can I use sick leave to take my cat to the vet?

A reader writes:

I know this is a silly question and expect to be told I am insane, but I am curious about your opinion! I recently had to take my cat to the vet for for a urgent but not life-threatening issue. It ended up taking about four hours during the work day. I joked with my collegue that I should use my sick time to take my child to the doctors, and we both laughed but then I got to thinking … can I?

For context, I’ve worked here for two years but have never used any sick time. I work remotely and have plenty of work that I can do on days that I am not at 100% (e.g., data entry), so there isn’t much reason to not work unless I am quite sick. We are also a hyper-animal-friendly workplace — the offices are all dog-friendly and our CEO calls his dogs his children.

Anyway, I know this is silly but I am tempted! Our time is very flexible and my workload ebs and flows (some weeks requiring 60+ hours) and I am in a slower time, so nobody is really going to question me being out for four hours. Generally, I am still supposed to work around 40 hours on the slow weeks unless I’m just coming off of a really busy time (not the case now). If I ask my manager, he’s either going to think I’ve lost it or just laugh and tell me to do what I want (or both). What do you think? Can you use sick time for a fur-child?!

I would love to say yes. But it’s really going to depend on your company.

Personally, I think it should be up to you to decide who you consider members of your family, and if you can use sick leave to care for a sick dependent … well, I think your animals are your dependents.

Realistically, though, a ton of employers won’t see it that way and would not be pleased if they found out you were using sick leave for vet appointments.

But given what you’ve said about your particular context, I could see saying to your manager, “I almost never use sick leave and have a ton accrued. Could I use some of it for the emergency vet appointment I had last week or would that not go over well?” I included that last bit (“would that not go over well?”) because if his answer is going to be no, it can be helpful to already have acknowledged that you realize it could be a no-go. On the other hand, sometimes not doing that can increase your chances of a yes. But this is how I’d word it for your situation.

Beyond that … I think some people do use sick leave for pet care but just don’t announce it — they say things like “I have a medical appointment on Thursday” without specifying that it’s a medical appointment for their cat. It’s an iffy approach because if your company doesn’t want you using it that way and they find out, they won’t be thrilled. But some people go that route.

{ 259 comments… read them below }

  1. CbCM*

    It’s not that insane. I had to bring a dog for emergency care, and my company let me use sick time. It wasn’t even my idea, it was the bosses.

    1. Emily K*

      I was permitted to use a bereavement day for my cat’s euthanasia appointment. If he had passed on his own I might have used a sick day if I wasn’t feeling mentally up to working, but since I had to actually take time for the appointment itself I figured it was more comparable to a funeral and submitted it under bereavement, and it was approved!

      1. Anonymeece*

        I’m so sorry about your cat, but I’m glad that your company apparently gets how much pets can mean.

        Our bereavement policy is ridiculously strict and specifies who “counts”, which is insane to me. Someone might have been raised by a great-aunt and consider her a mother, but our sick time says, “Nope, doesn’t count!”.

        1. Zephy*

          Wow, that’s gross re: your company’s bereavement leave policy. I wonder what the rationale is for having a list of approved relatives you’re allowed to grieve for on company time? Did the company have a serial funeral-crasher taking days off to attend the funeral services of random strangers? I don’t know how else one might abuse a bereavement leave policy and thus necessitate a list of people who “count.” Or maybe your company is run by sociopaths and/or aliens. Either way, I guess.

          1. Jen2*

            I think that’s pretty standard. My company’s policy is the same way. I’m sure if you had a sympathetic manager, they’d approve it if you explained the relationship you had with the deceased.

            1. Karo*

              Yeah, every place I’ve worked at has defined who counts. My last company both defined who counted and gave a tiered amount of days of based on how important they assumed the person was to you. (I think parents, spouses and children were three days, siblings and grand parents were 2 and aunts and uncles were 1?) And, to your point about the sympathetic manager – when my mother-in-law died they let me use the bereavement leave even though she didn’t count per the handbook.

              It’s definitely crappy, though. It makes a lot of assumptions regarding your family structure and relationships.

            2. Clisby*

              Sounds standard to me, too (this is the US.) Spouses, children, siblings, parents, grandparents, maybe grandchildren – I think that was about it for bereavement leave. I didn’t quite understand a comment upthread that seemed to conflate bereavement leave with sick leave. At least where I’ve worked, those are unrelated. Sick leave was for me and me alone – not for taking care of a sick spouse, child, pet, parent, etc. Bereavement leave was when a really close (as defined by the company) family member died.

              1. FairPayFullBenefits*

                I think taking care of a sick child/partner or taking them to the doctor falls under sick leave at a lot of companies. (I don’t have kids and my partner literally never gets sick so I’ve never used it as such, but my co-workers definitely use sick time to take their kids to check-ups or when they stay home because their kid is sick.)

                1. Clisby*

                  It’s definitely company-specific. I’ve had co-workers who used sick leave to take care of sick children even though that required them to lie and say they were the sick one.

                  However, the argument that you can take sick leave for a pet because “you get to decide who your family is” falls apart when your company doesn’t allow you to take sick leave for any family member. Sure, you can do it, if you’re willing to lie about it.

          2. Curmudgeon in California*

            My (university) employer allows only five days, and limits it to spouse, kids, parents, grandparents, grandchildren, but does include step-parents.

            I am going to be in a world of hurt if my mother dies while I’m working here, because there’s no way I’d be able to make funeral arrangements, settle her estate and muck out her house in five days.

            Even ten days would be minimal if you ended up “on point” for handling all of the stuff that goes with a close family member’s death.

            1. JessaB*

              I know one company I worked for had a extra day or something if you had to travel more than a certain distance or out of state, but that was the best they’d do and their list of who counted was pretty tight, my sister (my late father’s legal ward) would not have counted, (she wasn’t adopted and wasn’t fostered and still lived with her mother.)

              I ended up getting two days for my husband’s grandmother because I had to run around arranging for him to get to Boston in like no time at all, I wasn’t going with, we couldn’t afford, but I had to do all the arranging and it was a nightmare cause his da was sending Western Union (back when there was no smart phones and no online stuff,) and I had to run around like a chicken without a head. He wasn’t at all and still isn’t facile at this stuff.

          3. Ralkana*

            My grandmother passed last July, and for several reasons, the small ceremony we had to inter her ashes with my grandfather’s wasn’t held until January. I asked if I could submit the four hours I took off for the ceremony as bereavement, especially since I hadn’t taken any time off when she died, since that main memorial in July was on a Saturday. I was told no, that bereavement was for the immediate aftermath of a death. I’m still mad about it.

        2. Venus*

          Our bereavement policy just added a one-time-only ‘anyone who is like family to you’ option. So your best friend, cousin-twice-removed, or even potentially a pet although I haven’t checked the wording to see if it refers specifically to a person. I guess the company can afford to make it flexible as it’s just once. They also have family leave to allow for medical appointments, so for example I could go with my elderly father to his doctor’s appt, and the definition of family has also been expanded the same way. Years ago I had a vet appointment and my boss let me take family leave!

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I know this sounds nuts, but I had to take leave and WFH when my dog had surgery (she needed 24/7 monitoring for two to three weeks post-op). So I cashed in all my political capital, sick leave, and vacation leave, even though I was working 8-12 hours/day remotely. I was really lucky to have a boss who let me use it, but it definitely garnered side-eye from my coworkers.

      1. Jasper*

        I’m sorry, you were working *and* using leave days? For the same days? And you consider yourself lucky they let you do it?!

        Man, that is (excuse the pun) bananas. US labor relations are apparently even more crazy than I thought.

        1. FairPayFullBenefits*

          I’m not sure what PCBH’s exact situation was here, but taking vacation time on days you’re actually working is definitely not normal for “US labor relations.” If that’s actually what she meant (and I’m not sure that it was), that’s a strange circumstance at a horrible employer, not a standard practice in the US.

        2. DuskPunkZebra*

          Both full-time jobs I’ve had dole out leave in the same increments you billed your working time in, so I can take leave in :30 increments (:15 at the last job), and WFH is often difficult to negotiate in a lot of offices, as a lot of bosses don’t think you’re working or getting as much done.

          So the likelihood is that the situation was something like PCBH took leave on days that they needed to give the dog undivided attention, and WFH while the dog could be monitored with a bit less vigilance. If that arrangement is unusual in their office or the policies on different kinds of leave are restrictive, having this arrangement approved for a non-human family member is likely a HUGE deal.

          I feel a little weirded out by the sick leave/vacation time thing, though. Neither of my PTO-giving jobs made any difference, it was all just PTO. For which, being chronically and unpredictably ill, I am grateful.

  2. voluptuousfire*

    A lot of places consider sick time to be personal time (my company banks sick days as personal/sick), so for all intents and purposes, you took personal/sick time if your company looks at it that way.

    1. Hey nonny nonny*

      Yeah, my company offers “personal time” that you can use for sick time, appointments (be it doctor, vet, financial advisor, etc.). It’s used at your manager’s discretion, which means some managers don’t really care what you use it for, as long as it’s within company guidelines. Other managers will grill you as to why you’re using, what you’re using it for, why can’t you do it outside of business hours, etc. So…it’s nice to have if you have a manager who will actually let you use it.

      1. TechWorker*

        Our sick leave request form (we were acquired so I used it for the first time today) has a little drop down box where you can explain why you were out (‘common cold’, ‘infection’, etc, with ‘other’ at the bottom). It wasn’t starred so was optional so I thought ‘fuck that’ but I can imagine some managers push their employees to fill it in.. which is just weird imo!

        1. Em*

          I will not give any info unless pushed. Sure if I get the flu or something, I inform my supervisor so she can have someone don PPE and disinfect the break room. But imo they don’t need to know. Good on you for not including that.

    2. Stephanie*

      Yeah, my company has “no questions asked” personal time for things like this. But we’re also all exempt.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        +1 same here; we do get flex scheduling though (which is super helpful but a 4 hour appointment would be pushing that!)

    3. DNDL*

      You took four hours for a mental health day that just so happened to coincide with a vet visit.

      Just sayin….

      1. TypityTypeType*

        That’s an odd response; waiting around a vet’s office with a sick cat isn’t exactly a calm and relaxing way to spend one’s time.

        Hope your kitty is doing great, LW!

        1. Emily K*

          I think the point of DNDL’s comment was that if the company doesn’t consider a vet visit to be a valid use of sick leave, then LW could reasonably justify it as mental health leave (which happened to coincide with a vet visit) instead.

