We do not allow cats in our rental properties. No, we do not hate cats – we even believe the feline creatures are pretty and graceful in most cases. So we don’t mind the furry creatures … just not inside our properties. Why? Because we have had some bad experiences with cats spraying their territory, and even John, our best carpet cleaner, could not get rid of the smell afterwards.
So we make it very clear from the get go to all applicants – dogs are welcome with an extra security deposit, but cats are not. And, of course, the lease agreement says so clearly, black on white.
So which part of “no cats allowed” don’t tenants understand? Oh, this is not about not understanding. They get it alright. And they may not even own a cat at the time of moving into the property. But then the kids usually pressure the parents to have a kitty and the written agreement is somehow forgotten. At least that was the case with the Miller’s and Gold’s, two of our tenants.
Mr. and Mrs. Miller
Mr. and Mrs. Miller were an elderly, retired couple. They owned a 10-year old dog that was included in the lease, and we got a pet deposit for her. About half way through the first year’s lease, I noticed a cat hanging around the front yard of the Miller’s unit. When we asked the tenants about it, they said that she was a stray cat and they were feeding her occasionally, “but only outside”.
“As long as she does not enter the property, that’s fine” we told Mr. Miller.
“Oh no, we would never let her come in. We don’t know who she is and what diseases she may carry. So we would never let her inside, not to worry.”
We did not worry. Again, Mr. Miller was a nice retired engineer who paid his rent on time, and both he and his wife were forthcoming about owning a dog from the beginning. Why would they hide the fact they had a cat? Obviously, the cat was not theirs.
“What nice people to feed and take care of a stray animal”, I thought. It did seem strange, though, how friendly this black cat was. Whenever in the area, even though I was practically a stranger, the sleek feline would come up to me and rub against my legs, purring, and acting as a perfectly domesticated pet.
“Oh well, she must be so appreciative of someone feeding her,” I supposed. That is, until my conversation with Mary, the neighbor.
“Poor Mr. Miller, he is so sad. Ashby the cat died earlier this week. He said she was 17, and died peacefully, but still…”
The Gold Family
The Gold family consisted of Kevin, Sarah, and their two teenage children. They were long-term tenants who paid on time and kept the property in good shape. And since Kevin was a handyman, he took care of all little things that needed repair without ever contacting us; in short, the perfect tenants.
That is, until a neighbor’s tattle-tell that the family owned a cat, maybe even more than one. Really? Every year at the time of the lease renewal we went over all the details, pointing out the important parts including the “No cats” section, before signing on the bottom.
“Maybe the two neighbors just don’t get along,” I thought. Although who could not like the Golds? They seemed like such a nice family, the kids were always polite and pleasant.
“Or maybe the neighbors just noticed a cat but it really doesn’t belong to the tenants?” was my husband’s guess.
We decided to check things out. Knocking on the door one afternoon, Kevin Jr. opened the door, surprised to see us there.
“Mom and Dad are not home,” he said.
“That’s OK. We just came by to ask about your cat.”
“Cat? What cat?” The 12-year old stammered, looking tense.
“You know, the kind with lots of fur, four legs, pointy ears…” I tried to ease the tension.
“But we don’t have a cat.”
That’s when we heard an unmistaken faint “meow” from inside the living room. Or rather, a few “meows”. And a striking female cat crawled out from under the sofa, holding what seemed like the runt of the litter by its neck in her mouth, totally unaware of how she busted her owners.
“And what do you call this pretty furry creature?” asked my husband.
“Oh… she is Lucy,” responded Kevin Jr. who was relieved that we did not seem to be upset.
He was now talking to my husband about Lucy and her new litter while I was snapping photos of the four legged family.
Both my husband and I hope the Gold’s next landlord appreciates not only the four human renters but the feline family that came along with them, whether or not acknowledged by their owners.
What is my takeaway from these feline experiences? To check more often on our two-legged tenants to ensure there are no uninvited or unauthorized pets in our properties. And regardless of how wonderful tenants may be, they may have a soft (and illegal) spot for their furry friends. But as a landlord, it is my right to insist on renting a unit to authorized occupants only.
[Editor’s Note: If you have had similar experiences or any tips in regards to unauthorized pets that you’d like to share with our readers, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org]
Suzan Barazani has owned rentals for over 20 years and is a current member of AOA.