Cats or No Cats?
May 22, 2007 12:20 PM   Subscribe

The ethics of getting a cat. A roommate and I have been planning to get a cat when our allergic roommates move out. We got the OK from the new roommates on getting the cats. The day after the three new roommates signed the lease, one of them calls and asks us to not get the cat because his girlfriend is allergic. What should we do? (Apologies for the length inside)

So, I have wanted a cat ever since I entered college and left my family's kitties behind. Dorms did not allow cats, so for two years there were no cats. Then I moved into a five-person house, but two of my roommates were allergic and so there were no cats. Now three roommates are leaving, including the allergic roommates, and I and Old Roommate are staying. He also loves cats. And let me tell you, we have been stoked about getting cats. The excitement has been steadily building for the past year and since then I have been deciding on the number of cats (two), whether to get older cats or kittens (kittens), adoption methods, where to put the litter box (in the basement), outdoor versus indoor (indoor, we're in a city), what kind of food to use (mix of wet and high-protein dry), and saving money for vaccines and adoption fees (I now have enough). Old Roommate and I have even picked out names. Needless to say, we cleared these cats weeks before the lease-signing with New Roommate I, New Roommate II, and New Roommate III. Our awesome landlord even rewrote the lease to include the presence of two cats!

Now, the day after the lease-signing--the day after--New Roommate I calls me and says his girlfriend is deathly allergic to cats and asks that we not get any. Or any animal with fur, as they will kill her and she won't be able to visit. What. It is entirely possible that he did not know about these allergies beforehand; we are in college, and without a ton of furry pets around in the dorms he may not have known his lady couldn't tolerate them.

New Roommate II also has an allergic girlfriend. But he still supports the cats, and plans on keeping the door to his room closed, getting an air purifier, and I will be vacuuming regularly and bathing the cats weekly to cut down on the dander and hair.

However, that girlfriend lives an hour away and won't be over all the time. New Roommate I's lady lives in the area. And it sounds like she may be even more allergic than New Roommate's II girlfriend. If we get the cats, the measures I take may not be enough to counteract her allergies, and she may not be able to come over. That will suck for New Roommate I and is pretty unfair to him.

Old Roommate and I feel like we've been kicked in the gut. We have been really, really looking forward to getting something happy and fuzzy. We asked New Roommate I about the kitties well before the lease signing and he OK'd them! Provided New Roommate I and his girl stick together, this is another year at least of no cats.

New Roommate III is leaning towards telling New Roommate I to close his door and put up. New Roommate II is impartial. I and Old Roommate would like to tell New Roommate I to shove it but want to do the right thing. So we ask the impartial observer, what should we do?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (94 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Get the cats, they will increase your quality of life. The roommate is renting a space for him and his girlfriends needs, while real, are not really something you should have to deal with.
posted by stormygrey at 12:25 PM on May 22, 2007

you told him ahead of time, he moved in. so, you did the right thing and he needs to eat it.
posted by alkupe at 12:28 PM on May 22, 2007

Oh dear, it sounds like New Roommate has some choices to make.
posted by kika at 12:30 PM on May 22, 2007

is his girlfriend moving in to the apartment? will she be spending money on utitilies? Is she not merely a guest who can't come over? no?

get the cats. screw the girlfriend. you don't have any ethical obligation to have her needs vastly intefer with your quality of life when it comes to pet ownership and your living space.
posted by Stynxno at 12:31 PM on May 22, 2007

oh my god! New Roommate I needs to grow up and deal. He knew what situation he was getting into when he signed the lease, and that the situation included *cats.* How he didn't know his girlfriend was allergic is beyond me, but - she is his problem, NOT yours. You want the cats, have planned for them, and - MOST importantly - this is your apartment! You have seniority. He is the new guy. AND he's outnumbered, as everyone else either wants the cats or is impartial. The problem is his: either he finds a way to have his girlfriend deal, or he drops off the lease and finds you an appropriate person to replace him (happens all the time).

You're extremely kind-hearted to worry about this to the degree of posting it here and considering not getting the cats. But this is something not only of importance to you, but something you've made room for in your life - don't continue to live, pet-less, because of Random New Name on Lease.
posted by AthenaPolias at 12:32 PM on May 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

Tell Roommate I that you are getting the cats, but will let him out of the lease. But he has to pay rent until you/he finds a replacement. Sucks for him, but you've done everything right. This is nobody's fault, he probably didn't know, but to ask you to forgo something you've planned for so thoroughly, and for someone who isn't even going to be living there (& paying rent) isn't reasonable.

If you want to be super nice, hold off on getting the cats until he's gone, but I'd probably go ahead and get them.
posted by Mavri at 12:33 PM on May 22, 2007 [5 favorites]

New Roommate I needs to take responsibility for his failure to inform you of his girlfriend's allergies ahead of time. Whether that means never having her come over, or asking her to take a benadryl, or moving out and finding someone to take over his room, he screwed it up and he needs to fix it. He has no right to ask you not to get a cat.
posted by cerebus19 at 12:34 PM on May 22, 2007

It's pretty unfair that he gave you the thumbs up and then tell you the day after signing the lease that it was a problem. I'd tell him to deal with it, make the same concessions as the other roommate (closing the door, air purifier) or go over to his girlfriends place for visits. As far as roommates go, you've been pretty considerate about this issue; get the cats. You'll be happier for it.
posted by kelzabel at 12:34 PM on May 22, 2007

What should we do?