      2. Another Alison*

        I don’t even think that’s a remotely dishonest way of using leave time. If I were at work, I’d be a complete mess if I were worried about my sick pet at home. It’s the truth, no excuse!

    4. Grand Admiral Thrawn Is Still Blue*

      Agree totally with Allison… A dependent is a dependent. They all need care.

  3. Detective Amy Santiago*

    This is such a delightfully wholesome question. I love it.

    And I don’t personally see anything wrong with this. Unless your company has weirdly strict rules about what you can use sick time for, it’s really all just PTO.

    1. anon for this*

      It’s not all just PTO if your company does not have PTO and has separate sick and vacation leave time balances.
      Our company gives a lot of vacation time and would expect that to be used for something like this, not sick leave.

  4. You're Right*

    OP, I’d like to introduce you to PuppyOP from a couple months ago. The two of you could go into business together.

  5. Josie*

    Just say you aren’t feeling well – I’m SURE you are not, especially when you get the bill! No need to explain.
    Hope you kitty is all better. :-)

    1. KR*

      This is what I’m thinking! And if my kitty is sick I’m going to be no use at work worrying about them.

  6. Ms. Meow*

    I agree with Alison that it will really depend on your company and your manager. I had a similar but slightly different issue: when I travel for work, I have to board my cat. Of the three managers I’ve had, I brought it up to the first two about expending part of it as the cost of travel and was gently (manager 1) then shortly (manager 2) told that it wasn’t going to fly. My new manager started at the beginning of the year, and he actually brought it up to me the most recent time I traveled, as in “Hey, do you board your cat or get a sitter when you travel? I can approve part or all of the expenses depending on how much it is.” My thought is that it never hurts to ask, but definitely go prepared to get denied.

      1. TooTiredToThink*

        I do too! When I had to travel all the time for work; I ended up using my mileage to cover the cost of boarding my dog. It was so frustrating (because there was no real need for me traveling as much as I was, either)

    1. Helena*

      Does your company also pay for care for human dependents when employees go on travel? Because approving it for a cat but not a child seems a little bonkers.

      1. Ms. Meow*

        They do! That’s actually why my manager brought it up. He explicitly didn’t want to equate pet care to child care, but he recognized that I was incurring additional expenses with my business travel and wanted to help.

  7. CatCat*

    If the work hours are fairly flexible and this isn’t a regular thing, do you really need to use any leave at all?

    I mean, if you’re supposed to work “around 40 hours” in a slow week then would 36 hours be sufficiently “around 40 hours”?

      1. nonymous*

        Depends. If OP works 9hr days the rest of the week, she’ll still hit 40. Likewise if she is in an exempt job she could take this as due for accommodating heavy workload in previous weeks.

    1. Peachkins*

      My company is pretty flexible, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable not using some kind of leave for 4 hours. That’s half a day in most cases. 1 or 2 is okay for us (my manager won’t even let me use leave for that amount of time), but we’re also expected to make it up at some point during the week.

      1. valentine*

        I wouldn’t feel comfortable not using some kind of leave for 4 hours. […] we’re also expected to make it up at some point during the week.
        They’re having it both ways.The point of leave is to get paid though you didn’t work. If you’re making it up, are you exempt and obliged to work 42 hours when you’ve used two hours of leave?

        my manager won’t even let me use leave for that amount of time
        What happens if you’re ill or otherwise incapacitated for more than two hours in a given workday or across several workdays and can’t make up the time that week?

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I think you mis-read — the “making it up” is in lieu of using paid leave. Peachkin’s boss doesn’t want them using 1-2 hours of paid leave for an appointment, they can just make up the time over the week. If they took four hours of leave, then no, they’d have worked 36 hours for pay and taken four hours of paid leave.

          1. Peachkins*

            Yes, thank you, that’s what I meant. I would be expected to use leave for a half-day off, but not an hour or two. I can make up the time during the week whenever I want: come in a little earlier, stay a little later, work over my lunch break, whatever. I’m not hourly and we don’t keep time sheets, so my manager just trusts us to work the minimum number of hours we’re supposed to for the week.

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Same. I have a personal appointment next week for which I will be leaving about 2.5 hours earlier than usual. At my org, exempt staff aren’t allowed to take PTO in increments of less than four hours, so I asked my boss – I don’t want to take the PTO if I don’t have to, but that’s also just long enough that I feel weird not doing something about it, how do you want me to handle this one? She said she appreciated my checking in and thanks for giving her the heads-up about leaving early that day, but in general she trusts me to make it good over the course of the week.

      3. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        OP should check their handbook, the company might spell out whether s/he even needs to use leave in this situation. Mine, for example, states that salaried employees shouldn’t use leave if they worked at least 4 hours that day. So if OP was employed here and worked from 8-11, went to the vet from 11-3, and worked from 3-4:30 they wouldn’t need to use any leave.

      4. Emily K*

        My company is similar. PTO can only be taken in half-day increments, and if you take less than half of a half day you aren’t required to use PTO. Presumably you’ll make it up elsewhere in the week, although there’s no strict need to do so as long as you’re getting your work done. We don’t do timesheets, there’s just an understanding of what constitutes a full workweek and the expectation that you’ll work roughly that amount each week, which will include some weeks you work more and some weeks you work less.

    2. cat socks*

      My workplace is very flexible and I have unlimited time off, so I’m thankful it’s easy to take time off for vet appointments.

      One of my cats was part of a clinical trial and later had a lot of health issues so I was at the vet a lot in a six month period. I took my laptop with me and worked remotely while I was in the waiting room.

      Thankfully all five cats now are healthy so I just need to schedule once yearly wellness exams.

  8. YRH*

    Some states have statutes/regulations defining who counts as a family member when using sick leave to take care of someone. I tend to think these are more of a floor rather than a ceiling (i.e. just because your boss is required to give you leave to care for your spouse doesn’t mean they can’t grant it to care for your brother-in-law) but it could be worth looking up.

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        My company has sick and vacation time in one bucket, called PTO. They don’t care why you take it. You can also flex time within the month. Do it for a kid, a spouse, or a pet, doesn’t matter, it’s your right, and you’re encouraged to do so. It’s their work/life balance thing.

        I can’t say enough good things about Booz Allen Hamilton.

  9. The Cosmic Avenger*

    Beyond that … I think some people do use sick leave for pet care but just don’t announce it — they say things like “I have a medical appointment on Thursday” without specifying that it’s a medical appointment for their cat. It’s an iffy approach because if your company doesn’t want you using it that way and they find out, they won’t be thrilled. But some people go that route.

    I think if your employer demands doctor’s notes or otherwise tries to monitor your use of sick leave, then using it for pet health care is a bad idea. If they trust their employees to be responsible adults, then using it for your pets and yourself at a rate that’s within the usual range for just an employee would not raise any concerns or require pre-approval. It’s more about the amount (or lack of) trust and responsibility in the relationship than the actual usage.

  10. Dankar*

    I use my sick time for vet appointments. Never more than twice a year, and never more than a half-day. Many times after vaccinations, the vet requires that I remain home with my dog to monitor, so we do the appointment at 3 and I go home from there.

    Of course, I always schedule my appointments (for pet and human) during our quietest months, so it’s not disruptive.

  11. Roscoe*

    I think this REALLY just depends. I know I’m not always in the majority on this, but I kind of see “sick” leave as a “I can’t come in for whatever reason” leave. I’ve used sick leave to wait for a repairman, when my car wouldn’t start and I had to take it in, or just not feeling like going to the office. I’ve luckily never had a job where they required a doctors note, so as far as I’m concerned, how I’m spending my sick day doesn’t matter. But I’ve learned from this site that some people really think sick leave should only be used when you or a family member is ill or hurt.

    1. Bostonian*

      Oh, this is a good point. Plenty of companies are OK with employees using sick time as “general emergency” time, too.

    2. doreen*

      People think that because there are so many other things an employer could call ” I can’t come in for whatever reason” leave. I could understand taking a sick day because your car wouldn’t start if your employer only gave you “sick leave” and “vacation” and required that vacation be approved X days in advance with no exceptions – at that point, they really aren’t giving you any option other than calling in sick. But my employer gives a lot of leave, of all different types ( vacation, sick, personal , floating holidays) and is very clear that sick leave is meant for medical reasons (illness, injury or appointment) – and I still know people who feel that they are entitled to take sick days to go to the beach.

    3. Professional Pup*

      This is why I wish culture would shift a little faster to calling it “personal leave” instead of sick leave. If “annual leave” or “paid vacation” is meant (operative word here) to be used as dedicated time away from the office to relax and refresh yourself, I think it makes sense to have a separate bank of “when life happens” leave. For illness and doctor’s appointments, sure, but also when I’ve got to wait for the repair man, or take my car to the shop, or take my dog to the vet. That means annual leave/vacation can be used for its intended purpose, and things somewhat or completely out of your control that prevent you from being in the office can come out of a different place. I feel like that’s the operative difference – annual leave should be planned, and for the most part, sick/personal leave isn’t, or its inevitable stuff that usually can’t get done outside of work hours – teeth cleanings, annual physicals, etc.

      I’m lucky that my office culture is such where I don’t need to prove what I was doing with my sick leave (and personally, I think it’s ridiculous that any workplace would require a doctor’s note to take a sick day, especially when you consider that not everyone wants or can afford to pay their copay, or perhaps they don’t have insurance, or whatever).

      1. Jedi Squirrel*

        Agreed. My company calls it “paid time off” and you can use it as sick leave, mental health days, buy new tires day, leave 2 hours early and sit in a bar…the choice is up to you.

      2. Baru Cormorant*

        Interesting! I wouldn’t mind a shift from “when you’re sick vs. everything else” to “for life stuff that’s not fun vs. vacation and fun stuff”.

    4. Consultant Catie*

      Totally agreed with the way you use sick leave. My job lumps all PTO together in the same bucket, but my husband’s gives him separate sick and vacation time. He basically ends up using those two buckets like “unscheduled absence” (sick leave, even if it’s a mental health day or something else) and “scheduled absence” (planned vacation leave).

      One thing to note is that this is definitely different between white collar jobs and blue collar jobs, at least in my experience. In the blue-collar jobs I held for years, calling out sick always required a doctor’s note. If you had to call out unexpectedly for a pet emergency, I think about 90% of the managers I had in those jobs would probably write you up for something like that. However, in my Big 4 firm, one of my analysts is using unscheduled PTO for the whole day today to care for a sick pet, and it’s totally fine.

    5. Shiny carvanha*

      In most places I’ve worked (albeit in the U.K.) we get sick leave and special leave. Sick leave is for me being sick. Special leave is for kids being sick, or domestic emergencies, or doctors appountments, or jury service – these are all specific categories with their own maximums. It’s always worked well for me.

