Little gray cat named Oscar
August 9, 2011 10:11 AM   Subscribe

Cat problem in apartment - landlord won't take action

We live in an older apartment complex with two buildings that face each other. A few nights ago we were surprised by a cute gray cat who looked just out of kittenhood, probably about a year old, who was leaning into the screen of our window and meowing loudly at us. We have a cat, so we couldn't take it in. I put some food and water outside our door for it.

For days this cat would be sitting in the causeway between the buildings, meowing loudly at whoever was around, and darting in and out of the building we live in when anybody opened the door. The whole building was wondering about it - everybody was like, WTF?

So I complained to my manager, who is pretty much addicted to inaction and minimizing anything that goes on in the building. Just figured I should try to get some info. At first he claimed to have no idea what was going on - a gray cat? Huh? He told me he'd "look into it."

The cat kept us up the next two nights, parked outside our door and yowling to get in. I fed it again - it didn't seem hungry, but it really wanted to dart into our apartment. I scooped it up and played with it on the steps - a very affectionate young cat who is obviously in distress at being separated from its owner. Emailed the do-nothing landlord again. He says he's found out that it belongs to our next-door neighbor, who's "been gone all summer." She's had a series of caretakers, but some have been less reliable than others apparently. And I'm wondering - who leaves a kitten alone for three months? Feeding it isn't going to be enough. Why not get a service where they'll play with it and spend some time? And why the f*ck are they continuing to let it out of the unit, and then leave it locked out?

I'm just furious at this point. The cat has become the responsibility of the whole building. I hear it whining all the time now. If caretaking a cat whose owner leaves and refuses to make proper arrangements for it is part of the rental contract, I didn't know about it - and I feel I deserve some sort of break on rent or acknowledgement of the pains we've taken over this poor creature. Hubby and I have been feeding it and we've played with it, and we also have to listen to it meowing for hours on end (we're never sure if it's outside or locked in, or where the heck it is.) The landlord ends his emails to me with, "Thanks for being a good neighbor." He TOTALLY doesn't get it. The cat is a major inconvenience. The meowing is keeping us up. Hubby has to get up at one in the morning, to be at work by 2 am. He can't sleep. It's really a quality of life thing now.

And I don't want anything bad to happen to the cat. It's friendly and trusting, and could easily be stolen. Heck, I've thought of taking it - at least it would have an owner again. I'm way unimpressed with how the cat's putative owner has dealt with this, and I'm thinking that the treatment it's received from its owner, combined with our landlord's massive apathy around this, might justify its being rescued or taken to a shelter or something.

Is this escalatable to the property management company? I don't want to offend our don't-worry-be-happy landlord, but he's really pissing me off. Any input appreciated!
posted by cartoonella to Pets & Animals (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Stop feeding it and it'll go away.
posted by ghharr at 10:13 AM on August 9, 2011 [8 favorites]

Ask him to open the correct door so you can put the cat back inside.
posted by AugustWest at 10:14 AM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Why would this be the landlord's problem? The bad actor here is the absent owner; I don't see any reason the landlord would be involved.
posted by Perplexity at 10:14 AM on August 9, 2011 [19 favorites]

Could you call a no-kill shelter in the area and have it picked up (or you could drop it off)? That way it can get adopted back out to someone who cares about it, instead of abandoned and left to the care of strangers. For all intents and purposes, if the owner and its caretakers are this negligent (for months!), it's pretty much a stray.
posted by greta simone at 10:18 AM on August 9, 2011 [5 favorites]

Call the local ASPCA to see if they can assist. Otherwise the answer would (sadly) be calling animal control.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 10:18 AM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

2nding greta simone. Find a decent shelter where they'll put it up for adoption.
posted by gnutron at 10:19 AM on August 9, 2011

As much as it sucks, this is only the landlord's problem under the very official definition of responsibility. But if we're going to go there, the officially "responsible" thing for the landlord to do in this situation is to call animal control. And that would probably end up sucking for everybody involved.

It certainly isn't the landlord's responsibility (officially, mind you, not talking ethically here) to do anything other than get rid of the cat. So ignoring it feels like the best of a bad situation. If you want to take care of it, you should (I fact, I have in a similar, though hardly as long term of a situation), but if you keep pushing someone else to take care of it, I worry that you won't like the choice that they make.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:22 AM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks for your input so far!

Yes - MCMikeNamara is hitting the nail on the head here. I don't want to push for the wrong sort of action - I would hate for it to be put down. It's a really sweet, affectionate cat that should have a loving home. That's what's so sad.

I brought it inside for a sec to see if our regnant alpha-female cat would accept it. She hissed at the poor thing so hard, she almost turned herself inside out ;) (sigh)
posted by cartoonella at 10:26 AM on August 9, 2011

This is absolutely not the landlord's responsibility. No one is asking you to feed or take care of the cat, you have deemed it a moral responsibility and that is of your own doing.

That being said, you can continue to feed it and chaulk it up to one of those living around other people inconviences, take it to a shelter, or call animal control to pick it up. Those are your options.
posted by stormygrey at 10:27 AM on August 9, 2011 [4 favorites]

It's not the landlord or the property manager's problem, and they have no obligation to fix the situation beyond calling animal control. You're not entitled to any compensation from the landlord or property manager. The most likely response from the landlord/property manager, if you continue to fuss about how much this is impacting your quality of life, is to stop permitting pets in the buildings altogether.

This problem is the result of an irresponsible pet owner, and it's crappy of your neighbor to be an irresponsible pet owner. If you don't want the cat picked up by animal control, you can either take the cat in, take it to a shelter, find another home for it, or put up with it.