Tell the new roommate, "Tough for your girlfirend, eh? And by the way, we'll still need 30 days notice if you plan on leaving."
posted by solid-one-love at 12:35 PM on May 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

Telling Roommate I to sod off is probably the worst thing you can do... you will then have two cats, and a resentful fifth man who will be pissed off at the four of you from the moment he moves in, and will have a full year in which to make passive-aggressive digs, or do whatever it is he does to vent frustration. Granted, it was kind of dumb for him to sign a lease without understanding all the clauses thereof, but this can be addressed in other ways. When does the lease term start? Can you convince him that the cat situation is sufficiently dire that he should move elsewhere, and then find another, more cat-friendly roommate in time for the lease? If your landlord is cool with it (and he sounds pretty reasonable), you can save yourselves some serious strife.

Speaking as a man with cat allergies, I can tell you with absolute certainty that there is no conceivable way to sequester yourself from cats if they are in the same house. Our neighbors got a cat, and from across a hall and through two closed doors, it has made me miserable. Subjecting your roommate's girlfriend to the same is guaranteed to make everyone unhappy. You need to at least give him an out, because even though he's the idiot who didn't remember his girlfriend's allergies, you're the ones who will have to live with the drama.
posted by Mayor West at 12:37 PM on May 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

Just FWIW, some people are so allergic to cats that the dander that would inevitably end up on your roommate's clothes could set them off. Other people essentially just get stuffed up from it, thus making keeping the door closed and having an air purifier enough.

Obviously it's still the roommate's problem, not yours; it's just something to keep in mind while you're dealing with him.

I would go the route of asking him to help you find someone else to lease his space, and help him find another place to live before getting the cats, unless he's being slow about it, it surely won't be more than a month or two. Unless he's just an incredible asshole, he probably didn't know about his girlfriend's severe allergy until very recently.
posted by wierdo at 12:39 PM on May 22, 2007

New Roommate signed the fricking lease. Be nice about it, but get the cat. If his girlfriend complains, it's really his fault for not being more sensitive to her needs.

Also, cats with long hair tend to be better from an allergy perspective than short-haired cats. It's really the pet dander that allergy suffers can't handle. So get a fluffy cat.

Oh, and..

posted by misha at 12:42 PM on May 22, 2007 [5 favorites]

Having almost died twice from allergies to cats I can contest that even the smallest amount of dander can send me into a miserable place.

Bringing a cat into a place you know will have people with sever allergies seems a bit selfish. To me it is kind of like smoking in an enclosed area with non-smokers present.

If you can hold off, or get an outdoor cat, I think this is the best choice. Unless you have experienced an allergy like this you really have no idea of the suffering you may be putting onto their relationship.

I am sure you know the right thing to do here….
posted by birdlips at 12:46 PM on May 22, 2007

Sounds like he agreed to it, and the conditions of him signing the lease seem to hinge on the cat being in the house. Get the cat, and let him know that it's nothing personal, but he had agreed to it and that's why you let him sign the lease.
posted by dead_ at 12:48 PM on May 22, 2007

Tell Roommate I that you are getting the cats, but will let him out of the lease. But he has to pay rent until you/he finds a replacement.

I concur. Are you good friends with New I? If so, then you have to choose between friendship and cats, and that's a little trickier. But seriously, it's his fault and his problem.
posted by radioamy at 12:50 PM on May 22, 2007

Hm. You mention in passing that part of your cat hair/dander control strategy is to include bathing the cats. You might want to reconsider that, unless you will be acquiring unusual cats -- no cat I have ever owned has treated bathing as anything less than attempted murder. (I have only resorted to it in cases of flea infestation.) With patience, however, you can accustom most cats to thorough brushing/grooming (get a pet brush at a good pet store), which, done regularly, pre-empts a good fraction of the shedding before it can happen.

That said, regular and thorough vacuuming (1-2 x a wk) with a good (i.e. not a third-hand clunker from the 70s-80s) vacuum and frequently-changed microfilter bags will make a big difference. Don't forget to use the hose attachment to get the hair off furniture and beds, and to move beds, chairs, and dressers to get the tumbleweeds that accumulate in less-trafficked places.

Unrelatedly, you might want to do some research into proper nail clipping to minimize clawing damage to your and various roommates' furniture and other belongings. Helps with household diplomacy, not to have "Your cat destroyed my bookshelf with clawing!" thrown in your face during a conflict.

I hope it works out for you. Our cats are a big part of our life quality of life, and it's hard to imagine living without them.
posted by aught at 12:50 PM on May 22, 2007

He's not a jerk for being unaware of his girlfriend's condition, and she's not a jerk for having allergies. But he still has a responsibility for committing to a situation that he no longer feels able to commit to. Sucks to be him. The best thing for all concerned is for him to drop out. To make things simplest for you, make it really easy for him to do the right thing quickly. Tell him he owes 30 days notice, but if he gives it to you in writing by tomorrow then you'll waive the 30 days let him off the hook immediately so you and he can immediately find other roomies. Better for everything to be solved before boxes have been unpacked.

Enjoy your kitties!
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 12:51 PM on May 22, 2007

The onus is on Roommate One.

He needs a new place to live, or he needs a new girlfriend. Help him find a new place.

Birdlips, no one is forcing girlfriend into the cat house.
posted by konolia at 12:54 PM on May 22, 2007

However, by getting a cat you are removing her option of visiting her boyfriend
posted by birdlips at 12:56 PM on May 22, 2007

To me it is kind of like smoking in an enclosed area with non-smokers present.

Huh? There's a big SMOKING AREA sign posted here.

Get the kitties. (And don't put them outside; I'm still cringing at having seen a dead one by the side of the road this weekend.)