  12. OtterB*

    Agree it depends on your organization. At ours, we have a bank of sick/personal time that’s separate from vacation. It’s usuable for our own illnesses or appointments and family illnesses but also for the administrative stuff of life – renewing your driver’s license, parent-teacher meetings, etc. Taking a pet to the vet would clearly fall under that.

    1. Hey nonny nonny*

      We have the same, to be used at manager’s discretion. Some are fine with it, some it’s like pulling teeth to allow you to use it.

  13. fortheloveofspreadsheets*

    I do this all the time, I just say I have to go to a medical appointment, no lie necessary. My boss is aware but doesn’t question it.

  14. Jennifer*

    I don’t get sick time, just PTO. I have definitely used PTO for vet appointments for my dog. I just say, “I have an appointment.” It’s true. I do.

    1. NW Mossy*

      This is one of the advantages of a PTO bank – how you use it matters much less. One of my employees lost a pet earlier this year and took PTO to deal with both the immediate medical crisis and his bereavement after, and under a PTO system, no one bats an eye.

      These days, the only reason we still notate if PTO was used for sick time is to demonstrate that we’re in compliance with state/local laws about paid sick time. However, those laws typically specify that the time is for the illness of a human person, rather than an animal.

      1. Jennifer*

        That’s true. I know many won’t agree but that’s why I actually prefer just having everything in a PTO bank.

        1. Chelle*

          The main reason I don’t like it is for people with medical issues that require ongoing treatment whose workplaces won’t allow them to flex their schedule. I have a friend who is on this system, so she’s required to burn through not just all her sick time, but *also* all her vacation time, before she can qualify for intermittent FMLA–which means, in essence, that she’s never allowed to take vacation.

          1. fposte*

            It’s pretty common for employers to require paid vacation time be used for FMLA even when it’s not in the same bucket, though.

            1. sunny-dee*

              Yeah, mine does this. I think overall they’re pretty generous and flexible with leave, but you have to use up your PTO before you can go on FMLA (or other extended medical leave). They only recently changed the maternity leave policy; the PTO rule used to apply to maternity leave, too, but now it doesn’t.

              1. VelociraptorAttack*

                Is this before even allowing FMLA or before allowing unpaid FMLA?

                Someone correct me if I’m wrong but they can’t require you to use PTO (of any sort) before FMLA.

                However, an employer definitely can require you to use PTO while on FMLA. When I was on maternity leave I had to use my sick leave (and vacation leave, in separate buckets) before I could do unpaid FMLA if needed. I ended up taking the full 12 weeks and had 2 days that were technically unpaid.

                1. A day at the zoo*

                  Yes it is in the federal FMLA refs that paid vacation can be mandated to be used before unpaid FMLA. It is very common.

                2. Aitch Arr*

                  FMLA is the type of leave, not how you get paid.

                  So FMLA would run concurrently with any Disability payments or PTO.

                  Generally, companies will require that employees who are not eligible for Disability use their paid leave (PTO/vacation/sick) before taking the time unpaid. FMLA is still going regardless.

          2. NW Mossy*

            Sounds like that might also be an issue with how vacation time accrues at her company. If she gets it all in a lump at the start of the year, then I’d expect this outcome – no ability to take vacation.

            However, if it’s a “you accrue X hours each pay period” system, that opens the option for a middle path where they can expect you to take what you’ve accrued but not what you will accrue in the future. I know this is how it worked when I took a mid-year maternity leave – I had to take accrued PTO, but would then accrue more once I got back so I wasn’t completely hosed.

          3. Willow*

            It is very common to require any PTO, even if in separate banks, to be used before unpaid time off is going to be used.

        2. CheeryO*

          The issue with that is that it encourages people to come to work sick to save their PTO for actual vacation/enjoyable time off.

          1. NW Mossy*

            I make no particular advocacy for a PTO system over a vacation/sick system; both have pros and cons. It’s my general impression that PTO systems attract more dislike than vacation/sick for the reason you cite, but no hard data to back it.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I have the same thing, but that’s a bit different and every company is different. PTO is for time off regardless of the reason. Some companies split it into vacation and sick time, some put sick time/personal time together, and I’m sure there are many other variations. It definitely depends on how strict the company/OP’s manager is about what the time is used for…I worked at a job that split vacation and sick time. I was near the end of the year and had no vacation time left, but plenty of sick time. I asked my manager if I could use a sick day to go Christmas shopping and he was fine with it.

  15. 4Sina*

    I’m so mad that I never considered this; I usually schedule appointments for my cats at the clinic close to my house for 8 am and we’re out by 830, allowing me to get to work on time at 9, but there’s been a couple of emergencies where I missed a good amount of the workday dealing with plugged urinary tracts and sliced toe beans (I STILL don’t know exactly what happened there! Cats, man). I do like the general advice of keeping the situation vague, unless you know your workplace will understand the exact details. Thanks for submitting this question – hopefully it helps a lot of other pet parents!

    1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      I’ve caught my cat licking the cheese grater in the sink for bits of residual cheese, so sliced toe beans makes perfect sense to me. Cats will cat!

      1. Quill*

        I don’t know how anyone cares for a cat without going insane, my dog got in enough trouble (cut paws, cut an ear on a wire fence and it looked like a slasher film, etc.) to drive me up a wall, but given that he was a labrador he would just lay there and look sheepish while taking first aid like a champ. Can’t imagine trying to treat a cut on a cat’s paw when the cat isn’t the cuddly sort to begin with.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          It’s the same for lots of animals. Example: we had a horse come in (from the baby pasture, she was an adult mare that was there as a calm babysitter figure for the yearlings – but the pasture was baby-proofed!) with half her eyelid hanging off. Totally lackadaisical, didn’t see any signs of pain, very personable as usual for her….but half. an. eyelid.!!!

          We never did figure out what she caught it on. But she was in love with the vet, who was just as flabbergasted as we were, so the stitches went really well (and the ointments that were required daily afterwards). You could barely see the scar.

          I have 100% used a couple hours of sick leave for my horse when he’s needed his teeth floated. I was very up front with my boss, who was totally fine with it. But our culture is more of the “use sick leave for any emergency” type thing, so YMMV.

    2. Miss V*

      My poor kitty had a blocked urethra last October. I ended up taking him to the ER vet at eleven at night on a Monday where he had a catheter inserted and spent the night and then got taken to his regular vet the next morning to stay two more nights.

      I sent my manager an email that night letting her know I’d be in late because my regular vet didn’t open until an hour after I start work. I felt so lucky when I checked my email that morning and she had emailed back and told me that if I needed to take the whole day off she completely understood, but if I wanted to come in to take my time and that I could use PTO or simply make up the hours I missed.

      My kitty has since recovered wonderfully, is back to being king of the house, and I’m forever grateful to have a boss who understand how important he is to me and never bats an eye when I need time off/to leave early/come in late for him.

  16. BRR*

    If I were you LW, I would probably do it and not say it’s for the vet. But with some considerations. I would do it if it’s not often and if you don’t suddenly need to start taking a lot of sick time for yourself. I wouldn’t do it if you think your manager would strongly disapprove and possibly if I might run into someone.

    1. BRR*

      And to add, I would use everything you mentioned to justify it to myself but would not try and use it to get formal approval.

  17. AnotherKate*

    So. Why would they “find out”? Don’t advertise it and no one needs to know.

    My answer would be different if OP had taken a bunch of sick time already, but they haven’t. A lot of places don’t pay it out if you leave, so not using it only benefits the company. Use your time. Use it for your cat, use it when you just Can’t and need a mental health day, use it to play hooky once a year. It’s yours to use as you see fit; unless your company has a punitive “doctor’s note” policy (ew), you should be able to just…take it. Script for boss/payroll person: “I had to take 4 hours of sick time last week Tuesday.”

    1. Yorick*

      Well, they’ll find out because she likely told them why she was out for 4 hours, so if she uses 4 hours of sick time to cover it and that’s not ok, the manager will know.

      1. AnotherKate*

        That’s fair. In general I keep my office on a real “need to know” basis. However, when my dog needed emergency surgery a few years ago, I told my boss and he had no problem with the fact that I had to leave for the day at midday. We also have a laid back unlimited sick/vacation policy, so it wasn’t like I had to account for exact hours missed or anything like that.

        I do think going forward for the OP, it’s wise to just keep “appointments” vague so if they do want to use the PTO, they can. It’s a benefit she is entitled to, not some gift the company offers that should only be used under the most dire of personal health crises.

    2. Colorado*

      I would do it but not disclose the details. “I’m taking 4 hours of sick time today for an appointment” is sufficient. No need to overshare anyway. I don’t tell my boss what my appointment’s are specifically related to, and I work face to face with him in an office. I like Wannabe Disney Princess response, “shit happens days”. I also work in the private sector for a company that is not overbearing where we are treated as adults and something like a sick day is not questioned. I’m also a huge believer that we need to take better care of ourselves and not sacrifice our life to our jobs. So in the grand scheme of things, will (quietly) taking 4 hours of sick time to take your cat to the vet really matter?

    3. Washi*

      I’m from a rural area where there would be a 50% chance of seeing your boss’s neighbor’s boyfriend at the vet…but in any reasonably large area, I agree that it’s quite unlikely anyone would find out. If it was only a couple times a year, I would shamelessly use sick time and just say it was an appointment.

  18. LCL*

    This would be technically a violation of our sick leave policy. Of course people do it, and of course I expect them to do it. Just call and say you are feeling ill and calling in sick. I won’t give you any grief about it. An employee who is all worried about their pet going through something isn’t able to work safely anyway.

  19. MaryAnne Spier*

    I’ve done it. They don’t ask me when I’m taking sick time what it’s for. I just log into the system and click “sick day” and take the day off. I had a cat who lived to be 16 and there were times in her last few years that we needed to do that. I am also someone who hardly ever takes time off for myself so nobody asked me for any documentation. They really only start doing that if you abuse it.

    1. Clisby*

      Agree. I’ve never worked anywhere that technically allowed people to take sick leave to look after their children, much less pets – but obviously, people did it.

  20. Samwise*

    Just ask. The worst they can say is “no.” Then you can use your annual or vacation leave or other PTO.

    At my job, I’ve had supervisors say, sick leave is just for you, the employee. ; if you want to take your family member to a medical appt, use annual leave. Others have said, family member med appts = sick leave is fine. Pet to vet: annual leave; some have said, annual leave or flex your hours.

