Do British cats live in rental properties?
January 12, 2010 2:14 PM   Subscribe

Is it really that impossible to rent a place with a cat in the UK? Or, does nobody with a cat in the UK rent their home?

I'm moving to Cambridge (UK) from Canada in less than two weeks. The cat is coming along, and for the past few months I've made sure she has all the paperwork to get into England. She's in Holland now, sitting out the 6-month wait period.

I've been told by everyone and their mother not to worry about housing until I get there, blablabla. Of course I've been peeking at the places that are up for let in Cambridge. Lots of stuff I would love to view once I get there later this month. BUT THEN I noticed the clause: "Unless otherwise specified, these properties do not allow pets." And it was not otherwise specified anywhere.

I asked around, and found a landlord who explained the details behind the clause: many properties really REALLY don't allow ANY pets, and the people letting out the properties are under a lease themselves so they can't change the rules.

But...butbutbut...people have pets, right? Where do they live?

Concrete questions:
- At what point should I mention to an estate agent that I have a cat following me? (I don't want to lie, because if I get caught by a landlord I'll REALLY be in trouble.)
- How can I find places that are letting independently? (I know of Gumtree, but there's not much there...)
- Any anecdotes? Success stories? Likelihood of getting a mortgage as a new resident (with EU passport) or info on who I should talk to about that once I get there (bank?) ?
posted by easternblot to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Several of my acquaintances spoke to their landlords and asked permission for pets directly. It is worth asking your estate agents to check with the landlord for you if you can't do it yourself. You may well find that they are flexible. Often they seem to use standard tenancy agreements. For example, I've lived in places that talked about the garden, even though there was no garden, and carpets even though the apartment had laminate flooring throughout.

Another place to look, and where I've found my last 4 places, is It's a BIT London-centric but landlords will advertise properties on Loot directly, rather than through estate agents. It is a good way to avoid estate agent fees, and you can discus your needs directly with someone who knows the property.

Gumtree and Craigslist are both options, but I got peeved by all the scam ads on there.

If you're moving for work then your employer might be able to help too (i.e. one of your prospective colleagues can put put an advert out on whatever email lists they have to see if anyone knows of/has anything available).
posted by jonesor at 2:37 PM on January 12, 2010

I used to live in the UK and used with great success. Can't help with the cat, but I do know of plenty of people with cats in rented flats so it's not unheard of. I'd mention it to the estate agent immediately so they can save everyone time by dropping off the flats that are explicitly 'no pets allowed'.
posted by slimepuppy at 2:38 PM on January 12, 2010

Best answer: You'll have more luck with houses than with flats. The leasehold agreements of flats often ban pets - that's what the person you spoke to was going on about - and therefore the leaseholders, who would be your landlords, haven't got any flexibility to accommodate your cat.

So look for houses, not flats, and ideally look for private lettings, not estate agents. Read the local ads once you get there and you should come up with something.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:43 PM on January 12, 2010

If your cat is well behaved and you are renting through an agency (rather direct from the landlord), you can probably get away with it (rental agencies are too busy charging people stupid fees to make surprise visits to your flat). My girlfriend's cat doesn't leave too much hair around, doesn't scratch furniture, and if it doesn't shit in the litter tray it shits in the bath (no idea why, but makes clean-up easy). So she has lived at at least one flat where they said "no pets" but never found out she had a cat because no-one ever came round and she gave the place a decent clean before she left (which she'd have done anyway).

Currently rented flat (found on - no way to search for "pets allowed" though) explicitly allows cats so it's not a problem.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:52 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In Cambridge, I heard numerous complaints from people using estate agents and some praise for the Cambridge Accommodation Notice Board. So I'd start there instead.
posted by grouse at 3:00 PM on January 12, 2010

Best answer: It's definitely a little harder renting with a pet. Most adverts in agencies will specify no pets, but it's still worth asking whether they might rent out to someone with a mature, well behaved cat (because of course yours is both of those things!); I've quite often found that when that actually ask the owners of the property, they're are willing to be flexible about a cat as opposed to, say, a dog, particularly if they like the sound of you generally. IME it's a little easier to rent houses than it is flats with a pet in tow, especially if it has a small garden.

I'd say private landlords might be a better option, though. I can't give you any advice on Cambridge specifically, but in general local papers are a good bet. I wouldn't discount notice boards in shops and cafes, particularly if there are any that seem to have a lot of community-type notices. I didn't find it especially productive looking online; most estate agents have a much bigger portfolio of property than it would seem from their websites, and private landlords will advertise elsewhere too.

Anecdotally, I got my current house through a notice in a local wholefood shop. FWIW the landlord had advertised through an estate agent as well - that ad specified no pets, but not only was he willing to let my cat move in, he offered to make the garden more secure for her!
posted by kumonoi at 3:05 PM on January 12, 2010

Response by poster: Grouse, thanks for that link! I had actually seen it before (it was in a long list of things my employer sent) but I had dismissed it because it looked like a teenager made it in 1995. It's good to hear it's actually *useful*.