I wonder what New Roommate would do if he'd been living in a place with cats before he got the current girlfriend; my guess is he would've found a way to work it out. It's not that rare. He goes to her place or she takes a pill or he moves or whatever. It should not be that great a strain on him or his relationship.
posted by kmennie at 12:57 PM on May 22, 2007

Get the cat.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 12:57 PM on May 22, 2007

Get the kitties. Don't put them outside.
posted by jerseygirl at 12:59 PM on May 22, 2007

However, by getting a cat you are removing her option of visiting her boyfriend

Yeah, no. There are places in the world called "OUTSIDE" or "her place". If those aren't viable options, then the relationship is doomed to begin with and they should just call it quits now or else end up on a new version of Laguna Beach: Cats.

Plus, that is not Annon's problem. That is the boyfriend and girlfriend. He signed the lease, now he has to deal with, not Annon.
posted by Stynxno at 1:00 PM on May 22, 2007

and those places in the world are perfect for pets....
posted by birdlips at 1:05 PM on May 22, 2007

To me it is kind of like smoking in an enclosed area with non-smokers present.

This is more like screaming at the smokers when you plop yourself down in the smoking section. Get the cats.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 1:06 PM on May 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

Nthing the "he made his bed, and now he has to lie in it" responses. You're being more than fair to allow him out of the lease to find a pet-less house. It's not your responsibility to cater to his girlfriend; especially after the lease was signed. Plus, if you did postpone getting the cats due to the girlfriend, would you not resent her to the point where she felt uncomfortable coming around? You can't win - on one hand she doesn't come around b/c of the cat, on the other she doesn't come around because she's responsible for the lack of a cat. And frankly - chances are any kitten you get will last longer than the new roommate's relationship anyway. Get the kitties already, and them give them a snuggle for me - I'm jealous!
posted by cgg at 1:06 PM on May 22, 2007

and those places in the world are perfect for pets....

he can always break his lease and get a new place. He already agreed to the initial provisions of getting cats and then rescinded after signing the papers. Again, it's not Annon's fault - it's the boyfriend's.
posted by Stynxno at 1:10 PM on May 22, 2007

the christopher hundreds: You can only make that comparison if the cat is already living in the house, which it's not. All I am trying to say is cat allergies can be very hard to live with. The current roommates have waited this long already. Can they not at least wait until no one will be affected?
posted by birdlips at 1:11 PM on May 22, 2007

Reading it over again, I find it odd that Roommate 1 had no idea his gf was deathly allergic to cats until after the lease was signed.
posted by jerseygirl at 1:13 PM on May 22, 2007

Don't get the cat.

Yeah, it sucks that you wanted a cat, and yeah, it sucks that new roommate didn't know his gf was allergic or forgot to tell you. But, hey, shit happens with roommates. You can't always have everything your own way; such is life when you don't live alone. Human companionship has to top out over feline companionship here. Surely no one is seriously equating a cat (which you don't have yet) with a real live breathing girlfriend (which your roommate certainly does have). You have the rest of your life where you can get a cat.

I have no doubt in my mind though, you absolutely, positively WILL get the cat. And you've come to the right place for support.
posted by modernnomad at 1:15 PM on May 22, 2007

How serious is this relationship? Is she a new girlfriend? It seems to me that if contact with animal fur could literally kill you - its something you might mention fairly early on in a relationship. I know if I had a fatal allergy I'd be telling anyone who would listen, you wouldnt want to end up in hospital because someone didnt know.

If he wants to see his girlfriend then he should go see her at her house (in clean clothes kept well away from any he's worn that might have catness on them) Its not her fault that she has allergies but if she is really that allergic then she should be used to not being able to go wherever she wants and see whoever she wants. I really dont see it as a big deal that she cant go see him at his house, unless theres some big reason why he cant go to hers its not a major drama.

Ofcourse, I also dont see why getting cats is such a big deal - other than you've prematurely overexcited yourself about them.
posted by missmagenta at 1:16 PM on May 22, 2007

I like Mavri's suggestion of telling the dude that he needs to find another place, and holding him responsible for the rent initially; only problem with waiting on the cat is that dude and his GF will develop seniority interests that may make it quite hard to change.

Consider when approaching this guy that he may be asking on behalf of his GF and their relationship, and may have done so with no particular expectation that you would capitulate -- but thinking it wouldn't hurt to ask. Perhaps he'll be completely understanding about it, as he should be.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 1:18 PM on May 22, 2007

The cats were on the lease before New Roommate signed it. They were there first.

All we’re saying is that this household and the New Roommate do not appear to be a match. Nobody’s calling New Roommate or his girlfriend a jerk. At all. It’s just not a match, and it’s actually a really good thing for everyone to find this out now rather than for New Roommate to fall in love with an allergic woman after six months of living with cats. That could really be a disaster, which is now going to be avoided because New Roommate will be free to find a cat-free living situation. Phew!
posted by kika at 1:18 PM on May 22, 2007

birdlips: no one is making the girlfriend live with the cats. She's not the roommate. She has no say in how they live. The roommate said the cats would be OK, then he reneged based on new information. He is not a bad person, but he has to decide if he wants to live in a house with cats, given his gf's allergies. It is not reasonable to expect someone to change a major life choice (getting a pet) based on the health problem of someone they don't know (ie, a roommate's girlfriend).

So, to tweak christopher 100s analogy: it's like going into a smoking area when no one is smoking and then yelling at the smoker who wanders over to smoke. (I am allergic to cats, btw.)
posted by Mavri at 1:19 PM on May 22, 2007

Look at it from the other side. You have this great girlfriend and are about to move in with a few folks. After you sign the lease, your girlfriend says "I'm actually severely allergic to cats and can never come over if you have them." Now you're stuck having committed to a place where you can't be comfortable. How would you want to be treated?

For me, I'd say don't be a jerk as I'm sure he's not happy with the situation, either. But the cats were part of the deal the whole way, so be nice and let him opt out.
posted by Schismatic at 1:22 PM on May 22, 2007

modernnomand, I definetly count my cat higher on my heirarchy of needs, than my roommates' girlfriends.

