Fortunately, solving the problem might require them to clean up their act in other ways.

HOWEVER. Going on the offensive as to the overall state of their home could be a huge misstep. It may add tension between you and your husband, who might not agree with you or, at least, might think the cleanliness is not so big a deal as to not visit. It may add tension between your husband and his parents now that there is conflict between you and his parents; this tension will probably move its way to the two of you, particularly if he blames you for the awkward situation everyone now finds themselves in.


(continued again)

All that said, it is still an intrusion to have to stay somewhere below your health and sanitation standards. If so, then the dog-flea business is secondary. Talk to your husband about it and tell him how it makes you feel to be there (frame the problem not on what big slobs his parents are, but about how you are in constant discomfort there, and not unreasonably). Ideally, you can get him to see where you are coming from, and he can initiate the conversation with his parents that they need to ship up. Fair or not, they are his parents, not yours, and he has the longstanding relationship upon which to balance this conversation. Just make sure he isn't the type to go in brave and end up selling you out -- even the greatest spouses have parent issues.

Finally, it may be worth it to have someone dog sit while you are gone and suck it up. Comes down to what you are willing to deal with.


You don't say if you have little ones (besides your furry loves), but if children are in your future, I'd certainly make a gentle but firm point to tell the parents that you will absolutely not be bringing their grandchild into a flea infested home, but that they are welcome to visit YOU, so they might want to get a handle on the health problem. (Be prepared to have a flea problem after their visit as fleas can and do travel along with baggage).

It IS a health problem. Fleas can carry all sorts of nasty things, including the plague (ok, that's alarmist, but true).


@lavikinga: We don't have any kids yet but we are trying to and I could see that being a definite issue. One brother-in-law hasn't brought his kids over in 5 years with the excuse of "It's just cheaper to fly you to see us." My other brother-in-law didn't think it was a big deal until he had a baby recently and then I could see them freaking out about dust and cat hair when they brought the baby over. I don't think it hit them until they were there.


@dupedyetagain: Thank you for your thoughtful response. You hit the nail on the head. I don't want to ruin my relationship with them, they are nice people and I don't want it to come between my husband and I. Sadly, I feel like it already is because I feel like he doesn't take my discomfort seriously at all which makes me resentful. I guess I just need to cool down a little (or a lot) and then have a calm discussion with him. I just need to find the right wording so I get my point across without insulting him.
I wouldn't mind going without the dogs but I'm sure we would have brought home fleas in our clothes and bags anyway and we still would have gotten infested anyway. I did come up with the idea of just renting a hotel room when we go out there and inviting them to hang out in the hotel room with us. I think my husband would scoff at that idea though. I feel like I'm in a lose-lose situation. :(


@tippypaws: The hotel might be a good idea for right now. As you return to your room each night, strip off your clothing and place the items into one of those giant ziploc style bags. When you get home, keep the bags out of the house until they are ready to go straight into the washing machine.
Yes, it's an enormous PITA, but might head off any potential infestation of your own home.


I'm thinking staying in a hotel and having dinner at a restaurant is a better idea, if your husband doesn't realize the level of the problem. Or agree to meet 2/3 of the way for dinner. In a perfect world, you speak to your husband, he talks it over with his siblings and they find a tactful way to intervene. It is not good for his parents health to live in that condition. They deserve to be healthy and live in a clean, healthy home. Just as you deserve to not be inundated with bugs and cat poop at dinner.


I'm late to this question, but it seems to me that a hotel room is the best answer if you must stay. I can't imagine going to someone's house and playing Russian Roulette with fleas and furniture. I don't recall seeing any ages mentioned, so that also makes me lean toward another previous idea of meeting 2/3 or halfway and doing something there. By all means let your husband know how you feel, but be as gentle as you can....there are still some men out there that can have feelings. :)


For the dinner beside the litter box problem, get pregnant. Pregnant women should never come into contact with cat litter because of the potential for toxoplasmosis. (ask your dr. if you don't know this) Tell the inlaws you cannot be that close to cat litter while pregnant. It could solve that issue for 9 months anyway. Maybe by the time it is over, the litter box will have a new permanent location.


here is a scare factor for ur in-laws

The most deadly flea-borne disease is the bubonic plague. Plague cases in humans are not common anymore; however, it is still exceptionally serious. Other flea-borne diseases include flea-borne typhus, bartonella henselae (cat scratch fever), several other bartonella strains including bartonella grahamii, bartonella taylorii and bartonella quintana.


@patndave: Maybe things have changed since I was last pregnant, more than 15 years ago, but... My OB told me to have my cats tested and treated for toxoplasmosis if any of them were positive. None were, so his advice to wear a dust mask and wash up thoroughly after cleaning litter boxes was adequate to my situation.

To say that a pregnant woman should NEVER be near cat litter or NEVER handle a cat is being just a little dramatic, I think. Before you get your back hairs up I do know what the consequences are of a pregnant woman picking up a toxoplasmosis infection, but I suspect it's a lot harder to come by than it's made out. In 40 years of having cats and in about 30 years of working as a volunteer in animal shelters I've heard of exactly one human infection, and that was a man.

I'm also wondering where all the litter box comments are coming from? OP mentioned dust and cat hairs, I see nothing about nasty litter boxes on the dining table.


@aphroat: My mom got toxoplasmosis while pregnant with me. I was lucky to not have my brain eaten by the parasites. Instead they ate the retina of my right eye and left me with a few other eye problems. I wouldn't get rid of a cat, but I absolutely wouldn't take toxo lightly.

@tippypaws I've just finished with a flea infestation after my cat escaped outside and got them. It's horrible. I would do anything to avoid it. I like the idea of meeting part way for dinner, having them come to you, or you staying in a hotel. I hope you can have a conversation with your husband and find a way to create an united front without offending the in-laws.


@tippypaws: Sorry for the late reply. This is certainly a lose-lose from the outset, but I suggest there may be a way to spin it into, at least, a partial win.

Here's what I mean. You say this has already come between you and your husband, and you already are a bit resentful. My bet (and by "bet" I mean wild, out-of-my-behind conjecture, so no offense!) is you two have already had this conversation before, to varying degrees, but neither of you came out happy about it; you come out feeling unheard and dismissed, he comes out feeling that you are overreacting and insulting. This could be a chance to reframe the issue and try again, maybe with a good result here and between the two of you generally.

I find it most successful to frame this type of problem with all of the focus on you--sit him down and tell him you want to talk about something you are worried about; explain what the conditions were in the past, and what you feel when you have to experience them.


@tippypaws: (cont). Try not to imply that his parents cause the conditions; frame it as if they aren't even part of it (it is just a place where there are fleas, where the food is served near litter boxes, etc.). Explain your anxiety and discomfort in personal, physiological terms (I feel unsafe, constantly anxious, violated). Reassure him that it isn't a reflection on his parents or him; you and they just have different opinions on "clean"; a good framing device is to point out that they seem to be doing OK and that your husband certainly came out of it just fine, and that you may even be needlessly sensitive about it, but that you can't help the way it makes you feel. That his understanding of your needs is important to you.

It is often most effective to make it so your husband has nothing to be defensive to. It still could go badly, I know. But if you feel resentful now it will only get worse. Prepare for a hard conversation and remember it will help you both. Good luck :)


Update: I mentioned maybe meeting halfway to hang out with his parents and my husband replied that he had already emailed his parents and told them our future visits would be contingent on fleas. I'm so relieved. Thank you all for your support and ideas!