    1. Moray*

      In some workplaces, the worst thing they can say isn’t “no.” It’s “no” followed by rampant gossip about this person who thought she should be able to use sick leave for her cat, is she one of those weirdos who think their pet is literally their child, etc. I have worked at one of those toxic offices–if you weren’t one of the in-crowd, anything you did even slightly out of the norm was fuel for gossip and speculation. A lot of my “sick” time went to hunting desperately for another position, and I don’t feel bad about it.

  21. Lucette Kensack*

    One thing that reading Ask a Manager has made me realize is that I’m a sick time hardliner. I’m constantly surprised by how many people use (or want to use) sick time for things other than being sick.

    This seems so obvious to me: Taking a pet to the vet is a cause for vacation/personal time — or, ideally, a flexible schedule that allows you to catch up on work after the vet visit. Sick time is for managing and maintaining your health (and that of your family).

    (I’m an animal nut, I’m unreasonably in love with my dog, I foster puppies. I have “pet mom” cred. I just think this is ridiculous.)

    1. Jamie*

      For many people their pets are a part of their family which makes it a reasonable question.

      As Alison pointed out it may not be allowed, but it’s certainly not ridiculous for her to write in and ask for advice about it.

      1. valentine*

        Taking a pet to the vet is a cause for vacation/personal time
        As an employer, I wouldn’t care who employees used their sick time to care for. The rule should be health-related/illness/appointment, not species/relationship. I doubt anyone would use it to skive, but if so, we should push for basic income and highe pay so they can choose caregiving as a career.

      2. Clisby*

        However, at some companies, sick leave is not meant to cover care for human family members either – that’s what annual leave/FMLA are for. Sick leave is meant strictly for the employee.

    2. Lance*

      I think calling it ‘ridiculous’ might be a bit much, especially since you seem to be suggesting that sick leave would be okay with children/family (of the human variety) otherwise? At least, going by your ‘and that of your family’ point.

      I get that there’s a difference — pets don’t speak, they’re shorter-lived, they’re not ‘true’ members of the family in many people’s (in general; not saying yours) eyes — but I don’t think there’s necessarily that much of a difference.

    3. ElizabethJane*

      I guess the question would be “What’s the material difference in impact to the company if I take my dog to the vet and I’m out for 4 hours or if I take my daughter to the pediatrician and I’m out for 4 hours?”

      I mean realistically the answer is nothing. Both of them are medical appointments by someone with MANY years of schooling, and they’re resulting in the same amount of time out of the office.

      1. Lucette Kensack*

        But there’s also not a material difference to the company if you take your daughter to the pediatrician and are therefore out for 4 hours, or if you catch a flight to Bora Bora on a Friday afternoon and are therefore out for four hours, and yet we still count those differently.

        1. Lucette Kensack*

          (Unless, of course, a company uses combined PTO rather than split sick and vacation. By keeping the pools separate the company is making clear that they expect them to be used differently.)

          1. Aurion*

            Sick leave is for health emergencies and preventative care of health related issues, that’s the delineation. If I take my mother to the emergency room on zero notice, I’d use sick leave, and my boss would definitely look at that request through a different lens than if I were to request my taking a day off to sun myself at the beach with zero notice. The material difference to the company in both scenarios is nothing; both would be last-minute leave requests. But the intent would be very different.

            If OP has the sick leave to cover it, I really don’t see much difference between an urgent visit to the vet for her cat vs my theoretical urgent visit to the ER/cardiologist for my mother.

        2. Arielle*

          I actually think that really, really depends on the company. Where I work no one would think twice if someone said either, “I will be leaving at 1 PM on Friday to catch my flight” or “I will be in at noon after my cat’s vet appointment.”

          1. Lucette Kensack*

            Right, mine either. But I think, almost anywhere, folks would look at you askance if you said “I’m taking sick leave on Friday because I need to leave at noon to catch my flight to Bora Bora.”

        3. ElizabethJane*

          Presumably the material difference is the notice that you give your company. Now, I know there are people who will prove me wrong but *most* of us don’t up and decide at 7 on Friday morning to fly to Bora Bora at noon. This theoretical flight could be planned in advance and therefore PTO.

          “I need to take my cat to the emergency vet” and “Oh crap my toddler has a weird rash” could both arise at 7 and require leave at noon.

          I actually have no skin in this game – my company just has a PTO bank but generally I’ve thought of PTO as “I’m planning to be out” and sick time as “Wasn’t planning on it but I need to be out”.

          1. Lucette Kensack*

            Yeah, that’s what this thread is leading me to as well: planned vs. unplanned being the relevant distinction.

      2. logicbutton*

        There isn’t one, really – the main difference between the two is that it’s easier to convince a boss that it’s smart to give employees time to take care of their kids because the kids are the company’s potential future customers and employees.

    4. JSQ*

      I think I’m a vacation time hardliner. My agency has vacation time and personal time. To me it’s obvious that vacation time is for planned rest and fun. Appointments and errands are not vacation. I would use my personal time for a vet appointment without blinking, not that my employer would ask me for an explanation beyond “I need to take a few personal hours.”

      1. Snack Management*

        This is exactly where I fall – requiring use of vacation time for anything that isn’t “you or your child is sick” means less true recharging time for employees. I would much rather see someone take sick leave for a vet apt than skip that much needed mental health day or cut into a vacation.

      2. LOLWHAT*

        I find your comment so interesting! Why do you think it matters if someone is using their time off for planned fun or just a stay-cation catching up around the house? Does your office offer a lot of personal leave? I am probably biased as I am in the young non profit/social service world where vacations are often used just to prevent burn out, or sadly secretly used while people work their side jobs.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          I think you’re misreading the comment. The key difference is Planned vs Unplanned, not specifically what you’re doing.

          1. LOLWHAT*

            But what if someone takes planned vacation days but doesn’t go anywhere and just catches up on errands/appointments (or work their side jobs). I was reading it as taking planned time but not to relax.

        2. JSQ*

          What Detective Amy Santiago said. I’m also in social services. Vacation time is rest time (that includes staycations). It’s not for doctor appointments or waiting for the AC repair person. We get a personal day per month, and that time rolls over if we don’t use it. Vacation time depends on how long you’ve been with the agency, but it’s use it or lose it each year.

          1. LOLWHAT*

            Ahh well that is a lot of personal days my current organization gives two a year and all of my past jobs gave zero. I was reading it as people shouldn’t be taking planned time off if they aren’t planning on an actual vacation but instead going to use it for other things, which to me does not make sense.

    5. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Ordinarily I would agree with you, but one of the things about sick leave (in a few places I’ve worked, anyway) is that it’s not planned. As in, you may use vacation or personal time for an annual exam, but what happens if you wake up and the dog has barfed everywhere? That’s when I think sick leave is justified, especially if your workplace has a policy that personal leave has to be approved well in advance. Granted, where I work it wouldn’t matter– I would just take the dog in and get my work done later– but I can see why it comes up.

      1. Lucette Kensack*

        Yeah, I think you’re right that the relevant difference is optional/planned vs. necessary/unplanned (regardless of the cause). It’s reasonable for employers to want to limit unplanned leave to times when it is necessary (illness, family emergency, broke-down car, etc.) and be more generous or flexible with planned leave.

        (Which may argue in favor of using “sick time” — if you just think of that as “unplanned leave” rather than actual “sick time” — for an unplanned vet visit!)

    6. fposte*

      I’ve done a 180 on this–I used to be a hardliner, and I’ve shifted to “if there’s no difference in the effect on the employer, who cares?” It’s a problem if somebody takes too much time off and discommodes co-workers due to timing or ends up in the red, but otherwise, I can use that part of my brain for other things.

      1. Lucette Kensack*

        Are you comfortable with employees taking unplanned “sick leave” for any reason, then? (Like — I decided to go to the State Fair today and I’d rather use sick time than use up a vacation day that would other pay out when I leave.)

        1. Lissa*

          I think any time a specific reason is attached, things get iffy because someone has to decide what’s a “good enough” reason. Even the “family” restriction can be hard – I’m not an animal person, have little family, but I have good friends; would it be OK to take a medical day off for one of them even though we’re not related? I’m not arguing one way or another just that I feel like it gets difficult any time someone has to make that call for what’s “good enough”.
          There’s also the problem where lots of people will understand taking a cat or dog to the vet but if you have a fish or a bird or a hamster don’t quite see it the same way.

          I’m more comfortable with not requiring reasons but I get that there’s also issues with that because someone like me who rarely gets sick ends up being able to use personal days for awesome things, and then someone else has to save up all their personal time for inevitable medical situations.
          So I don’t know, but I think it’s complicated anyway.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            If I had to take a friend or a roommate to the ER some morning I would use sick leave. To me, sick leave == dealing with emergencies, by definition unplanned.

            OTOH, I will use a vacation day if I have a ton of appointments scheduled on a day.

      2. Tomato Frog*

        Yep, I also turned around on this. In well-run work place, limited leave policies should be a moot point because employees are adults who can judge what’s necessary to do the job and managers are capable of drawing lines with those who don’t get it. If my excellent staff is getting their jobs done and meeting their obligations to their employer, why should I care if they take a sick day to take their cat or nurse a hangover or go surfing? I think it’s pretty paternalistic to think it’s any of your business if it doesn’t actually affect your business.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          This is my stance, too. It took me a long time to get there, but I did finally. If someone tells me they’re taking a day off, it doesn’t matter to me what the reason is as long as they’re not abusing the policy; I don’t even ask them the reason for the time off.

          OP, next time just put in for the PTO time. No need to tell your boss why you’re taking it, unless your boss is the type who requires the reason.

        2. Washi*

          Same. It might help to think of it as a retention and morale thing – people are happier and more productive when they feel like they have some control over their schedules and can use sick/personal time the way they see fit, as long as the work gets done.

        3. Jasper*

          That whole “as long as the job gets done” is great for salaried employees, but it doesn’t work at all for lower level employees. When the job is working an assembly line or answering support calls or what have you, then by definition the job *isn’t* getting done when you’re not there, no matter how adult you are about it.

          And you still need to use vacation and sick leave as needed.

          1. Tomato Frog*

            Right, I don’t think this affects my premise at all. Everyone needs sick leave when they need it. Everyone should be able to take vacation. Doesn’t mean you need an arbitrarily-set amount of sick leave and vacation that they can’t go over. Just means managers actually have to pay attention to coverage, and, as I said, draw the line when the the business can’t take it.

    7. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      Some organizations only allow vacation to be used in full-day increments or require 2 weeks notice. What is OP supposed to do, just take it unpaid?