Unless we're talking about some sort of swinging arrangement, the idea that fulfilling someone else's desire for companionship is more important than your own just seems awfully self-deprecating.
posted by nomisxid at 1:24 PM on May 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

Bringing a cat into a place you know will have people with sever allergies seems a bit selfish.

Really? As selfish as someone imposing their will on a household they don't live in?

Come on, they cleared it with Roommate I before he signed the lease to avoid this specific conflict, and now he's asked 4 other people to give something up for his girlfriend, who lives elsewhere.

I understand your position: you have sympathy for someone with an ailment you've fought. But this situation isn't about allergies, it's about how to live with strangers in harmony.

I agree with the hoardes: be nice about it, and let Roommate I out of his lease as soon as he/you can find a suitable replacement who can live with the lifestyle as advertised.
posted by nadise at 1:25 PM on May 22, 2007 [2 favorites]

Mavri: how is getting a pet a major life choice? We are talking about a cat here, not a retirement plan. I would say a girlfriend is more of a major life choice. It seems a little odd to me that you would want to put a roommate out on the street before a cat.
posted by birdlips at 1:26 PM on May 22, 2007


I would remind you on the heirarchy of needs, it's a hypothetical cat vs. an actual girfriend.

In any event, if you can never put someone else's needs above your own desires, I feel sorry for you. Perhaps this is cultural difference; I see you are from Seattle.
posted by modernnomad at 1:30 PM on May 22, 2007

I would remind you on the heirarchy of needs, it's a hypothetical cat vs. an actual girfriend.

In any event, if you can never put someone else's needs above your own desires, I feel sorry for you. Perhaps this is cultural difference; I see you are from Seattle.

I think the hypothetical cat is somewhere using a real litterbox. Though if it is not adopted soon, it may come a lot closer to being hypothetical.

P.S. I think the Seattle folks might value a latte above someone else's actual girlfriend, but not sure how that translates into cats.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 1:39 PM on May 22, 2007

As I mentioned before, no matter what you do, there will be dander on the roommate's clothes, so if she has a severe allergy, he won't be able to go to her house, either, as he will just track the allergens into her house with him.

Him not living there is by far the best option. The asker and the roommate should both work with each other to resolve the situation by finding a new roommate and a new place to live for the departing roommate. Shit happens. Part of life is dealing with things in an adult manner, not telling people to go fuck themselves because something unexpected came up. Surely the asker can wait a month or two if need be. A year, probably not so much, at least without resentment.

My girlfriend and I have cats, and she was the same way about just having to have them, so I know what it's like, even if I don't completely understand it. (I merely like them, but would be perfectly fine without them)

FWIW, it really amazes me how many people are advocating being a total asshole and just telling the roommate to deal with it. That's nothing short of childish. They're cats, not body parts. One can live without them for another month while things get sorted out amicably.

Of course, I'm operating under the assumption that the roommate's girlfriend is indeed severely allergic, not allergic in the way that a bit of Benadryl will fix. If it's that sort of minor allergy, telling them to just deal with it might be a more viable option.
posted by wierdo at 1:42 PM on May 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

Get the cats.

The lease was signed on the terms you were getting cats. It's too bad his girlfriend is allergic but hello...Claritin? Benadryl? I myself am extremely allergic to cats yet I have three and through the miracle of modern pharmaceuticals I suffer no ill effects from them.

If she can't be arsed to pop a pill before she comes over then they can meet elsewhere.

Some people might say you should give in to the cat ban in order to keep peace with the new roommate but personally I think what the new roommate's asking is a bit much, especially considering that you made your intentions clear and the girlfriend is not paying rent. I say, if he doesn't like it, he can lump it.
posted by Jess the Mess at 1:42 PM on May 22, 2007

Getting a pet is a major life choice b/c you are solely responsible for the care of another creature for 10-15+ years. Your roommate's girlfriend is not a major life choice of yours.

No one is suggesting putting anyone out on the street. Roomie I can find another place to live where his girlfriend can sleep over all the time, his buddy OP can get his cats, and they can all go out for beers.

Putting other people's needs above yours is great. However, it is a bit much to say that someone "never" does so because they want to hold a roommate to something that they agreed to for and now wants to change for someone who is not going to live there.
posted by Mavri at 1:44 PM on May 22, 2007

birdlips, are you trolling?

Anon and Old Roomie already live there. They decided to get cats. They told potential new roommates that there would be cats in the flat.

Now, someone who does not and will not be living there gets a say in the living arrangements? Um, no.

And modernnomad: how is it ok that the new roommate is putting his non-resident girlfriend's needs over those of his rent-paying, lease-holding roomies? And yes, based on what anon has said, the cats are a need.

Nthing the please post pix of cats.
posted by rtha at 1:50 PM on May 22, 2007

I don't like cats, but neither do I like people who go back on their word without regard for others. Get the cats.
posted by Krrrlson at 1:50 PM on May 22, 2007

If you don't get the cats, you and the other Old Roomie are going to be resentful of New Roomie I until he loses the girlfriend or moves out.

If you do get the cats, New Roomie I will be resentful of you until he loses the girlfriend or moves out. His girlfriend will be, too, but she doesn't live there.

For harmonious living, I'd suggest the path that ends up with the fewest unhappy people. This would ideally be letting him out of the lease and finding someone else more compatible with your living situation.
posted by po at 1:52 PM on May 22, 2007

birdlimps, a cat or cats (or dogs) are a choice you will live with for up to 20 years. College girlfriends are six months, tops. You ssem to have preconceived notions about who's the jerk in the situation, and will not back down even in the face of mo' better information.

Get the cats, help the schmuck find a new place to live.

