Help me adopt a cat!
October 6, 2017 11:07 PM   Subscribe

I desperately want to adopt a cat but my landlord is saying my floor is "pet-free", even though I know there are animals around. Help!

(This is long but don't worry, there's a TLDR at the end.)

My historically no-pets apartment building (500+ units, urban, professionally managed) announced last year that they would allow cats, dogs, and fish. To accommodate people who didn't want to live near animals, they designated three floors to stay pet-free, including mine. I love animals, so this was pretty heartbreaking, but I'm happy in my place and this isn't a good time to think about moving to another unit, so them's the breaks.

Months go by. I meet a woman on my floor walking her dog, and she told me the management had never mentioned anything about pet-free floors to her; she had the dog when she moved in and they just offered her a unit on my floor (next to some poor woman with a dog phobia, no less.) Another month or two goes by, during which I see someone leash-training their cat and hear a different, larger dog barking in an apartment down the hall.

By now, I have the impression that they're not really enforcing this pet-free policy any more, and get pretty excited about the idea of getting a fuzzy sidekick myself. I email the building manager in September to tell her I'm planning to get a cat and was X and Y still the right form, etc. Weeks went by and I didn't get an answer, so I just started checking out shelters.

This week, the management company resent the pet policy to the whole building (there are unregistered dogs, I guess), and it still lists my floor as pet-free. By this point, I've started the process with a local shelter and had $200 of cat stuff coming from Amazon literally that afternoon, which has now engulfed my bedroom. So I write back to the building manager again to follow up from my inquiry in September.

This time she responds right away and copies a bunch of other building staff to say that yes, my floor is still pet-free, and the only reason an animal would be up there is if they're a support animal, who need to be able to live anywhere. Unregistered animals would be "addressed" after inspections in November. (Since this is their first inspection since allowing pets, I have no idea what that means on a pet-free floor, and I don't know if they do either.)

I wrote back that I was really sorry to hear that, but I'd already started the application process, and since there are already animals on the floor and I don't expect my cat to ever leave my apartment except in a carrier, was there any possibility of discussing an exception. That was two days ago and I haven't heard back. I'm supposed to go to another adoption event tomorrow, and I'm kind of in agony.

Now, it's entirely possible the animals I saw/heard were either support animals, which is none of my business, or unregistered, in which case there'll be all kinds of drama when they get their units inspected next month. And I'm sensitive to issues like noise and allergens, but I see half a dozen dogs walking into the building and hear them barking from other floors all the time, plus however many support animals live here, so describing life on my floor as "pet-free" is already kind of overselling what the building can realistically offer. I'm embarrassed to say that I haven't been able to find my lease yet, but it was signed well before pets were allowed, so I doubt that will be much help.

Having consulted my friends and family about this, suggestions range from "just say you need a support animal" (which in my city would involve me faking a disability, to "you're too old to be living in a studio and getting cats is what women do when they're lonely but gave up on getting married, you haven't have you?" (ma, put dad on) to "just get the cat, they probably don't care but don't want to say so in writing/it's not worth the effort to evict you if you get caught."

My strong preference is to get my landlord on board with me having a cat in my current apartment. I really am not looking to cheat and will happily pay the extra pet fee and follow all the rules people on other floors do. Bottom line, there are tons of animals in this building already and I don't think me having this cat would harm anyone (but if I'm wrong tell me, seriously) and I don't think this policy makes a ton of sense in this case even if they are uniformly enforcing it, which it seems they are not. I'd like to try and find the woman with the dog to make sure I understand her experience properly, but even if I do, I still feel like there's no reason in the world for them to give me an exception.

So here's where things are now: I leave for an overseas trip next week and get back a week later. My plan had been to bring the cat home as soon as that weekend. At this point, my plan--and this might be really dumb--is to not say anything else to them.

If they write back and say yes, okay, get the cat, then fantastic! If by the time I get back, they haven't replied to my asking to discuss an exception, I may interpret it as them looking the other way, and go get a cat. I'll give them my application and fees and if they take it, that's the end of it. This is what several friends have suggested (actually they suggested not even paying the fee), but I see like four different ways it could backfire spectacularly.

