The prosecution: Erica
Jerome loves Lilly and plays with her all the time, but refuses to clean up her mess
In lockdown I got a kitten. It was my idea and I pushed for it. Jerome came up with every excuse under the sun not to get a cat. He said: “I don’t want our lives to change with the responsibility, and I don’t want to stay in to look after it.” I told him it would be fine.
He was resistant for months, but I said lockdown would be the perfect time because we were home more. We went back and forth on the breed, the cost and where to buy a kitten. There were no cats in shelters at the time so we went to a private seller. We settled on a British shorthair kitten. Jerome was like: “Fine, but I don’t want to clean up after it; it’s your cat so that’s your job.” It was sort of a throwaway comment and a bargaining chip. I knew he’d change his mind. Jerome has grown up with cats and adores them, so I knew he wouldn’t ignore Lilly once she arrived. I was right.
Jerome is a great cat parent. He’s generous with his time, playful with Lilly and showed me how to train her. We both fell in love with her immediately. Now he says, “She’s my cat. She loves me more.” But he still refuses to clean up the mess in the litter tray.
I recently went away with work for a few days and he sent me loads of videos of him and Lilly playing together. That was cute, but when I got back I noticed he hadn’t cleaned her tray. Lilly had to do her business on top of what was already there. I kicked off and his response was: “I knew you’d react like this. But it’s not really my job.” I find that very lazy and irresponsible. Jerome loves Lilly and buys her luxury food and toys, but he’s very happy to risk Lilly’s life by letting her use a dirty litter box. Dirty litter trays can make the cat contract all kinds of infections, like ringworm. Plus it makes our flat smell gross.
Jerome loves to tell people he has a gorgeous cat, but he can’t have it both ways. He needs to split the cat chores and clean the litter tray if he wants to claim Lilly as his own. I am sick of doing it – and I am also quite sick of his hypocrisy.
The defence: Jerome
I’m the fun cat daddy. We agreed before we got Lilly that the litter tray would be Erica’s job
I was never 100% sold on the idea of having a cat before we got Lilly. I told Erica: “It’s your responsibility. I’m just here for the good times.” She agreed to that if it meant we could get a pet.
I reinforced my stance when Lilly arrived (even though I loved her immediately), and didn’t really help out with the big jobs. In my eyes I’m doing nothing wrong by shirking the litter tray as it was part of the deal. My remit is feeding, stroking and playing with her. I’m the fun cat daddy. Erica’s remit is litter tray duties and cleaning the cat sick. That’s what was agreed.
When Erica went away on a work trip I cared for Lilly very well. We had a great time together and Erica had changed the cat tray before she went. She was gone for four days and I thought it would be fine to leave that job until she returned. I wasn’t risking Lilly’s life by not changing the tray – I also took her outside to do her business, so she had a choice. I agree that it made the house smell a bit nasty – it’s just that I hate touching the box. I hate smelling poo and having to tip it all into the bin. It turns my stomach, which is why I never agreed to the role.
I didn’t want to get a cat because of the responsibility. Erica sprang Lilly on me in the middle of lockdown. We were stressed, both working from home and under each other’s feet in a poky flat. Finding the right cat took ages, and it was stressful arguing with her about it. We finally agreed on Lilly, a regular shorthair. I was happy with the choice and now I love Lilly very much. I helped train her when it came to going outside and learning to use her litter tray. I’ve also got her a scratch post and a little ball and I love getting her excited by playing with those. She feels like my cat, too.
I get Erica’s point that this move to joint ownership necessitates joint care. But I pay for the majority of Lilly’s vet bills, toys and food. I am still playing a very active role; I just don’t want to touch the litter tray. This is a stance I outlined from the beginning, so, if anything, I’ve been consistent. Erica needs to stick to her role in caring for Lilly and I will stick to mine.
The jury of Guardian readers
Should Jerome take his turn with the litter tray?
Erica and Jerome agreed on what their roles would be before they got Lilly. Jerome has gone beyond his remit and Erica should be grateful for his love and care of Lilly, especially when he never wanted her in the first place.
Jerome has broken the terms of his own imaginary contract by claiming Lilly as his. As he himself asserts: your cat, your job. Time to pick up the scoop!
Jerome offered zero compromise and there’s no suggestion that he helps out with other things at home in return for Erica cleaning the litter tray. God forbid you ever have to take care of a human child! Either share the cat litter cleaning 50/50, or take care of something else Erica hates.
Erica explicitly agreed to do all the unpleasant pet tasks. The fact that she took this on with the expectation that Jerome would change his mind doesn’t mean he has betrayed her – he’s just not changed his mind.
I sympathise with Jerome as an initial agreement was made, but it seems that things have changed. He can’t cherry-pick the cat duties he’s prepared to do – and not cleaning the litter tray while Erica was away is unacceptable. I’m with Erica.
You be the judge
So now you can be the judge, click on the poll below to tell us: should Jerome start cleaning the cat’s litter tray?
We’ll share the results on next week’s You be the judge.
The poll will close on 24 March at 9am GMT
Last week’s result
We asked if Jakiyah should stop letting the dirty dishes pile up, as it annoys her flatmate, Anita.
12% of you said no – Jakiyah is innocent
88% of you said yes – Jakiyah is guilty