...and I say this, severly allergic to cats, with one in a single basement room that my g/f airlocks herself in and out of, and has cat-specific clothes.
posted by notsnot at 1:53 PM on May 22, 2007

MN, I dunno where that BS about a "never" came from, it sure wasn't in my post.

We're not talking about bringing a cat into an established anti-cat household, we're talking about someone who signed an agreement to live with a cat, then came back and wanted everyone else to alter their plans. Unless I misread, it doesn't even sound like NR-I has actually moved in.

And MN, I feel sorry for you if you can't have the compassion to see why everyone deserves the companionship of their choice.
posted by nomisxid at 1:54 PM on May 22, 2007

And modernnomad: how is it ok that the new roommate is putting his non-resident girlfriend's needs over those of his rent-paying, lease-holding roomies? And yes, based on what anon has said, the cats are a need.

I would define the "need" as the roommate's, not his gf's. And of course, I disagree that wanting cats is a "need" by any stretch of the imagination, anymore than wanting an xbox is.

Look, I know this is a losing fight -- I'm not expecting to convince you or anyone else. We all know anon is going to get the cat. I've long since given up on most people forgoing an element of their own pleasure for the benefit of another -- cracks about lattes aside, it is an American cultural norm.
posted by modernnomad at 2:00 PM on May 22, 2007

Get the cats. Keep them inside. Screw the roommate and his gf. If possible, consider letting him out of the lease agreement to avoid problems and find a cat-friendly new roommate. Making your lifeplans around someone else's college girlfriend is silly, she probably won't be around long enough to even care (and if she is, it falls under the category of Tough Shit- he was forewarned and signed anyway).
And as a cat owner I have to tell you that weekly baths for indoor cats is really unnecessary and tortuous sounding.
posted by BillBishop at 2:03 PM on May 22, 2007

Rtha: I have followed the entire thread. I am not suggesting the girlfriend has a say in living arrangements. I am suggesting that the old roomies hold off until at least the new guy can find a suitable living arrangement.

notsnot: I am not saying anyone is a jerk, I am saying have a little compassion for the human involved here. And getting a pet IS NOT a major life decision, sorry to break that to you. If your relationships with pets are lasting longer than your girlfriends/boyfriends, well then I think you need to start a different thread.
posted by birdlips at 2:04 PM on May 22, 2007

Indeed modernnomad, it is unfortunate that Roomie I can't forgo his own pleasure for the benefit of the OP. [Seriously, you don't see that one of these two people is going to have to give up something, and most of the people posting are advocating for both to stand by their word? And you worked an anti-American jibe into a question about getting a cat?]
posted by Mavri at 2:06 PM on May 22, 2007

Anonymous & current roommate, did you have a hand in selecting the new roommates? If so, being cool with the cats was clearly a criteria for acceptance into the household. And if that's the case, I'd say you tell New Roommate I you're getting the cats, and he can sort his own business out.

But if you want to be super-reasonable: hold a vote with all five roommates and go with the majority decision.

New Roommate I's girlfriend does not get a vote, obviously.
posted by Squeak Attack at 2:06 PM on May 22, 2007

Modernnomad, I agree with you-Roommate one can forego the element of his pleasure with his girlfriend or the pleasure of his living arrangements so that OTHER people who have already set things up for their longawaited pets can have them.

I assume that Allergic Girlfriend lives in a world, goes to school with and is exposed to other people WHO HAVE CATS.

What this is really about is that Allergic Girlfriend won't be able to come to House of Cats to bump uglies with Roommate number one. This is all about sex. IF roommate number one is that serious about the girl they can get hitched and live in a catfree abode. Other than that HE SHOULD HONOR HIS AGREEMENT. THE AGREEMENT HE ALREADY MADE. IN WRITING. It is MORE than considerate for the other tenants to allow him out of the lease.
posted by konolia at 2:12 PM on May 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh dear, it sounds like New Roommate has some choices to make.

Yep -- he is responsible for the situation and has to make a choice. Stay and (a) see if there is a way to accomodate his girlfriend visiting the house, (b), entertain his girlfriend elsewhere or find a new living situation.
posted by ericb at 2:15 PM on May 22, 2007

1. Hypothesis: birdlips IS the GF.

2. Modernnomad: "I've long since given up on most people forgoing an element of their own pleasure for the benefit of another -- cracks about lattes aside, it is an American cultural norm." What you have to control for is that we Americans usually remorselessly pursue our own pleasure at the expense of the environment or, at the very least, through barbaric military invasions that satisfy our bloodlust. Going nuts for pets is something we normally cede to the Brits, as with budgies.

3. Seriously, the new roommate isn't being a jerk, he's just asking, so everyone should chill a little. Of course, the cat can't ask for anything, though it will be vocalizing its bathing preferences before too long.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 2:18 PM on May 22, 2007 [3 favorites]

Side note not really pertaining to the direct question. My room mate in college and I got a pair of cats together. Are you planning on separating the cats when you part ways after graduation? Just know it is really hard on litter mates to lose their mates after a couple of years living together. My roommate's cat became so depressed that he started pulling out his fur and had to be put on kitty prozac. My cat was fine though (I wanted to keep them both, but she wanted her cat). Just something to think about ...
posted by MayNicholas at 2:20 PM on May 22, 2007

Roomate is liable for rent, and should be given some flexibility in finding a new place. Sometimes it's tricky, all that transition.

Give Roomate 45 days to find a new place, get cats on day 46. Roomate should understand that sticking around on day 46 means cat, and lease enforcement.
posted by cior at 2:21 PM on May 22, 2007

Look, I know this is a losing fight -- I'm not expecting to convince you or anyone else.