If they won't give me an exception, I'm going to try and plead my case in person, and here's where I could use some help in figuring out if there's any possible case a building manager would care about.

If, after that, it's still no...I really had my heart set on getting a cat. Moving apartments to have one (especially as I look for a job in another city) seems financially irresponsible, not to mention a huge hassle. (I have a big window with a wide sill that looks down on trees, round the clock kitty Peak TV.) But if I got a cat where I am, knowing my building already told me not to, that also seems several types of irresponsible, for the cat's sake among others.

So after all that, my question is, how would you approach this if your goals were to 1) wind up with a cat and 2) stay in your apartment? Am I way overthinking this?

As a parenthetical to all that...if I seem a little overwrought, it's because things are Not Super Great with me lately, and this week made me realize I'd been dealing with a lot of stuff by focusing on a future of spoiling some little shelter cat. So having that suddenly in limbo has been more stressful than it would otherwise be, which means I may not be making the best decisions in dealing with the building. I'm trying to be realistic and not get my hopes up or do anything dumb, but I've never done anything like this before.

TLDR: I theoretically live on a pet-free floor of a pet-friendly building, but I have reason to think my building managers aren't uniformly enforcing that and I'd like to convince them to give me an exception to have a cat.
posted by jameaterblues to Home & Garden (12 answers total)
I wouldn't do anything (unless you get a reply to your letter) before the inspection in November. That will give you a good idea of how serious they are about pet-free. Also, try to strike up a conversation with all pet-owners on your floor to see how they do it.

Also, it may not be an issue but I know of someone who recently adopted a cat who had to get permission for the legal owner of the house (an out of state relative of her housemate) before the shelter would consent to give her the animal. So "just get it" may or may not be viable.
posted by metahawk at 11:33 PM on October 6, 2017

I admire your integrity in really wanting to be aboveboard in this dealing.

One way around the quagmire is to ask a huge favor from someone close to you. If you can get a friend or family member to go through the apartment application process, and catch the management in the act of offering an apartment on your particular floor, with a cat allowed, then you know you are on very solid footing. Heck, they can go so far as getting a lease prepared - in which case you would have a hard copy as proof.

P.S. If you have any level of anxiety, you can get a letter from your therapist for an emotional support animal - without faking a disability. Think of it as a necessary fig leaf that is being required by building management.
posted by metaseeker at 12:51 AM on October 7, 2017

Have you considered asking if you could move to a different apartment in the building that is on a pets-allowed floor?
posted by cabingirl at 12:59 AM on October 7, 2017 [11 favorites]

You know you really can't go through with this without official permission from the apartments, so just put that off the table. The stress would really bother you, and it's entirely likely that the rescue organization will call to check, so it's likely impossible anyway.

Did you say you're considering moving cities? Maybe it's time to consider that more thoroughly.

Have you talked to your immediate and one-away neighbors to see how they feel about the pet-free floor policy? Maybe there's a) someone near you with allergies, or b) a consensus that everybody wants pets and will be more likely to move away if they can't have pets. Information could help you either way.

I feel for you. I'm rooting for you!
posted by amtho at 1:18 AM on October 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

Everyone else in your building is getting away with having a pet because they don't give a shit about breaking your building's stupid rule. You do give a shit about breaking their stupid rule, so you won't get to have a pet until they change it.

The rule is very stupid, for all the reasons you point out. Having come up with such a dumb idea in the first place, your building is unlikely to change the policy until its idiocy becomes so obvious that they cave. This may happen in November, after they inspect the building and realise that the rule is being violated left and right and fixing things will be a huge hassle. Or they may dig in their heels and try and kick out the pets of the rule breakers. Most likely though, they'll continue to ignore the issue and you can either spend six months lobbying them to stop being idiots, break the rule, or move.
posted by Diablevert at 2:04 AM on October 7, 2017 [6 favorites]

First of all, I just want to say I am very, very sympathetic to your situation. I spent years fantasizing about being able to get my own kitty before I was finally able to make it happen. To be so close and then have a chance of it not working out must be incredibly upsetting and painful, especially when it's due to something that seems quite arbitrary.