    8. LCL*

      I understand what you are saying. In my work group the workaround is necessary, because unlike the rest of the company, we strongly discourage last minute vacation requests. I phrase it as ‘sick leave is a kind of leave that management can’t interfere with. You don’t ask us for sick time, you tell us, and I appreciate the courtesy of advanced notice though I understand why it isn’t always possible.’ So yeah, vacation leave would be preferred but allowing last minute vacation requests for non emergencies for shift workers spins out of control really fast.

    9. Maeve*

      I had a cat who had to have pretty frequent visits to her regular vet and to a cardiologist for a few years, plus I had to pick up medication for her across town on a regular basis. I had PTO, not sick time/vacation time, but that seems like a really reasonable use of sick time to me–time needed to manage the health care of my dependent, which sometimes was planned ahead and sometimes was urgent.

    10. Curmudgeon in California*

      So, if my pet is sick, I’m worried sick. Better I take sick time to deal with my distracting level of worry than try to “schedule” vacation which isn’t really vacation.

      OTOH, I’m exempt, so unless I’m out for more than four hours, or the mental load is just too much, I’ll just make up the hours (or subtract them from the extra I worked in the last three weeks).

      As long as I get my stuff done and amn able to dial in to my meetings, my boss is mellow like that.

  22. SheLooksFamiliar*

    I think many companies adopted the PTO bank for this very reason. It doesn’t matter if you’re sick, or someone important to you is, or if you need a day off, you just take the day and are done with it.

    As others have said, a lot depends on the organization. I once took a sick day for a doctor’s appointment, needed some tests for a new condition, and got called out by our HR Manager. She was marking it as a vacation day, since I technically was not sick. My boss backed her on it, so it must have been A Big Deal.

    1. Arielle*

      Wow. Everywhere I’ve ever worked, medical appointments count explicitly as sick time. I mean, what is “sick” by their definition? I took off two days last year for gum surgery – I required medical attention and recovery but was not technically sick. Would that not count as sick time?

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        I thought the same thing, and re-checked our sick leave policy after I got dinged. It wasn’t specific about doctor’s appointments and I assumed it wouldn’t be an issue. To me, doctor involvement equals sick time. My employer obviously disagreed.

        I’ve also worked for Fortune 50 companies that didn’t make a big deal out of how my time off was applied., so there’s that. Not everyone is weird about time off.

        1. Arielle*

          That is just extremely strange! I suppose the argument would be that sick time should only be used for unscheduled time off, not something scheduled like a doctor’s appointment, but I would sure be upset if someone told me that time off for a surgery counted towards my vacation.

    2. atalanta0jess*

      Ugh, yuck!! My work places have always explicitly defined this. I take openly take a sick day twice a year to bring myself and my whole family to the dentist.

  23. Bagpuss*

    This may be a UK / USA thing, but where I am, in the UK, this would be a huge ‘no’ – using sick leave when you are not actually ill would be the sort of thing which could get you sacked in a lot of places.
    (This may well tie in with the fact that there is a legal right to paid leave and it is typically more generous than in the US!)

    So I would say only do this if ou have been told explicitly by your manager that it is OK.

    That said, if your time is fairly fexible I would suggest using that flexibility, rather than requestingit as sick or other time.

    (And can confirm that, at least where I work, we would typically accommodate a request to be flexible on time for something like this, as we would for somthing like going with a partner or child to a nn-emergency medical appointment, rather than making someone use holiday time for it.)
    But lying about being sick? Hard no.

    1. Yorick*

      In many companies, “sick” time isn’t just for when you’re actually sick. It’s also for preventative medical appointments and for taking care of family members who are sick.

      1. Yorick*

        And so my point was that using sick time for appointments doesn’t really mean that you’re “lying about being sick.”

      2. Jasper*

        Yeah, that’s… not the case in Europe (at least not the parts I’m familiar with). Sick time is for when *you* are sick, and it is unlimited and paid (if you have the shitty temporary type of contract, they are allowed to not pay you the first two days of an episode, if they want to be shirty about it, but anything after is paid by law). It is very much not for your dependents. It is *definitely* not for going to the beach or watching the Big Game (here, that would be the European Championship or World Championship soccer games when NL is playing, rather than Superb Owl, but whatever). People have been fired for calling in sick when they’re not sick, and such Big Game days have in the past led to companies hiring private investigators to gather proof on their ‘sick’ employees (I have to imagine more pour encourager les autres than because it’s worthwhile to hire someone to go after 1 particular fraudulent day off).

        It’s also not for (your own) doctor’s appointments, TTBOMK, it certainly isn’t in my job.

        That said, there is a) a lot more vacation time, minimum 4 weeks a year in NL, and b) there’s a lot more types of leave than just sick and vacation.

    2. Liane*

      Yes, it’s a US vs UK thing, since there’s no federal law requiring any sort of PTO, not even FMLA (which is why, even though it is a law, it’s often partly/totally unpaid). As a couple commenters have mentioned, some states do mandate paid sick time.
      Also, it IS common for US companies that do have sick leave to allow it to be used for medical appointments as well as injury/illness, and to use it when you are caring for a close family member who has one.

      Still, using it for an animal (says the besotted Lab mom) is a “Know your company/boss” or “Ask & be prepared to be told no”

    3. londonedit*

      Definitely agree that in my (UK) experience, taking sick time when you’re not actually sick is a big no-no. Sick leave is for when you’re actually ill, and it would be quite a big deal if you were found to be taking time off ‘sick’ when there was nothing wrong with you. But then again, while I know there are employers that are ridiculously inflexible with things like appointments (I have heard of people being asked to use holiday allowance/take unpaid leave for doctor’s appointments) in my experience most employers are reasonable, and are happy to be flexible about people coming in late/leaving early for appointments, or allowing people to work from home if they have an appointment in the middle of the day.

      1. londonedit*

        (And generally that flexibility would cover anything from doctor’s appointments to vet visits to needing to wait in because your boiler’s broken and someone’s coming to fix it).

    4. Bagpuss*

      Yes, that’s partly why I did flag up where I am and that it may make a difference. I’m aware that what is covered seems to include things whichwoukdl not be covered here.

      But I think that even with that, I think that askingfirst is the best policy, becuase otherwise you are at risk of management taking the view that you have lied about the time off – if they chose to interpret the normal position as ‘sick leave includes caring for a family member who is sick’ then if their view is that ‘family member’ doesn’t include petes, then from their perspective, you can been seen as having lied about what the leave is for. if you ask and they are happy to class the pet as a family member then you are fine, and not at risk of them later finding out and being very unhappy about it!

      As a mamanger, i would be more concerd about an employee lying or deliberately concealing details to mislead, than I would about the 4 hours.

      (Here, sick leave s for when you are sick, (You would normally be expected to use annual leave (paid) or emergency leave for dependents (unpaid) for caring for a family member. Preventative / routine appointments vary by employer but are not automatically classsed as something you can use sick leave for. Where I work, the policy is that you should aim to schudule them in your own time wherever possible, and as close to the start or end of the work day as you can if not, to minimise the time you are out, and then if it is less than 1/2 a day you aren’t required to use leave. Technically, policy does allow for people being requiredf to make up time tkane for appointmens but in reality, it would only be an issue of there were larger concerns about their work or cocerns that they were not being honest about the time they were missing!)

    5. MMB*

      I would have to say that it’s very much an employer dependent thing in the US. 20 years ago, I worked for a large well known insurance company here in the US. We were in a smaller mid-sized city and if you called in sick the company nurse would actually GO TO YOUR HOUSE to see if you were there and actually sick! This is in no way an exaggeration. They actually made a point of telling you this during orientation. Sure enough, I called in sick one day when I was pregnant and she showed up at my house just as I was leaving to get some medicine or sprite or something at the store!

  24. Celeste*

    Your org is the key. For the government offices I’ve worked for, that would need to come from vacation, personal, or flex time. They track sick differently, and should you get low on sick leave and get on a list for pattern of abuse, it really helps if you can point HR to medical appointments under your insurance. I know this wasn’t anything like what the OP described. My experience has been that sick time is available but if you use all that they offer, you had better be able to justify it for medical use. I agree with the advice to ask, but be open to a denial.

    1. Half-Caf Latte*

      it really helps if you can point HR to medical appointments under your insurance.

      WHAT?! This seems so bonkers to me. I’d really push back on being asked to prove illness specifically via insurance records. Invasive of privacy, obviously, but also impractical. Plenty of people don’t have insurance through their employer, and plenty of conditions don’t require appointments for every flare up.

      I recently got asked after a 3-day illness for a note, and told after the fact that employer had a note policy for illnesses of 3+ days. It wasn’t anything that needed a doctor, just something that needed to run it’s course (and be kept out of waiting rooms full of sick people). I’m still annoyed by this policy- how much fraud can it really prevent, and it literally costs my employer for me to get the note.

      1. Jasper*

        Here in the Netherlands, doctors are not allowed to give notes. Like, at all. If the employer wants a doctor to look at you, they need to hire a different, independent MD to do it, not load up your relationship with *your* doctor with interceding in a workplace conflict.

  25. Chelle*

    At my job this is explicitly allowed, as in it’s in our handbook that we can use sick time to care for pets. And since we very rarely allow WFH (despite there being no reason we couldn’t), I’m grateful for it.

  26. Emi.*

    The private sector is the wild west, man. I’m a fed and I have very explicit rules about whom I’m allowed to use family-friendly sick leave for. Also there’s a different charge number for FFSL than for your own SL.

    1. big X*

      The reason for this is simple in that the federal government is funded with other people’s money. They have to be stricter or public harrumphing is on the horizon.

      In this case especially, as many people go as far as to be offended when someone calls their pet a ‘fur-baby’ despite there literally being nothing to be offended about – emotional attachment is what you have to family and people can form that with a pet. It sounds silly to me as I was raised that pets are pets (never had any, which also probably contributes to this) but I have friends who absolutely love their animals to a parental degree & I would say these dogs/cats/birds/whatever are family to them.

      1. Jasper*

        Pet is a pet, and the name “fur baby” might be going a bit far, but you’ll notice that almost everyone using that sort of thing does not have actual children to compare with.

        Regardlesss, though, a pet is a dependent just as a child is. You take on certain responsibilities when you get a pet, both legal (animal cruelty laws) and moral (because seriously).

    2. nonymous*

      Yeah, I think it absolutely depends on how the sick leave bank is funded. With a single PTO bank the way unpaid amounts are handled on a company’s balance sheet is a little different (b/c it will be paid out eventually) than a separate sick leave account (where only some % < 100 is paid out eventually). Gov and orgs with a strong union presence have extra math b/c unused sick leave can contribute to pension amounts. And some orgs may even have some kind of insurance policy that funds their sick leave payouts. Between us, hubs and I have seen every one of these scenarios over the last decade.

