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Dear Abby: Cat sitter seems to have kleptomaniac tendencies

Dear Abby: A trusted and beloved family member who takes care of my cats – and therefore has a key to my house – has been stealing things like cleaning supplies, knickknacks, family pictures, etc. Most of them have little monetary value. But imagine my surprise when I spotted some of my missing seashell collection in her fish tank!

Naturally, I can’t accuse her of taking things like seashells that anyone can pick up free on the beach, but I select ones with distinct markings, which is why I know they are mine. It’s frustrating to run out of toothpaste and find that the spare tube I just bought is missing. It’s not like she doesn’t have the money to buy her own.

She does so much for me and my kids. Should I just continue to ignore it?

– Seashells by the Seashore

Dear S.B.T.S.: Your family member may have a touch of kleptomania or perhaps she takes the items because she feels entitled to “payment” for the favors she does for you.

If you confront her, she will probably deny it. This is not to imply that you must continue putting up with it until she takes something with greater sentimental (or tangible) value. Ask her to return your key “because you have made other arrangements to care for your cats,” or change your locks. Then follow through with someone who won’t take advantage of your trust.

Brushing off younger men

Dear Abby: Can you advise me on how to respond to comments from younger men when I am at dinner or out with friends? I often get “Wow, you are really good looking for an older woman!” which I find vaguely insulting even though they may think it’s a compliment. I’m in good shape for my age (48), but my husband agrees it’s rude.

I’m at a loss for a snappy comeback and usually so embarrassed that I just turn away and pretend that I didn’t hear. Am I overly sensitive? Should I be thanking them? That doesn’t feel right. Any witty responses you think would be good?

– Speechless in San Diego

Dear Speechless: A left-handed compliment is one that has two meanings – one of which is not flattering to the recipient. Because you find it offensive, say, “I may look ‘older’ to you, but I’m not so old I consider that to be a compliment.”

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 60069.