I can haz domessile?
March 5, 2010 8:17 PM   Subscribe

Why is it that landlords are so reticent to allow cats in rental properties?

Moving soon, and while trying to schedule rental properties (houses vs. apartments) to see on an upcoming "househunting" trip, the frequency with which we're seeing "dogs and birds okay" (with the implicit "Yeah, cats, not so much") is remarkable. I know these things can be negotiable, but I'm really trying to get a handle on this. As a father to two children and four cats, I'd be tempted to allow cats before kids (legality aside, natch). What gives? Do you own rental property? Give me some insight so that I might search smarter.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze to Pets & Animals (34 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Cats destroy property. Clawing, peeing, spraying, etc. Offer preemptively to pay a large pet deposit to cover any damage your cat might cause while you live there. You also might offer to provide a prospective landlord with "references" from your current or past landlord attesting to the fact that your cat didn't damage its last home. Sounds ridiculous, but in many jurisdictions, these things are becoming the norm.
posted by decathecting at 8:20 PM on March 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Have you ever tried to get the smell of cat pee out of anything? That's why.

and if you have, and succeeded, tell us your secret.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:21 PM on March 5, 2010 [7 favorites]

As an owner of 8 cats and a renter, I feel your pain. I think it is because cats can stink up a place. I have had dogs, and they are much more destructive than cats. But cat urine is a pretty awful. My 8 cats have been very good about this and have pretty good toilet habits.
posted by fifilaru at 8:22 PM on March 5, 2010

Yeah, it's the peeing. But we were renters (with cats) for 10 years before we bought our house, and we never had any problems getting landlords to agree to allow our cats as long as we paid an extra deposit.
posted by amyms at 8:24 PM on March 5, 2010

Metroid Baby -
Massive repeated soakings in Nature's Miracle, followed by running through a washing machine on hot with a crapton of bleach.

(This was a pricey, nearly indestructible messenger bag. Fitting your sofa in a washing machine might be harder.)
posted by mollymayhem at 8:27 PM on March 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Also, I think more people are allergic to cat hair than dog hair. Having a thin coating of cat hair on all the carpets and furnishings must be a great way to discourage potential tenants.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 8:28 PM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

posted by tristeza at 8:35 PM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

posted by randomstriker at 8:36 PM on March 5, 2010

Kid destruction is usually to the renters' property. Walls can be re-painted.

While re-carpeting is pretty cheap, if cat pee gets into the baseboard, that can be quite expensive.

Enzyme cleaners sorta work, but not really...
posted by k8t at 8:38 PM on March 5, 2010

One major problem with cats is their urine. If a dog pees on the carpet, a carpet cleaner will get it up even long after it is dried. With cats, the urine gets into the sub flooring and crystallizes. You have to pull back the carpet, cut out the stained wood underneath, and replace it with new plywood.
posted by K5 at 8:46 PM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Christ, the pee. It's the kitties' own internet.

We had the floors of our house sanded and refinished before we moved in.

The refinisher suggested using walnut stain, because the pine color was never coming back.
The odor as he ground through the top layer of piss-infected flooring was incredible, but the refinisher accepted it as just part of the job. I can still see the stains through the walnut, though they are faint.

I love cats. But they do have their own ideas.

Also, as mollymayhem notes, Nature's Miracle. Especially on walls and other kitty communication devices.
posted by hexatron at 8:46 PM on March 5, 2010

Forget Nature's Miracle. For serious cat pee problems, nothing works better than Anti Icky Poo. It's strong enough for dead body fluids even.
posted by twiggy32 at 8:57 PM on March 5, 2010 [10 favorites]

Pee. Scratching. Maybe even yowling (esp. un-spayed females/un-neutered males)

(but you mean "hesitant," not "reticent." Sorry. It's my job.)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:05 PM on March 5, 2010

Nthing the pee problems, but I wanted to add that my cat used to use doorjambs as scratching posts, and got super deep into the wood. It was repaired by using wood putty, sanding and painting, etc. but it was a huge hassle.
posted by lhall at 9:09 PM on March 5, 2010

Some people get cats because they want an "easy" pet that doesn't need walking and mistake this for a license to be lazy. Some young cats need guidance to learn to not scratch up stuff and not spray. For all cats, the evil insidious cat piss must be contained. And then you have the stupid people who flush clumpy cat litter and clog toilets.

