Eight months: that’s how long I’ve been looking for an apartment. For eight stressful months, I’ve been searching high and low for a decent place to live. It shouldn’t be this hard.
But I have three cats.
I usually feel disappointed whenever I see the words “no pets allowed” in an apartment ad, but I also understand. Landlords have every right to ban pets: their property, their rules. I know that they don’t want any trouble that an animal may cause.
My benign take on things changed, however, after I finally found the apartment I wanted—and realized I couldn’t rent it because of one cat lady.
The ‘cat person’ who knows nothing about cats
When I opened the door to the two-bedroom apartment I was checking out, I knew it was exactly what I was looking for. I had a feeling the cats would love lounging right in front of the huge sliding windows. I had a feeling the 80 square meters of gleaming, brand-new tiles—brand-new everything, really—would give me the headspace that I needed.
But it was the view that did it for me. Located on the top floor, the apartment made the otherwise-polluted city look fancier that it should be: a scenic skyline, a spattering of rooftops, and more trees than I ever hoped to see from a humble apartment window.
I knew it was time to ask the landlady if pets were allowed. I did not look forward to it; I loved the apartment so much that I dreaded what her answer would be.
“So… do you like cats?” was my tentative question.
“Oh, I’m a cat person!” she exclaimed. “I have eleven cats, total!”
Listening to her describe her many cats, I almost cried on the spot. “That’s wonderful! Does that mean I can bring my cats with me to this apartment if I decide to rent it?”
“Oh! Sorry, dear, no pets allowed.”
‘No pets allowed’
No pets allowed. The three words I hated more than “deport illegal immigrants.”
Ordinarily, I would have been disappointed. But at that moment, it wasn’t disappointment that I felt, but anger. Raw, I-hope-your-cats-pee-on-you anger.
A self-professed cat lady just told me that she did not allow pets in her compound! What hope did people like me have if even our fellow cat parents did not want us to bring our cats to their property?
“But why not?” I demanded.
“Well… where would they poop?”
“In a litter box.”
After a rather awkward but revealing conversation about cat poop, it dawned on me that litter boxes were a foreign concept to her. She allowed her cats to head outdoors and do their thing wherever they wanted.
It also dawned on me that my cats and I would be deprived of an apartment by a self-proclaimed “cat person”… who knew very little about cats.
Yep. You couldn’t make this stuff up.
Unwarranted Dislike of Anything Furry
Not allowing cats or dogs is the prerogative of landlords. But after what happened today, I started to wonder if their decision to ban pets was a valid one, or if it was simply a default response to an issue that they couldn’t be bothered to understand.
Still very much upset that I would probably be without a home in two months, I feverishly went through online apartment listings that did not allow pets… and I decided to ask them why on earth not.
Here’s a phone conversation (translated to English) that I had with the first landlord I called. (Every landlord after him pretty much had the same thing to say.)
Me: Your ad online says you don’t allow pets in your property. May I ask why?
Landlord: Well, uh, it’s just that pets can be such a nuisance.
M: In what way?
L: They can get really noisy, and people tend to be bothered by them. We don’t want other tenants complaining to us about neighbors’ pets.
M: My cats don’t make a lot of noise, except for the occasional meow which is just about as loud as your voice right now. I also keep them indoors, so they’re unlikely to bother anyone. I bet none of the neighbors will even notice they’re living right beside cats. Anyway, if they’re quiet and they don’t disturb anyone, can I rent your apartment?
L: Well… your cats might stink up the place.
M: My place doesn’t stink and I’ve been here for two years. It’s not supposed to stink if you provide enough litter boxes and clean them regularly, which I do. Some of my visitors forget that I have cats until they come out meowing to say hi.
L: Um, well, it’s just that it’s the rule. It’s always been that way. There really are no pets allowed.
It didn’t matter that my current home was odor-free. It didn’t matter that my cats didn’t cause any kind of trouble. It didn’t matter that they were always indoors, or that they were vaccinated, or that they compulsively groomed themselves each day, or that they weren’t satisfied until they had completely covered their poop in the litter box.
No matter how responsible I was as a pet owner, I just wasn’t good enough.
My cats just weren’t good enough.
An epidemic of responsible (but homeless) pet owners
Thanks to the amended Animal Welfare Act in the Philippines, cat owners like me are mandated to be responsible purrents. Too bad being responsible isn’t that easy when you can’t find a place to rent!
It also doesn’t help that some pet owners (remember the landlady?) have yet to be educated in matters of pet care. I’m sure most of them are willing to learn, but until they do, they give cat parents a bad reputation, making it even harder for multi-species families to find a home.
I have three cats. I love them dearly. Wherever they stay is what I consider home. Sadly, a lot of people think they don’t deserve to live with me.
Is it too much for me to hope that one day, landlords will open their doors to the cats I consider family? With two months to go before my current contract of lease expires, I remain stubbornly hopeful, albeit with a bit of trepidation, a few ideas on how I can persuade landlords to change their minds, and all my fingers crossed.
This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s July 2017 issue.