      There's a whole branch of actuarial science that deals with how different strategies for accounting for sick leave affects the balance sheet.

      1. Middle Manager*

        State government- also have these rules. And personal/vacation leave and sick leave definitely have separate policies around them. Not only at the end of your career, for us at the end of the year too. You can only carry over a certain amount of personal/vacation, but you can carry over all your sick days.

        I get that a lot of people don’t agree with being so rigid, but I’ve got to push back on just the standardization of lying about sick leave use. I know TONS of people do it, but I think it’s fundamentally unethical to be lying to your boss. If you don’t want to work in a place that has strict leave policies, okay. But if you chose to work there, I don’t love casually lying as a solution. I’ve had employees who’ve done it and were bad at hiding it (i.e. loudly discussing their mini getaway in an open office) and I found out. It really undermined my overall trust in them. If your boss is at all reasonable, I think honest is a much better policy even if you end up with a little extra unused sick time.

        1. nonymous*

          It totally make sense to put hard limits about usage when the sick leave allowances are generous. The idea being that if you are basically healthy, you will only use a small fraction (and get a bonus at retirement), but if you need it for catastrophic long-term illness (think multiple major reconstructive surgeries, a particularly tricky cancer scenario or a chronic condition), it is available. I have 500+ hrs of sick leave banked right now and that will let me bridge the transition to disability, if I ever need to.

          The problem is that this model breaks down if everyone uses it at 100%, like we expect to use vacation or a single PTO bank.

          And as a country we don’t have a good framework around the idea that Karen is getting paid 100% salary when she’s out for 12 weeks, while Fergus doesn’t touch his sick leave (and possibly picks up extra work from the short-staffing). Is that a fair and equal compensation? I’d argue it’s a more communal philosophy than our current workplace narrative encourages, and a difficult issue to address with a heterogeneous workforce.

    3. Catsaber*

      This is true for me as well, I work for a state university. I can use sick leave for taking care of human family members but have to use vacation for anything and everything else. Sometimes I wish we had a single PTO bucket, but it’s probably because vacation leave is tied to your state service and increased with each service milestone reached.

  27. MK*

    Using sick time for anything other than you or your child being actually ill would be a huge no in my org. But we have some lexibility with another kind of time of, which you can use for taking care of a parent/spouse, going to medical appointments, etc. I think using that for a sick pet might fly, but the seriousness bar would actually be higher, e.g. it would probably be ok to use it if your pet is getting surgery, but not for something non-urgent or that could be scheduled for non-work hours, and definitely not for regular vet visits.

  28. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    When I was hired, my manager told me they view sick days as “shit happens days”. Dog throws up? Take a sick day. Water heater breaks? Take a sick day. Got rear-ended and your car is in the shop? Take a sick day.

    So in the case of my office, it’d be totally fine to use sick time to take your cat to the vet. But it’s DEFINITELY a know-your-office thing.

    1. CM*

      I LOVE the idea of “shit happens days” instead of sick days. I wish every workplace would adopt this policy! There are so many times when you’re completely distracted by something urgent with your home or pet or car or whatever, and taking that as vacation time feels like adding insult to injury.

      1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

        It’s pretty awesome. He even stressed that everyone is an adult and that he doesn’t need a play by play. Just let him know that you’re taking a sick day. (Unless you can take care of it and be to work no more than 90 minutes late – then it doesn’t count as anything at all.)

      2. JustMyImagination*

        One of the few times I cried at work was when they made me use a vacation day the day after my purse had been stolen instead of a sick day. I spent the day cancelling cards, getting new keys and all the other things that went into it. It definitely added insult to injury.

      3. EddieSherbert*

        This is how I view it (unplanned emergency = sick day). And I love that your manager was explicit about it; those “shit happens days” are the kind of days when that sort of understanding is needed and extra appreciated!

  29. Quill*

    My mom did take pto when our dog had his final illness, and my dad (exempt at the time) just up and came home. I don’t know what I personally would have done if I hadn’t been job hunting at the time, but as it was, it took two grown women to get our dog into the car.

    I’d say most places are probably going to allow it so long as you don’t go around talking about how it’s for your pet rather than “a family member.”

  30. AJK*

    I had this issue pop up just a few weeks ago when my dog got sick. I took vacation time, rather than sick time, but my job is flexible and generous with both. (And my dog is fully recovered, which is the best part!)
    In the past I’ve usually tried to use vacation time, in jobs where there’s a difference between sick time and vacation time. In jobs where they put all PTO in one bucket I don’t think it matters as much.
    One of my cats became very ill while I was working at a temp job with no paid time off, and I called in and told them exactly what was going on. I was fully aware of the possibility that they might end the assignment and I wasn’t going to get paid, but I took the risk because she was so sick – she passed away later that afternoon. In the end, however, everyone at the company where I worked was very sympathetic and there were no issues. I don’t know if it makes a difference that it was a six month temp assignment and that was the only day I took off in those six months.

  31. Me*

    Maybe check your employee handbook/rules first. Ours explicitly states who we can use sick leave for and pets are not included. It’s basically restricted to immediate family and the relationship is named.

    We can certainly take off for vet appointments but that would come out of our vacation time, accrued comp time or flex time.

  32. Veryanon*

    As others have mentioned, it really depends on your company’s policies. Some employers would actually consider it time fraud if you logged that you were taking sick leave for a pet, so you should be very careful.
    I work in HR, and once had someone ask me to take FMLA leave so she could care for her sick pet rat, which she considered her child. I had to explain to her that FMLA leave is only available to use for *human* children. I gave her an A for effort, though!

  33. Jenny2*

    Wow, I am really spoiled because I cannot believe how many people are saying using sick time for your pet isn’t allowed. In the last 10 years I have repeatedly used sick time for this – although I think at my last place we had a sick/personal bank – and it was a non-issue. In fact when my cat died my boss just told me not to count the day I had him euthanized as anything, which I really appreciated. I mostly use flex time for this now, but I have definitely used sick time in the past year or so. I understand that government jobs/countries other than the US might not allow sick time for pets but I guess I’ve mostly just assumed that I get to decide who my family members are and didn’t go around asking if it was ok, not realizing what a privilege that was. I can really appreciate it now.

    I hope soon companies/employers realize pets are more and more understood as family members (almost universally, I’d think) and get on with it. It’s not like anyone wants to take them to the ER or vet during business hours. It’s just how life works.

  34. AnotherAlison*

    I have PTO, so it’s not an issue, but in the OP’s scenario, I would likely go the “ask for forgiveness” route instead of “ask for permission.” I’d assume it is okay, and 4 hours of the OP’s rarely used sick time is not going to be a huge deal if it came up as a question from the boss and turned out to not be okay. I doubt it comes up. I have a project team member who is out randomly a lot, and I don’t ask why. He had a health issue, was selling his house earlier this year, and then had a major mech issue with his vehicle. (These are things he volunteered to tell me, and when he doesn’t say specifically, I don’t ask.) As long as the work is done. . .

  35. Jon Eric*

    One company I used to work for had it spelled out in their company policy that they permitted employees to use their sick time for vetrinary appointments. They considered this a benefit, and used the policy to brand themselves as a “pet friendly workplace.” I thought it was insane that they needed to actually specify this, let alone with the posture that it was something they allowed out of the kindness of their hearts for employees.

    Honestly, OP, Allison’s approach is fine in a “better safe than sorry” kind of way, but I personally would have just used the sick time without even bothering to ask.

  36. junipergreen*

    A question: regardless of whether an employer asks for doctors’ notes or some other validation for taking Sick Days, is the employee still entitled to use those days off as part of a benefits package?

    Of Vacation days (planned), and Sick days (theoretically unplanned), the preferred order in which you draw down would be Sick, then Vacation. And if you use up all your Sick Days, a company might let you use your Vacation days.

    I guess the reverse – using Sick Days first and saving up Vacation Days could be a problem… but that brings me back to the question: is the employee still entitled to that Sick PTO as part of a benefits package?

    1. Me*

      I’m not sure if I understand what you’re asking but I’ll try.

      Generally speaking a benefit isn’t an automatic entitlement especially when it comes to sick leave. If a company offers separate pools of time off for sick and vacation or personal time, the point is you have those days if you need them. The expectation is that if you are sick you use the time but that you are not to use it for non allowed sick leave uses. In my experience employers do tend to specify in their policies what is allowable under sick time. And sick leave often a use it or lose it benefit which I guess can make people feel like they should use it all, but it’s more like an insurance policy then leave time.

      For example if I have the flu and need to use 2 weeks of sick leave that’s fine. But I can’t decide I want to go out of town and use my sick leave instead of vacation time.

      Many employers will allow you to use vacation time to cover excess needs for sick leave but in those instances, again there’s likely written rules, and you are more likely to have to prove that you are sick.

      1. Catsaber*

        One of the reasons sick time isn’t allowable in lieu of vacation time is because many places do a vacation time payout when the employee resigns/retires, and they don’t want people banking vacation time. Not just because it might be a huge payout (and a lot of places are fine with a huge payout – that’s not really the issue, all the retirees at my state university get MASSIVE vacation time payouts), but because they want employees to take care of themselves when they are sick, and not just come into work ill because they are trying to save their sick leave for a vacation instead of actually being sick (like in your 2 week flu vs 2 week vacation example).

  37. Lurking Tom*

    If you are someone with pets, this is actually a great thing to bring up during the offer phase. My company’s policy explicitly mentions the amount of sick time you can use for the care of companion animals, but in cases where it’s not explicit it’s great to know ahead of time so you don’t have to wonder when the need arises.

  38. Hallowflame*

    It’s not necessary at my current employer (single PTO bucket, to use however), but I have claimed a “doctor’s appointment” for vet visits with past employers. Managers knew better than to ask for details they’re not entitled to, and I didn’t offer any. I mean, the vet IS a doctor, and my cats are my dependents! ;)

  39. College Career Counselor*

    That is crap. You went to a medical professional, it’s sick time. And does “injury” (let’s say a car accident) not count as sick leave? I mean, technically, you’re not sick–just hurt. Better use that vacation time first.

    1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      Yeah, I really don’t get all this nit-picking. It’s an unplanned, urgent, medical necessity. That’s sick leave!