And thus, cats get a bad rap.
posted by desuetude at 9:13 PM on March 5, 2010

One male cat can spray a line around the entire house, 8 inches up from the floor.

That is to say: A line of cat pee around the entire f'ing house, 8 inches up from the floor.

One cat.
posted by SLC Mom at 9:15 PM on March 5, 2010 [7 favorites]

I wonder if things have changed a lot since I was last looking for a rental - at least then, it was large dogs that made it hardest to find a place. (As for birds? Small ones are unobtrusive but many parrots SHRIEK. Loudly and often. Worse than kids! Gah!)

Cat pee, cat scratching, and, as Desuetude said, people who think cats are a low-maintenance pet and thus contribute to pee and scratching problems are what drive landlords crazy. I've had cats all my life and I provide them with kitty condos and scratch pads, clean their litterboxes, and don't have pee/scratch problems. I tell landlords this and provide a vet reference as well (if I can trouble myself to take the cats to the vet, I'm a halfway responsible pet owner...)
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 9:27 PM on March 5, 2010

A few years ago a cat of mine got old and crazy, and started peeing in corners instead of in her litter box. The hardwood floors are black in those corners, and I'm going to have to get a professional in to replace those boards, if I can find ones to match even. The skirting board is also damaged in a lot of places and will need to be replaced. She also destroyed curtains and furniture with her scratching. That's thousands of dollars of damage from one cat, who was well-behaved til she got old and cranky.
posted by w0mbat at 9:36 PM on March 5, 2010

I have to say that I also think that a lot of the dog-related damage can be explained away more easily as potential people-instigated damage (grownups or kids, if you have some as an available scapegoat.) Cat damage is kinda obviously cat damage.

I also had a lot of luck providing references from previous landlords, vets, emphasizing the health of my cat, etc.
posted by desuetude at 9:43 PM on March 5, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks all. I have four adult cats, all spayed/neutered, who are in good health and use the box. I'm selling the current house and renting til we unload it, so no landlord references. About the only thing these cats have done is claw up a chair and occasionally crap in my larger houseplants. Alas that incompetent pet owners screw it up for the rest of us.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 9:51 PM on March 5, 2010

That's thousands of dollars of damage from one cat, who was well-behaved til she got old and cranky.

Yeah, we've had cats who were never a problem until they suddenly got very sick. Then, all bets are off. Bladder stones and brain tumors do bad things to a kitty.
posted by wondermouse at 10:02 PM on March 5, 2010

Funny that you say this, because back when I used to rent the ratio of places that would allow cats vs dogs was about 10:1. My whole apartment complex was cat city. That said, I can walk into the apartment of someone who doesn't have a cat and know the previous tenant had a cat because I am profoundly allergic and my eyes just start tearing up like crazy, even a year or two later. I've rejected apartments because of this. I'm not kidding, I would rather live with a smoker.

So, if I were ever in a position to be a landlord, cats would be right out, tell you what. I know way more severely cat-allergic people than dog-allergic people.
posted by little light-giver at 10:14 PM on March 5, 2010

The thing about cat pee smell -- as a cat-owning landlord -- is that some people notice it immediately and others never do. You can tell when someone crinkles their nose as they walk into a place. Removing carpets and giving a place a thorough airing out is necessary even if there isn't visible damage to the carpet or baseboard. I've tried heroic steam cleaning, and it doesn't always do enough. We've had some success with poly sealing the subfloor before carpeting so at least it doesn't sink right into the wood. I haven't ever noticed much damage to woodwork, but then we mainly have cheap wood trim.

That said, I haven't seen that many ads locally that specifically abjure cats. Cats seem to be a preferred apartment pet, if anything. We require the use of a pooper scooper for dogs (I wish we could require the same of the tenants of neighboring buildings ... I have to catch them at it.) Dogs are noisy. Dogs are more likely to be in situations where they attack people, whether or not it's playful. So unless you're looking at detached houses, I'm not sure why dogs would be preferred over cats. I can say either way it could mean a lot of work after move-out.
posted by dhartung at 10:23 PM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

When i bought my house I had to remove all the carpeting, sub flooring, trim and drywall to about 4' in the room they kept the cat in. The smell was enough to choke an elephant. I would never rent to a cat owner, sorry!
posted by fshgrl at 10:25 PM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Our cats have never had a pee problem. They always go in the box.