And everyone, thanks for the optimistic stories! I have some kind of action plan now based on all these tips, and will update once I get there (January 23rd).
posted by easternblot at 3:35 PM on January 12, 2010

Actually, one of Cambridge's most venerable geeks made it. And it has been around for years, working very well, and as grouse says, people are generally very positive about it.
posted by galaksit at 3:54 PM on January 12, 2010

You might also pose your question on the helpful local messageboard We're All Neighbours, or on the USENET-style cam.misc newsgroup, accessible through Google Groups. The CANB's author is sometimes found there.
posted by galaksit at 4:03 PM on January 12, 2010

FYI, it never hurts to just call and ask if they will make an exception for your well-behaved, spayed/neutered, indoor-only adult cat that tends to just sleep under the bed all day.
posted by jabberjaw at 7:29 PM on January 12, 2010

Just a little tidbit of info, my daughter moved to England a year and a half ago. She couldn't figure out why there were so many cats walking around outside all the time. Even in the colder months. Apparently not many people own cats. There are a lot of strays. She moved into an upper floor apartment and we ( Mom and Dad) were thinking she might get a cat as she had one here in Canada. Well she won't be in the apartment she's in now. Theres a set of patio doors opening to the outside, but there isn't any balcony. Theres just a wrought iron railing ( outside the patio doors) waist high that you can lean on attached to brick. There isn't even any screen door to keep a cat from falling through the rungs. So if your looking to take your cat wherever you rent, make sure the opening leading to the outside ( if there is one) has a screen.
posted by Taurid at 12:46 AM on January 13, 2010

Best answer: As with so many other things in England, what is written in the rules may not actually be what happens in practice. The "no pets" clause may be a landlord's cover-your-ass measure to prevent a mad family moving in with a horde of pit bulls; a single well-behaved cat might be negotiable. I have never rented through an agent, but telling them you have A cat might save your time and theirs. In general, I have found private landlords and fellow tenants of houseshares to be reasonably flexible about having/getting a single cat.

(Also, I'm not sure what the rate of cat ownership is in the UK, but it seems comparable to the US and Canada. The reason Taurid's daughter sees so many cats walking around outside is that the British seem to have a weird idea that it's cruel to keep cats without letting them outdoors -- our local shelter was reluctant to let us adopt because we don't have outdoor access. Me, I think the Brits just don't want to scoop out the catbox.)
posted by stuck on an island at 3:25 AM on January 13, 2010

PS As a new resident, your credit rating will be diddly-squat. I've been here nearly 5 years now and I still can't get a credit card with an APR of less than 19%.
posted by stuck on an island at 3:26 AM on January 13, 2010

Apparently not many people own cats. There are a lot of strays.

I don't think that's true, lots of people have cats, and I never see cats that look like strays - its just that indoor cats are unusual here, most people let/put their cats out during the day to roam/play etc.

As a result, you might find that your cat is slightly less welcome by landlords if it's an indoor-only cat because of the perception that the flat will smell worse if the cat is trapped in there all the time. But it possibly won't occur to them to ask because the assumption here is often that cats go outdoors. So I would suggest not saying "She's an indoor cat" as part of your pitch, in case it counts against you - just don't mention it unless asked.

Note: not a cue to ignite the perennial Metafilter indoor/outdoor cats bunfight.
posted by penguin pie at 5:23 AM on January 13, 2010

Oops. Or what stuck on an island said.
posted by penguin pie at 5:35 AM on January 13, 2010

Yeah, our cats go outside, and yes, our animal charities advise that cats should have access to outdoor space. Moving on...

If you can speak to the owner, try offering a larger deposit to cover any damage your cat may cause (be sure you take photos of the place when you move in, to prove that you cat didn't cause any damage when you move out.)
posted by Helga-woo at 5:38 AM on January 13, 2010

Just keep your cat and don't mention it, that's what everyone else does.
posted by communicator at 6:23 AM on January 13, 2010

I had an easy time renting in the UK with a cat - even found a place with a cat-flap! This was in London though I think Cambridge will be fine, as a lot of those academic types love cats. Now I'm house-hunting in Australia and it's a freaking nightmare by comparison...

I'm not sure whether it's the norm to be up-front about a pet or conceal it, but I'm sure we always mentioned it when searching in London, and it wasn't a big deal; the hardest part was finding a dwelling that we thought was appropriate for the cat in terms of access and outside space.

It's kind of a cliche but Brits do really love pets and maybe that helps. I hardly ever saw a stray there - only in really rough areas! I think the RSCPA desexes them all for free.

Oh yeah, and stay away from Foxtons, if they still exist - bunch of t*ssers that actually charge a fee to let a place to you.
posted by 8k at 9:40 PM on January 20, 2010

Response by poster: This is old, but I thought I'd give an update. I managed to find a place that allows my cat (yay!) and now only need to figure out the practical issue of transporting my cat ("not yay!" says the cat, who hates traveling.)

In my first week in Cambridge I looked at ten one- and two- bedroom places in three days. Nine were through agents, and one was private. Two places were flats, eight were terraced houses. One was in Milton, three in Cherry Hinton, and the rest in Cambridge.

Only one of the agents' managed houses explicitly allowed cats. That was the terraced house in Milton. It was perfect EXCEPT for the fact that it was in Milton and I don't have a car.
I asked the agent of one of the flats, and she did call the landlord to ask, but cats were definitely not allowed. Both this place and the house in Milton were through Tucker Gardner, who seemed the most amenable to helping out with pet issues of all the agents - and I dealt with about 5 or 6 separate ones.
For most of the other places I got a definite "no" without the landlord even being contacted by the agent, until after about 6 houses I just stopped asking.
At the viewing of the private landlord's house, I was shown around by the previous tenant. They didn't have pets, and didn't know the policy.

I ended up being chosen by the private landlord out of the three people who were interested in the house, so I grabbed that opportunity without even asking about the cat. I asked *later*, after having lived there for a few months and being a perfect tenant, and he said "yes". He used a basic, default contract to rent out the place, and the pets clause in that just says that you need to ask for permission.

So, yay, that all worked out so far =) I'm going to mark some best answers based on the advice that ended up being the most useful to me, but I'm sure every situation is different. For example, if I had had a car and wouldn't have minded living in a small village, I could have taken the (agent-run) place in Milton.
posted by easternblot at 8:16 AM on June 26, 2010

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