  40. Amethystmoon*

    We have all of our PTO and sick leave in the same bucket, so thankfully, no excuses need to be made when using it. I would just say I have an appointment that I need to go to if asked. :)

  41. twig*

    One of my worst bosses was surprisingly generous when it came to using sick leave for vet visits/animal emergencies.

    I had to call in first thing in the morning once, for an emergency vet visit — she was sympathetic, “take the time you need” — asked about my cat when I got back.

    In contrast, however, when one of my co-workers, P., had to take 2 days to make a 4 day weekend to drive 2 states away for his fiance’s grandmother’s funeral, my bosses reaction was:

    “And P. has to take time off for whatever distant relative happens to die this week!” (I realize typing that out doesn’t necessarily convey tone — picture this said with a sense of contempt and disbelief — I mean, who takes time off for HUMAN loved ones?!?!?)

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Ugh, what even?! I only had one living grandparent when I was born, and not for long. But with people living longer today, a lot of people have grandparents that they had grown up with and maintained a close relationship with into adulthood. A fiancee’s grandmother isn’t “a distant relative”.

    2. Lissa*

      I know a couple people who really pride themselves on liking animals more than humans, being more sad when an animal dies, caring more when someone gets a dog than another life change etc, so interesting to hear about this from the other side! If that’s what’s going on of course, possibly the boss was just weirdly irrational or hated P I suppose! But it made me think of that anyway.

    3. nonymous*

      …and this is why in employee handbooks there is often an explicit spelling out of relationships that qualify for family-friendly sick leave.

      I worked in one place where my supervisor didn’t understand my taking a week off work when Dad died (using a combo of vacation and bereavement), and another place that couched sick leave when my grandmother died as me “supporting my mother as she dealt with …”. In hindsight, I think a good part of the pushback was that it never occurred to the powers that be that a 21 year old would be charged with the task of making all funeral arrangements, coordinating final benefits with various government orgs (including overseas) and struggling through the financial/legal documents. I’m my mom’s only relative in the states and she is ESL, so there’s a different burden in place.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      The tone is loud and clear in writing! That person is vile.

      Some people really do like animals more than humans. So a sick cat or dog or hamster is going to get a lot more sympathy from then than your great great meemaw.

      1. twig*

        I mean… my husband is one of those people who prefer animals to humans. BUT he understands that other people have connections with their family that he does not and that those connections are important.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Oh I totally get it!

          I am still scarred almost three decades after my mom read me the Little House on the Prairie book where Jack the bulldog dies. All he does is die in his sleep and I am wrecked over it [I found out not so long ago that evil woman just made that up too, they bartered him, he didn’t die *sobs*]

          I prefer animals to humans as well but it doesn’t mean that I actively hate humans, they’re just not my first choice because they’re so full of quirks that I’m not interested in ;)

      2. Maeve*

        I had a boss say I couldn’t flex my schedule to take care of my cat even when she flexed her schedule to take care of her dogs…and I think it was 100% because she liked dogs but not cats. Which I guess highlights why there should be actual policies that don’t have to do with people’s preferences in place!

  42. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    Cautionary tale: an OldJob (early 00s, a Fortune 500) changed their sick leave policy from unlimited sick leave to five days a year because, as HR explained to us, “people were using sick days to take their car to the shop or their dog to the vet”.

    I have no idea how they found out, much less how they found out that it was apparently rampant.

    I haven’t done it myself, but my previous job had all PTO in one bucket and my current one only gives three sick days a year (and I also no longer have any pets of my own). With that said, I’m fairly sure I flexed most of my now-deceased dog’s appointments when he became ill.

    1. Krabby*

      As an HR person, it’s insane what people say in the ‘comments’ section of time-off requests. I had one guy write that he needed to appear in court for a drunk driving charge. I frequently had to tell people, “I’m going to tell you out loud right now that is not an acceptable use for your sick leave, but if you just put, ‘out sick’ I will never know or care.”

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        As another HR person, this is why you shouldn’t have a comments section at all, just let people say they need to be out.

        They give you too much information that you don’t need to know, not just to classify time off but this is how you get descriptions of people’s awful symptoms from the stomach flu and such. No thanks, don’t need to know you’ve had to take up residence on your bathroom floor, save them the dignity.

  43. BookLady*

    This is a little off topic, but a similar issue. I completely agree with Alison that “it should be up to you to decide who you consider members of your family.”

    A few weeks ago, I had a close friend who needed his wisdom teeth out. He has no family in the area and I was the only person willing and able to drive him. I took sick time to cover the day off, but I said I needed to take care of a family member rather than a friend. Because he is like family to me, and I knew that would go over better than “my friend needs help today,” especially since I only had a day’s notice that he needed my help.

    I think people should be allowed to use sick time to care for those close to them, whether that’s family, friend, or pets.

    1. nonymous*

      good for you. Social nets like this help keep medical costs down – the alternative would have been hiring a CNA for the day which is pricey.

  44. Krabby*

    My last employer was also very pet friendly, and our policies on sick and bereavement leave both expressly allowed people to take time off to care for or grieve their pets. They looked like that because one of our admin’s cats died and when our CEO heard the admin was using vacation to take time off she got really upset and got me to update everything.

    So, I would ask, or mention it in passing. It’s fairly likely that in a culture like yours you might actually prompt them to change the policies in your favour.

    1. Mel*

      I actually took a week’s vacation when my very first cat died. Fortunately this was at my first job that actually had PTO so I had enough stored up. I felt so silly doing this, but fortunately my bosses were very understanding and knew how devastated I was. However, I do know none of my jobs have included pets in bereavement policy. It’s awesome that your last employer did that!

  45. Kitty*

    I would go for it and just not tell them – how are they ever gonna find out? I’d only ask for permission if it was a full-day emergency during an important meeting or something similar

  46. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    We allow for you to use sick time this way.

    If they gave you problems with it, classify it as half a mental health day and use that day to take your kitty to the doctor ;)

  47. Llellayena*

    It depends on the company culture to some extent but I’ve always seen the difference between “sick” and “vacation” time as “time you can take on short notice in half-hour (or hour) increments” and “time planned ahead taken by the half (or whole) day.” Neither has association with what is happening during the off time, it’s just how it gets classified for timekeeping. I’ve used sick time (though we just call it personal time) when I’ve needed to leave early for a non-work evening event. I used vacation recently for a doctor’s appointment because I knew I would need the entire half day and I have tons of vacation time left and not as much PTO (thank you winter colds…).

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      Yeah – we have to take vacation in four hour or greater increments, but can take sick time in one hour increments. Vacation needs to be planned, sick does not.

      I’m fortunate that I can have flex time, because I get migraines that sometimes lay me out for an entire day.

  48. LawBee*

    I love this question. And as far as I would be concerned, taking a pet to the vet is the same as taking a kid to the doctor. No, I don’t equate pets with children. But as they are both living beings that you are responsible for, I don’t see a big difference.
    Hope your kitty is doing well.

    1. Sleepless*

      Absolutely! What’s the cat supposed to do, drive herself there? It’s a living creature who is dependent on us. I hope your cat is doing better.

  49. Quinalla*

    I’d definitely ask about it. I think it could go either way, though with how you describe your company I’d lean that they would allow it.

    I tend to use sick time just for actually sickness of me or my kids. There is enough of that every year to burn through my previous 3 days and probably still my now 5 days. For appointments, I usually plan them so I can flex my time to cover them without issue, but will use sick time if needed. In fact, my current boss even said even if I am sick or using PTO that I should make my total come up to 40 hours and not use more sick/PTO than that. In the past, if I worked say 36 hours for 4 days, then 4 hours the 4th day, I just did 4 hours PTO if I took a half day. He said for full days, fine, but anything less, make sure I have 40 hours total in the week and don’t use more of my PTO hours than that.

  50. Book Lover*

    Our sick time is sick time. For kids/family issues we have to take FMLA/unpaid leave. So it just depends on the company.

  51. Mel*

    At my very first job out of college, I made our department’s HR lady laugh by asking if I could make my cat my beneficiary for employer-provided life insurance. She thanked me for the joke.

    I was completely serious.

    1. Joielle*

      Hopefully this is not too off-topic (and maybe you already know this), but – you could totally do this, just have to set up a trust for the pet’s care and make the trust the beneficiary.

  52. Half-Caf Latte*

    An interesting link I’m thinking about between the sick banks being discussed here and the “retirement benefit” letter earlier today: Is sick time something you’re inherently entitled to, like the OP suggests:

    I’ve worked here for two years but have never used any sick time.

    Or, as I’ve heard HR tell people, is it a safety net *in case* you are sick, but if not, the benefit is that you’ve been healthy?

      1. londonedit*

        Yes. I guess it’s a cultural thing, and maybe tied into the fact that we get a decent amount of holiday time anyway so we don’t need to scrabble around for days off when we need them, but in the UK sick leave is only to be used if you need it, it isn’t something that you’re expected to use every year and it isn’t something that people see as an additional pot of time off to use when they want. In fact, if you were using up all your paid sick days every year, your employer may well have a word with you about your attendance. Holiday is holiday, sick leave is for when you’re actually ill. Some employers will ask you to take a day’s holiday to deal with things like household emergencies, some will offer the choice of taking it as holiday or as unpaid leave, but you don’t take sick time unless you’re sick.

  53. Working Mom Having It All*

    This right here is why, when you call in (or really, email in) sick, you should say “I’m feeling under the weather” or “I have an appointment” or the like and not feel the need to go into the details.

    I guess it would be one thing if it were a matter of coverage, but yeah, this is a part of what sick time is for in almost any professional office type of setting I’ve worked in. You probably shouldn’t loudly spread it around, especially if you talk about your pets a lot in other contexts and don’t want to seem like “that crazy cat lady”. But yeah, I think it’s an unspoken thing? I’ve def seen coworkers use PTO for stuff like vet visits.

    1. nnn*

      Building on that, if you’re in an environment where a simple “I have an appointment” comes across as brusque or secretive, an option is to give them all kinds of helpful information that discloses nothing.

      “I have to leave at 2 pm today for an appointment. I’ll look in on my email when I’m done, but I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to get back to the office by 5 because I’m at the mercy of the waiting room and rush hour traffic. My current draft of the TPS report is on the shared drive and you can look at it if you want, but I’ll definitely be in tomorrow morning to review it once more in plenty of time to send it out by noon.”

      You’re being proactive and helpful and informative and bustling and energetic and have told them absolutely nothing about your appointment.

  54. Death Rides a Pale Volvo*

    I use sick time, because after I’m done loading two 20-pound cats into their carriers, I’m usually bleeding.

    1. LizB*

      My thoughts exactly! I need to be out sick today, I’m busy coating my arms in Neosporin and band-aids.