For the record, your resident cat's response doesn't necessarily mean she won't eventually accept another feline resident. Cats need to be introduced gradually-- almost any cat would hiss at a sudden interloper.
posted by Kpele at 10:30 AM on August 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

INYL, TINLA. The landlord is shirking his responsibility by not dealing with a nuisance. In some instances, a nuisance may so destroy your ability to quiet enjoyment of your leasehold as to give rise to liability on the landlord's behalf. You need to talk to a lawyer about whether you have a case and, if so, what your legal remedy might be.

On the other hand, if the landlord deals with this, your conscience might not like the method.

The cat is coming by your place because it knows you're an easy mark. Stop feeding and watering it. For faster DIY relief, find a no-kill shelter or animal rescue group, or find a home for it. If you don't do this, but you are going to feed and water it, you ought to take it in or, at the very least, see to it that kitty is spayed/neutered or you're bound to find out how quickly feral cats multiply.
posted by Hylas at 10:31 AM on August 9, 2011

can you keep the little guy in a second bedroom or the bathroom for a few days? your resident cat's reaction is normal-- cats need to be introduced slowly. if you think there's any way you can adopt it, i'd go with that route first. baby kitty is probably anxious and scared and might settle down if he has a place indoors to himself for a bit.
posted by hollisimo at 10:34 AM on August 9, 2011 [4 favorites]

Is there any way to get in touch with your neighbor who the cat supposedly belongs to, or the purported caretakers? Maybe leave a large note on the door with your cell phone number, so you can talk to them about the animal's welfare?
posted by Squeak Attack at 10:49 AM on August 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

I just want to second what hollisimo said. If (and that's a big IF) you wish to take it in, it's going to require days or weeks for the two cats to get used to eachother. Cats are very territorial and even the most laid back cat will often be threatened by another encroaching on their own home space. It's not like dogs where "let's just see if they like eachother!" It is highly unlikely for cats to get along right off the bat.

If (again the big if) you want the cat, you should follow some basic steps for introducing him/her into your home. It could take just a few days, it could take a few weeks.
posted by Falwless at 10:52 AM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Shouldn't the landlord have contact information for someone on the cat owner's lease? I mean, if he doesn't know where the cat owner is or how to get in touch with the cat owner, he should be able to get in touch with the cat owner's emergency contact, no? Or at least try?

I think that is at least part of the landlord's responsibility.
posted by zizzle at 11:01 AM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm kind of facing the same situation, except the owner flat-out abandoned her two cats. She moved, and asked the new tenant (someone she sort of knew) to feed the cats for a couple of days until she could come back and get them after the moving craziness was over, but didn't come back to get them. At first when the new tenant would call her about coming to get them she'd say she was coming "on Thursday," etc., etc., but she never came. Finally she just stopped answering the new tenant's calls. (That was the beginning of April)

These are not young cats, and they are yowly, loud, always trying to get inside, always getting into fights with other cats, and the one we call "Psycho" is not guaranteed not to take a swipe at you. Their chances of being adopted – or even being able to be placed into any kind of rescue/shelter group are pretty much zero (especially where we live).

At this point all three tenants of the building are feeding and watering the cats (despite the tenant who took over the owner's apartment not being at all comfortable around animals, because they scare her), and I'm so very, very angry at my former neighbor I could spit.

I can't personally afford any more pets. Since the economy has tanked here, I do without things for myself to make sure my dog is taken care of (no teeth cleaning for me, but I had it done for my dog), and I'm absolutely dreading when these cats will need veterinarian care (it's becoming a mini obsession, actually). We can't afford to take it on. Even if we could, I still couldn't have them inside my house because I'm allergic, and they try to attack my dog (who would really like to make friends, but they don't roll that way).

BUT, if we involved the landlady (as in telling her it's her responsibility to deal with it), I'm pretty sure they would end up being put down by animal control. So... I feel helpless. There's no way we could get a friend to adopt them; they need to be together, and they aren't going to be cuddly lap cats for someone. I've thought of doing an AskMe about this, but there's just not a solution.

Your little Oscar seems like he would be a sweet pet for someone... maybe even you, if your girl could learn to accept him. But someone. We don't have that option, unfortunately. So, be sure your demands of the landlord don't end up in Oscar being sent somewhere he might be put down! I'd poll my friends, then research a good, reputable no-kill shelter or rescue organization if you determine that there's no way you can become a two-kitty home.
posted by taz at 12:47 PM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Have you tried calling a local no-kill shelter to take it in? Alternatively, have you thought about keeping the cat in a separate room and putting up a "free cat" ad? Chances are someone would be happy to take it off your hands.

Ethically, I think that the best situation would be getting in contact with the absent owner and letting them know that their caretaker is leaving the cat out at night. You never know if the owner really was irresponsible in their arrangements or if they thought they could trust someone more than they could.

Buuut, barring that, I'd be more concerned about what could happen to the cat if left to it's own accord or if someone else just decided to call animal control.
posted by biochemist at 1:18 PM on August 9, 2011

Do you know the next-door neighbor, or is there any way to get in contact with her? There's a possibility she would be horrified to hear the quality of the "caretaking" that's going on with her cat -- she might actually have paid someone to come in and feed and socialize with the cat and they then blew her off. Or in some unlikely-but-who-knows scenario, she might offer you a little money to keep an eye on the cat instead of the deadbeat she has now. (You're certainly not going to get any such compensation from the landlord.)

That said, I live in a college town, and students here abandon pets, particularly cats, all the time. It's infuriating.
posted by aught at 1:49 PM on August 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

>>I put some food and water outside our door for it.<>
LOL there's your problem right there. The last time I did that, we had a 10 year houseguest.
posted by brownrd at 4:42 PM on August 9, 2011

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