But our one cat who is mostly feral, who is nearly impossible to catch (in order to clip his nails), has torn the hell out of the poorly-installed carpet in our current rental. I didn't forsee him being a problem since he lived problem-free in our last place for 3 years. I feel bad because this unit is only a couple of years old. This is probably a good reason for landlords to not want cats in their rental properties.
posted by puritycontrol at 10:31 PM on March 5, 2010

Our cat is quite well litter trained (she only went outside the box the first time, and was caught, mid-pee, and transferred to the box. Took to it instantly) but she has talons. Long, painful talons that she keeps razor sharp. To aid her in this, she abuses the sofa and chair set. We prefer that to her assaulting the walls/wallpaper (which she has done, and my, the wallpaper is pretty shredable). In our tatami room, we have a rug in the middle of the floor. It isn't very Japanese, but we'd rather have her destroy the rug than the tatami mat.

So, yeah, damage. In our old apartment, which was not a pet-friendly apartment (and when she was still semi-stray and liked going outside) she actually climbed the wall next to the front door. I could see she'd gotten to about five feet straight up by the tears she left in the wallpaper.
posted by Ghidorah at 10:47 PM on March 5, 2010

I last had a cat in my apartment 10 years ago and while there was never any pee at all, I have a coat closet that smells like cat litter to this day.
posted by rhizome at 11:02 PM on March 5, 2010

I definitely understand your dilemma. We have 7 cats and a dog. We own our house but I would love to move back into the city and rent a space, but that will be hard. The main issue is that the property owner needs to protect the value of their property, and frankly, a security deposit doesn't come anywhere near covering anything other than very minor damage. Case in point; My grandmother owned a cat, who had a bad habit of using a corner of her closet as a urinal. After she died I fixed the house up. In that room alone I had to rip everything up including the subfloor to get rid of that stench. I did the work myself and I still spent hundreds of dollars fixing that. Now imagine multiple cats doing that in multiple rooms. And imagine if you had to hire someone to do the repairs. One would have to have a security deposit equal to 6 month's rent (and not cheap rent, either) just to seriously entertain covering just how much damage can take place. I've seen dogs tear up stuff a lot too, but the potential for superfund level cat pee damage puts cats on many landlord's "no fly list." Good luck.
posted by chosemerveilleux at 11:13 PM on March 5, 2010

Our boy cat continued to mark his territory LONG after being neutered. He destroyed our old apartment. Over $1000 in damages due to soaked baseboards, ruined carpet, and even tainted underlayment.

Yeah, I don't blame them. He lives in the basement, now.
posted by carlh at 3:51 AM on March 6, 2010

(but you mean "hesitant," not "reticent." Sorry. It's my job.)

Or reluctant. I believe OP is combining words.
posted by InsanePenguin at 4:40 AM on March 6, 2010

wow, that's really the opposite of my experience in NYC - maybe because spaying / neutering is so normal among cat owners in the city so cats peeing on things is pretty unusual? But any time I've looked for apartments (and I just moved a couple months ago, and have done so every year or two for the last decade, with a cat) landlords are generally ok with an animal under 25 lbs., unless they're very strict about no animals at all. But I've never heard of a dogs ok/ no cats policy.
posted by mdn at 7:46 AM on March 6, 2010

Though I am often delighted to have something furry to pet for a bit until their owner notices and locates their escaped pet*, cats in my building tend pee on or spray the hallway carpeting. The stink is ever-present, but on a damp day, it's positively revolting.

*In one case, the woman lets her cat out deliberately because she feels it needs room to explore outside the realms of her tiny apartment. I like the cat. I like the woman. I really, really don't want anything peeing in my hallways.
posted by involution at 8:44 AM on March 6, 2010

It's not just the horror of cat pee; it's also the fleas. Used to be a landlord, and tenants would acquire a kitten. When they moved, the place would be full of fleas. Yes, they can be killed, but it's a hassle. It's easy to have a cat and for the landlord to not know. Not so much with dogs. So happy to not be a landlord anymore.
posted by theora55 at 11:55 AM on March 6, 2010

It might be worth asking some of these landlords if they mean to ban cats by omitting them in the ad. I'd have guessed that if dogs are okay then cats must be too, like you might assume that if cats are okay then hamsters and fish are fine.
posted by SandiBeech at 5:53 AM on March 7, 2010

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