Now, to answer your question:

I know moving is a hassle, but your best option may very well be moving to a different floor that is not pet free, as suggested above.

I also agree with others that you should wait until after the pet inspection in November. Even if you ultimately decide to get a pet against the wishes of the building manager, it would not be very wise to do that immediately before this inspection.

Frankly, I don't think it's a great idea either way, but I know lots of people do it. For me, I know I would be constantly afraid of being caught and forced to decide between giving up my pet and moving. I'm not sure where you're located, but I recently adopted a kitty, and every single rescue organization I interacted with had a requirement where, if you rent, you had to document that you were allowed to have a pet, either via the lease or by directly contacting the landlord.

Lastly, and I know this is a huge long shot, but you might want to check and see if this is even allowed. I mean, I'm sure it probably is, but who knows, maybe wherever you're located prohibits arbitrary pet/no pet decisions, or maybe there's some other loophole you can take advantage of. Like I said, this probably won't yield any results, but it might still be an avenue worth exploring, especially if other options don't pan out.

Good luck! I really hope you're able to find a solution to this issue.
posted by litera scripta manet at 8:37 AM on October 7, 2017

TLDR: Get the cat registered as an emotional support animal. I can tell just by reading the first part of your post that you desperately need the emotional support of a furry critter. This will get your landlord off the hook as well, which is probably more the point anyway, but they can't tell you that.
posted by BoscosMom at 9:01 AM on October 7, 2017 [4 favorites]

I don’t know your location but in mine, pets over a certain weight are officially banned, but unofficially it’s kind of a don’t ask don’t tell. I hope you didn’t tattle on your neighbors with pets; that won’t help your case and it could cause hassles for them.

Do adopt a cat. Do register it as an emotional support animal. Stop contacting your landlord about it— they advertise your floor as pet free so they’re not going to make an exception unless it’s for that one reason they already gave you.

If this is anything like my apartment, they don’t actually want you to do it the “right” way because they don’t want to deal with enforcement, so there’s no need to put a spotlight on yourself. Don’t do anything until after the inspections (during which your neighbors are hopefully just gonna remove the pets and pet stuff for the day.)
posted by kapers at 1:48 PM on October 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

PS, cats really are very emotionally supportive so it’s not a lie!!
posted by kapers at 1:52 PM on October 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

I was in a similar situation about a bunny.

At the end of the day, I did not want to get evicted for a bunny. Nor did I want to be forced to give her up once I got her. I think those are the two options possible if you defy your management company.

It’s great you’ve tried to be above board with management, but now you’re just attracting attention. They’ve told you no a few times, so there’s your answer. What you do about that is up to you. But I assume now they’ll pay extra attention in that inspection.

Personally, I don’t think coming at them over and over is going to soften them up at this point. You’re likely just annoying.

And stop snitching on everyone. Man would I be pissed if I had to give up my pet because of you. .

They’re probably not getting special treatment, they’re just flouting the same rules you’re obeying.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 3:46 PM on October 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

You can get a pet and kind of defy the apartment's rules since everybody else is doing it... until they come down on everyone, including you, for flouting the rules. Basically, if it's officially not allowed, you're risking having to move suddenly or get into an enormous fight with management over something they have the right to enforce.

If you really want a cat, I would seriously consider moving, when it is feasible, to a place where the rules are clear and you do not have to worry all the time that someone will stick a note on your door that your animal isn't allowed. Because of the uncertainty you will worry every day. It isn't worth it.

I do not know if having the cat registered as a support animal would change this.
posted by Crystal Fox at 7:22 PM on October 7, 2017

Do not fraudulently attempt to claim it’s a support animal without a doctor’s written recommendation. This will only make it more difficult for those who actually do need support animals. Move or give up the cat idea.
posted by lohmannn at 7:30 PM on October 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

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