  55. N2Dolfyns*

    We may be a different company but sick time for our employees is considered their time to use however they wish. We don’t ask questions about why they are taking it off. The only time we ask for a doctors note is if they have been injured and we want to be sure they are safe to return to work and perform some or all of their duties. Safety first!!!

    So, I guess the answer depends on the company you work for. If they’re funky about it I would have just said a “doctors appointment” and let it go at that.

  56. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

    Wait, if it’s inappropriate to use sick time what are you supposed to do? Just take it unpaid?

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Unpaid or use your PTO if that’s available. Which yes, it’s ridiculous and callous to say the least. There is more to life than a very small circle of “acceptable” humans and self being sick that comes up!

  57. LGC*

    Ooh, this is tricky!

    One thing is…is LW salaried? It sounds like he might be, and I’m casting a bit of side-eye at his employer if they’d require him to use sick time for a half day. It’s not the question asked, but it might be relevant.

    At any rate: it depends! Like, legally in my state, statutory sick time is used for the care of yourself or sick (human) family members. I will admit that this rule gets bent sometimes for the employees only entitled to sick time (our benefits system is…byzantine). But strictly speaking, using it for pets would be frowned upon.

    It sounds like LW’s boss might tell him to not even bother filing sick time because it sounds like he still worked that day. But it sounds like, in this case, he’d be approved if he put in for it.

    1. LGC*

      (Also, I didn’t see if LW replied, but I used “he” because of the cat lady stereotype. Disregard if I got the gender wrong!)

  58. Rachael*

    I don’t have pets and I’m more likely to view a pet as a pet. I said this to give an example of someone who does not feel the same way about pets as other pet lovers….HOWEVER I wouldn’t bat an eye if someone used their sick time for vet appointments. An appointment is an appointment and even though I would never get a pet myself I do believe that if you do get a pet you are obligated to give it the best care. Hence, taking it to vet appointments when needed and not being penalized and using precious vacation time. I would just say I have an appointment and not tell anyone what it is for.

  59. Nanobots*

    Pfft, I just tell people I have “family medical issues” to deal with when I have to take my cat to the vet (using PTO). It’s none of my boss’s business which family member (furry or not) as long as I have the time available. But I’m in a point in my career where I’m much bolder. I remember being new, underpaid, overworked, and scared to lose my job.

  60. Plant_Mama*

    My company calls sick time “wellness” whether that’s mental wellness, physical, or what have you, it all falls under that umbrella.

  61. Iamadverb*

    I firmly believe that your sick time is yours and how you use it is up to you. I have worked in professional settings for 30+ years and have never felt it necessary to explain why I am taking sick leave. If I need to take myself, my pet, or another human to a medical appointment, that is my prerogative. I do not believe my company has the right to assess my appointment for worthiness. My sick days are mine to use as I see fit, and, unless I exceed my available days, it is none of their business.
    In fact, since 2001, I have not worked for a company, public or private, that differentiated between vacation/PTO and sick days; we have one pool.

    1. Clisby*

      If it’s all in one pool, I agree with you. Where I’ve worked (retired in 2015), it wasn’t one pool. Sick leave was for when I was sick. Period. Not for routine doctor/dentist appointments, not to take care of sick family members. Just for me.

  62. Joielle*

    My employer probably would not TECHNICALLY want us to use sick time for vet appointments, but also does not check on what you’re doing with your sick time. I don’t think there’s, like, a moral issue with it as long as you can fly under the radar. If you’re not using any more sick time than the average person, who cares if some of it is for mental health days or “take your cat to the vet” days or “bit of a headache, better stay home” days?

  63. Snarflepants*

    I think Alison is right, the acceptability of using sick time for a vet appointment depends on where you work. OP, it sounds like your employer would be okay with it!

    I’m fortunate to work at a place where using sick time for vet appointments would be accepted. Sick time can be used for medical appointments. As a vet clinic is a health facility, using sick leave would be appropriate. When my beloved cat suddenly fell ill and passed away, I just flagged it as a “sick day” on my monthly timesheet.

  64. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

    I do what Alison suggests–I use my sick leave for a medical appointment. It’s my banked sick leave and I am using it for a medical appointment–just not for me. (Same as if I was taking my spouse or in law to the doctor.) Since my pets are my dependents, I will use my sick time to get them their care.

  65. mcr-red*

    My old boss was a pain about sick time, he never wanted us to use it ever, even when we were sick, but if we had sick kids, we were supposed to use vacation time to take them to the doctor/stay home with them for the day because daycare wouldn’t take them.

    The only thing that lead to was all of us with sick kids straight up lying to him. “I’m sick today. Yeah I was up all night puking.” “My kid has a fever and now I do too.”

  66. Eloise*

    I won a grievance against a former manager who, among other things, tried to keep me from working from home to take my cat to an urgent vet appointment (not even taking a sick day! Which I should have done, since then she wouldn’t have known it was for my cat) and then asked me for a note from my vet to prove my hour-long absence from my computer. Which I provided.

    1. Popsicle*

      I’m happy for you that this is “former” manager. (Though when I think about it, I think I know a few that would react in the same way.)

  67. nnn*

    I personally am on team Just Quietly Take A Sick Day, but to analyze it for your own workplace it might be useful to think about how they would handle things when people have to take time away from work for something that absolutely has to get done during the workday.


    – The purchase of your new home is closing today and you absolutely have to go to the lawyer’s office and get the documents properly lawyered before 5 pm.
    – Your wallet has been stolen with all your ID in it, and you absolutely have to drop everything and spend the day standing in line at government offices to get your ID replaced.

    How would your employer expect you to handle the time off you need for these things? If you put it down as sick time in your absence management system, would you get push-back, or would your manager just approve it?

  68. MissDisplaced*

    Personally, I don’t see that it matters who is sick or needs the appointment or what type of medical appointment it is! But many places do care and say “sick” time is only for when YOU alone are sick, and may not even include appointments and such.

    We have both sick and flex/personal hours.

  69. Popsicle*

    I always encourage staff to use sick time for pets as well.
    My cat is my family, and super important, so I would want the same consideration.
    When framing it to higher ups though I say:
    “They were worried about *enter name of pet here* and were in no fit state to work until it got resolved”.
    It works well if you talk about the impact the pets sickness on the person (rather than the pet) for people who don’t feel the same way.

    1. Clisby*

      I think this is great if you let employees take sick time to care for family members. That was never my work experience. If I had to take off for a sick child, or to look after my husband when he was in the hospital, that was vacation time.

  70. LizB*

    Thanks for reminding me to make my cat’s annual check-up appointment, LW, and I hope your kitty recovers easily! (I’m lucky to have a pretty flexible schedule, so I can do an early-morning appointment, come in to work just a little bit late, and make up the time later in the week.)

  71. Wendy Darling*

    One of the upsides to my job only having a generic pot of PTO rather than specific sick and vacation time is that we can take PTO for anything and it’s not weird. My dog needed surgery at a specialist vet earlier this year. There are like five vets with this specialty in the state, and with traffic the closest office is about an hour each way. Plus because there’s so few places to take your pet for this specialty, you can’t exactly hold out for evening or weekend appointments — it’s possible that their only opening in the next four months is 2pm on a Wednesday! I took half-days like 3 times for the surgery and surrounding appointments. No one on my team batted an eyelash, and my dog is all better.

  72. KM*

    This came up recently for me. I have rabbits who if they are feeling sick, they need to see a vet right away. I’ve always used my vacation time or flexed my hours to accommodate appointments and emergency care, but my boss suggested I use sick leave a few months ago since I have quite a few hours of it. But I’m a public employee and our contract spells out who is considered a dependent when you use sick leave and they are all human family members :(

  73. WS*

    It’s specifically in our employee handbook that you can use your sick leave for pets. In Australia sick/carer’s leave has to legally cover certain defined family members as well as the worker, but after that it’s up to the employer what is covered.

  74. BrightLights*

    I hope the LW’s cat is doing better!

    I am writing to chime in on the “do it” front. I use sick leave for my horse’s vet appointments. My boss (a VP) knows perfectly well that it’s for my horse. My employees know that they can take sick leave for their cats, dogs, and ferrets. Our written sick leave policy is that sick leave can be used for care for self or dependents, and last time I checked my four-leggers aren’t contributing to the mortgage.

  75. MAB*

    How on earth would your company find out if you took your cat to the vet and just said you had a medical appointment? I think you all need to be a little less hypothetically ethical and chill out about this crap.

  76. Enna-B*

    My boss told me I should use sick time for vet appointments. Her rationale was “people use it for their kids’ appointments.” I know pets and kids are different, but they are both dependent on you to take care of them when they are sick. Perks of having a boss with cats and no children

  77. Dwight S.*

    At my job right now, I share maybe 1% of my personal life. I learned my lesson and it is the best way to approach this for me. I don’t have kids, but will sometimes refer to my cat as my child. Nobody has caught on so far and it’s been over a year.

    “Hey Dwight, what did you do over the weekend?”
    “Oh, just the usual. Had some wine Friday night, took my kid to the park on Saturday” which is true, my kitty has a harness.

    I do this.. you guessed it. Specifically for emergencies like this. Although the measly 3 days of sick leave I get were used up when I went down with the flu back in February, so it’s not like they’re paying me for this time either way.

  78. Former Employee*

    I hope your cat is doing better, OP.

    This is lightly off topic, but I recall reading somewhere (maybe “Dear Prudence”) that someone was very offended when a coworker offered her condolences on the loss of a person close to them and said that they understood how the bereaved was feeling because she [condolence giver] had recently lost her cat.

    The person who wrote in said they were offended at the idea of comparing a person to a cat.

    Despite the fact that I do not have any pets, if someone told me they understood my feelings about the loss of a close relative because they had just lost their cat, dog, bird, etc., I would accept that at face value as long as it was a companion animal (no snakes, tarantulas, etc.).

    1. EddieSherbert*

      Oh geez, honestly, I am a *huge* animal person and do all the crazy over-the-top stuff for my furbabies and foster critters (they get birthday parties, have lots of pajamas, there’s like 3 cat trees per cat in the house, I have the Furbo pet camera, etc etc)… and I definitely would not tell someone that!!! I would probably compare the loss in my head and I would probably consider it “similar feeling”… but I would never say that to the person.

      In my mind, it’s common sense that many people would not consider it equivalent and might get offended by the comparison.

  79. uh*

    Once my employer converted to PTO more people came to work sick so they didn’t have to use “vacation” time. Maybe if you had a decent amount it would be different.

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