Then get off this thread. You are not helping.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 2:24 PM on May 22, 2007

birdlips, i believe you mean "i can attest to the fact…", not contest. and while i can sympathise with your allergies, i disagree that for the OP to get a cat is selfish. the fact that the OP is concerned enough to even ask what the right thing to do in this situation is evidence of an unselfish attitude in this regard. the cat(s) were planned for and agreed upon well in advanced by all the roommates, even the one whose gf has the allergies. the gf isn't the one who's going to be living there nor is she paying for anything to do with the house; she has her own place to live. if she can't deal with the cats, she doesn't visit, period. whether she can deal with the cats in a house that she is not living in has no bearing on the decisions of the ppl living in said house. if this not tenable for her or her bf, then he needs to find someone to replace him on the lease and find a non-cat household. i don't believe he was reversing his opinion about getting the cat after signing the lease because he was being a jerk, but his prior ignorance of his gf's allergies is his problem and his responsibility, not that of the others in the household.
posted by violetk at 2:26 PM on May 22, 2007

well considering English is my second language, I apologize if I offended you with a small grammatical error. Again, all I am saying is if he gets a cat knowing it may cause bodily harm to another human (when he can wait) is indeed selfish. Finally, all I am suggesting (as I mentioned above) is that the old roomies hold off until at least the new guy can find a suitable living arrangement.
posted by birdlips at 2:31 PM on May 22, 2007

Girlfriends come and go, but cats last 14 years (on average). Get the cat.
posted by yeti at 2:33 PM on May 22, 2007

no one is making the girlfriend live with the cats. She's not the roommate. She has no say in how they live.

Bingo. And based on the statistics of college relationships, I seriously doubt she'll still be his girlfriend in a year. Get the cat.
posted by languagehat at 2:34 PM on May 22, 2007

Well, rock my world: I agree with konolia!

Also, birdlips? I think you're being disingenuous - or you've forgotten that you wrote: All I am trying to say is cat allergies can be very hard to live with. The current roommates have waited this long already. Can they not at least wait until no one will be affected? Which really doesn't read like "just wait until he finds a new place," especially in combination with your previous comments.

Anon - if possible, give the new guy 30 days to find a new place, during which he pays rent, and you all refrain from getting cats. If he can help you find a replacement roommate, all the better.
posted by rtha at 2:42 PM on May 22, 2007

Get the cat. Offer to let Roommate 1 out of the lease as soon as an agreeable replacement roommate can be found.

Roommate 1 supposedly signed the lease in the knowledge that while cats are not present yet, they would be when he was living there. To my mind, this makes it ethically no different from him signing the lease when the cats were already present.

If he did that, and his girlfriend then said "I can't visit you in a house that has cats," would he say "Anon, you have to get rid of the cats"? If he did, would Anon do anything other than dismiss him out of hand?

You don't want a resentful roommate, so giving him an out is both graceful and enlightened self-interest.
posted by adamrice at 2:46 PM on May 22, 2007

[And getting a pet IS NOT a major life decision, sorry to break that to you.

Everyone please ignore that statement. If you do subscribe to it, please, Please, PLEASE do not ever get a pet -- you do not deserve one. Of course, anyone who has ever truly cared for a pet knows just how wrong such a statement is.]

OP, I had to give up cats I had for a year because my to-be-wife was allergic and could not visit me. I think the only thing left here to do is to laugh at you for thinking that you will bathe your cats every week.
posted by iurodivii at 3:00 PM on May 22, 2007

get the cats. I've been much happier since I got mine 3 months ago!
posted by uncballzer at 3:11 PM on May 22, 2007

Rtha: I disagree, I was saying that living with a cat and having a girlfriend that is allergic to it is hard to live with. “Can they not at least wait until no one will be affected” absolutely can mean “just wait until he finds a new place”.

Violetk: I am not going to thank someone for pointing out a flawed sentence in an attempt to take the focus away from the real point. I am not defensive about that because I am used to it. I am, however, having a hard time understanding why people put pets before humans. So in that I may come across as being defensive.
posted by birdlips at 3:12 PM on May 22, 2007

I have had many great pets through out my entire life. None of which ever felt like a major life decision.

wow, I guess I am totally way off here today. I best cut my losses and move on.

Make yourself happy, get the cat.
posted by birdlips at 3:15 PM on May 22, 2007

You went out of your way to communicate your desired living situation to new roommates. They were warned and agreed.

Now one wants to renegotiate after having made a legal commitment.

This is somewhere between passive-aggressive bullshit and a benign mistake on his part. Accent being "on his part."

Tell him gosh, you're sorry, that's unfortunate but having a pet is something important to you and you've been working towards and waiting for for quite some time. We'll try to find some way to accommodate you and her but intend to go forward with getting the pets.
posted by phearlez at 3:38 PM on May 22, 2007

You made it pretty clear that you would be getting cats before they signed. Therefore, being accepting of that can pretty much be considered a condition of living there.

I mean, reverse the situation. If you had made "no pets" a condition of living there (for, say, a reason other than allergies), and made that clear--but then after he signed the lease, say, his aunt died and he inherited her cat, and she loved that cat and he has to take care of it--would you still let him live there?

And I'm trying to be charitable, but the timing strikes me as franky suspicious--it seems like he would have mentioned all this (that he was moving into a new place, and that the place would have cats) to his girlfriend before now.

If you want to be nice about it, wait until he's found a new place, because otherwise he'll get dander on his clothes and might not be able to be around her anyway.

But give him a deadline (or tell him that after x amount of time, you'll be getting the cats whether he's still living there or not), or else you might end up with him staying there for months and months because hey, he already has a place to live where his girlfriend can come over, so why should he look too hard for another place?

(Also, agreeing that the right thing is to let him out of the lease and help him find a new place, but still have him pay rent for the time he's actually living with you, if he isn't moving out immediately. And think about how you're going to split the extra rent if there's a lag between New Roommate I moving out and finding a replacement roommate. Unless you've specified beforehand that if someone moves out, you all split it, the right thing is to just split it between yourself and Old Roommate--presumably II and III agreed to a specific amount of rent, or a specific proportion, and it's not fair to increase that on them.)
posted by Many bubbles at 4:07 PM on May 22, 2007

Anonymous, you and your Old Roommate are clearly considerate people. You waited until your previous roommates who had allergies moved out before taking steps to get a cat. You informed your potential new roommates, considerately, that you would be getting a cat. Your roommates agreed to the lease knowing you would be getting a cat. Now, someone who won't even be living there doesn't want you to get a cat. This is not OK.

As others have suggested, I think it would be considerate of you to offer the objecting new roommate a way to get out of the lease (preferably he helps you find a new roommate). Wait until he's gone, then get your cat and enjoy!

Your new roommate's girlfriend is not being considerate. She is going to be your GUEST, not your roommate. Guests do not get to dictate the conditions of a household they will be visiting.

I say this as a person with allergies to many things, including cats. I also say this as a non-American: I don't think this has anything to do with "American" cultural sensibilities.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 4:21 PM on May 22, 2007

Siberian Temple Cat ,hypoallergenic beauties
posted by hortense at 4:29 PM on May 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

Anyone saying that he shouldn't get the cat because of this guy's girlfriend is being ridiculous. The OP and his roommate have been planning on getting a cat and were very excited about it. They did everything they could to warn the new roommates that they would have cats and everyone said OK. Just because this new guy found out his girlfriend is allergic to cats after signing doesn't mean that the OP has to completely change all his happy kitty cat plans because of this dude's GIRLFRIEND. The new guy agreed to something, circumstances changed for him, therefore he must change his plans and find a new place to live.

OP, tell him that he knew what he was getting into and that he can back out of the lease. Do it for the kitties.
posted by koshka at 5:09 PM on May 22, 2007

Get the cats. This is New Roommate I's problem, not yours. If New Roommate I is a gentleman, he'll find New Roommate IV for you and move out.
posted by flabdablet at 5:48 PM on May 22, 2007

Get the cats and kick that pussy to the curb.
posted by mds35 at 6:00 PM on May 22, 2007

Get the cats. This is something exciting that you've been planning for a while and have been really looking forward to.

Regardless of what other people say about major versus minor life decision, the fact is that you went out of your way to get your lease altered to accomodate this. It is very important to you! And you made it very clear ahead of time.

If New Roommate knew all this coming in, then I think the onus is on him to change his living situation, not to demand that you to change your established situation (well, situation-to-be) that you have been really looking forward to. It's a hassle for him, but he hasn't even gotten attached to the place yet. I don't even know if he's moved his stuff in yet.
posted by cadge at 6:44 PM on May 22, 2007

i don't think this has been mentioned yet, but I find your roomate's timing really suspicious. The day AFTER he signs the lease? How long has he been with this girl to not know she was allergic to cats? I know this crap about people by the 2nd week. (oh fine, maybe he really didn't know, but I still say the timing is suspicious)

Sounds to me like he's rethinking the decision to be in the apartment, knows how much you want cats, and wants to be able to opt out without too many ramifications. after all his gf is deathly allergic, right? who would be so heartless as to hold him to a lease when his gf could *die* just being there?? I think he's banking on you wanting cats so bad you'll let him out of the lease.

Which, I think you should do, but chiming in with the majority: make him find a replacement, give him a reasonable time limit, and get the cats on the day after the limit has expired, even if he's still there.

You gave him fair notice, you've wanted cats for ages. Protect yourself against lost rent by holding him to some sort of conditions, but you're not being unfair getting cats when you told him in advance. If he leaves...well, he knew what he was getting into. And if this is all a ploy because he actually DOES want to break the lease...well why would you want to live with someone who didn't want to live with you anyways?

Just my paranoid, cynical 2 cents.
posted by Eudaimonia at 7:35 PM on May 22, 2007

They signed the lease knowing it had been amended to allow you to have two cats. So get two cats.
posted by robcorr at 8:03 PM on May 22, 2007

get the cats, screw the roommate. the roommate signed on to the deal with his eyes open. now you're being asked to defer cat ownership in favor of somebody you've never met before who wants to come over and boff your roommate. if you give in on this, just imagine what kind of demands this couple will make next. madeline, my tuxedo longhair, is sitting on my desk right now and she just issued a concurring meow.
posted by bruce at 8:39 PM on May 22, 2007

Millionth get the cats opinion here.

However, if you can stand one of the ostensibly hypoallergenic breeds, like the Devon Rex, you might want to consider it as a sort of token attempt to resolve the situation even though a lot of people are still allergic to hypoallergenic breeds.

If one of you is a trust fund baby you might consider an Allerca, but at six grand, I'm hoping that site is a joke.

You might also consider vacuuming frequently, and buying a HEPA filter for the common areas of the apartment to minimize cat dander. I don't consider you morally obligated to do any of this, but I think it might make your new roommate less resentful.

Oh, and Claritin isn't going to cut it, but a nasal steroid might help.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:07 PM on May 22, 2007

one other thing: this is a matter of life and death - for the two shelter cats in your immediate future, whose loving home and very lives, considering what can happen to shelter cats, hang in the balance here. i say: adopt the kitties and put the girlfriend to sleep instead.
posted by bruce at 11:37 PM on May 22, 2007

if girlfriend is allergic, it means she doesn't come over. end of story. they can hang out at her place.

it wouldn't be the first time compromises like this were made.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 6:41 AM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Ah, the hectoring of the Feline Militia. If you were looking for validation, anon, you got it, but you should shy away from thinking of this community as impartial observers. AskMe loves their cats almost as much as they love the internet— the demographic skews toward the anti-social and self-indulgent.

Given that despite the length, I still think most of the advice here is reactionary, I'm going to shade toward the unreliable narrator and trust you to choose from the breakdown of likely situations based on what's actually happening:

Fundamentally, you can either get the cats now, or wait. Getting the cat now would depend on you having a better relationship with your new roommate than he with his girlfriend, and would likely still engender some lingering resentment after they broke up (or maybe didn't, if her allergy's been exaggerated). Otherwise, passive-aggressive hell is likely to follow, and we'll see more anonymous questions about why toothbrushes smell like shit or how to much urine clothes have to be soaked in to smell faintly.

If you choose to wait, you can either wait until a predetermined date, until the roommate moves out, or until the roommate breaks up. I'm not sure how long the lease is, generally a year in college areas, though if it's starting now and in a city, it might be different.
So, you could wait through this period of the lease, letting your roommate know that you're getting a cat— for sure— when this one is up. This has the benefit of humoring your new roommate, and really costs you nothing except the immediate option of having a cat. It would be putting other people's concerns first, and leave you as a considerate person who was still going to, ultimately, get what they wanted. A year isn't very long.
Or, you could give a briefer deadline, likely tied to when the new roommate would have to become the new ex-roommate. Give him some time to find a new place (perhaps with this girlfriend, if she's that important). Outside of AskMetafilter, in the world where Morris eats dry from a bag, a roommate's girlfriend and a desire for a cat fall pretty much equal on the scale of validity. Forcing someone to move out over this would likely be seen as dickish, but ultimately understandable.

I would also mention that your new roommate-to-be almost certainly has a different interpretation of the situation, and that the path with the most grace will probably come from listening to and humoring him, rather than getting a cat. But noting that even a whiff of talk around declawing gets pitchforks and torches around here, and noting that a plurality of the anti-roommate-declaimers conform to the community norm of exhorting a fair amount of selfishness, you're unlikely to be swayed from what I get the sense you want to do: give the new guy the boot.

Shame it had to happen this way, because I don't think that either party is going to come away from this clean or happy.
posted by klangklangston at 8:28 AM on May 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Fuck him and everybody else that hates cats!!

You've made your decision so what you're really asking is 'How do I tell him too bad oh and we're actually getting two cats so how do you like that?'

I suggest something along the lines of 'Since you're the one screwing her I really couldn't give two fucks if she drops dead the moment she walks in. Especially as who knows next week you may not be screwing her anymore. Then we would get cats and then you go out and a day later get a new chick and she happens to be allergic as well and so what, you would just expect us to dump them I suppose? Yeah I don't think so you were perfectly aware of what's happening here so why don't you go and get to know your girlfriend because obviously there's things you really need to be aware of there.'

Yeah, something just like that I reckon.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 8:28 AM on May 23, 2007

Anonymous poster wanted me to post their response here:
Anonymous here! I didn't realize this would be so popular! For clarification, the prospect of New Roommate I leaving never occurred to me. I was really honestly interested in finding out whether getting cats was a dick move or whether it was reasonable to go ahead.

I can assure you we had not decided on getting the cats before posting this question, and before the question was posted I was pretty sure most of the responses would confirm my fear that yes, cats should be a no-go. The number of responses to the contrary prompted us to talk to New Roommate I, who said he totally understood, it is OK if we got the cats, he still wanted to stay, and would simply spend more time at his lady friend's place. He's bringing in pets of his own (not furry), so he knows about pet attachment.

In conclusion, thank you all for your suggestions.
posted by mathowie at 11:48 AM on May 23, 2007

That's lovely. Matt, thank you for posting anon's resolution.

It's a relief to me that some of the problem people we write about here in AskMe aren't the complete assholes we make them out to be in our answers.
posted by iguanapolitico at 12:02 PM on May 23, 2007

He's bringing in pets of his own (not furry)

Perchance an iguana? A political one at that?
posted by ericb at 12:05 PM on May 23, 2007

It does sound like it sucks to be the roommate with the allergic girlfriend. However, for those who don't know people who are deathly allergic, the girlfriend not coming over is not the whole problem. The new roommate will not be able to go to his girlfriend's place too because the dander will come with him on his clothes.

My wife is deathly allergic and if I am somewhere where there are cats, I have to remove my clothes practically as soon as I enter the house and take the clothes directly to the laundry. I then have to shower before I can even hug her hello.

Far too often I meet people who think that being allergic only means someone has some mild itchiness or a scratchy throat. For someone who is truely/deathly allergic, encountering a cat can make their throat close up and they can go into anaphylactic shock, and die.

New roommate's girlfriend may or may not be that allergic, but please have some compassion and be as flexible as possible. We don't know how long the new roommate has been with the girlfriend and he may not have known about her allergies yet.
posted by terrapin at 12:47 PM on May 23, 2007

I'm allergic to cats and I say get the cat.

(then again, I also own cats)
posted by drezdn at 12:54 PM on May 23, 2007

He's bringing in pets of his own (not furry)

Perchance an iguana? A political one at that?

Oooh, am I getting new roommates?
posted by iguanapolitico at 3:36 PM on May 23, 2007

Bringing a cat into a place you know will have people with sever allergies seems a bit selfish.

You've got this backwards. Going into a place that you know will have cats, and then demanding that they be removed because you have allergies, is what's selfish.

by getting a cat you are removing her option of visiting her boyfriend

No. By living in a place that he knew was likely to have a cat, he was removing the option. The burden is not on anonymous.

It seems a little odd to me that you would want to put a roommate out on the street before a cat.

The roommate is not being put out on the street. He can even go visit the girlfriend, unless she is homeless.

birdlips, are you trolling?

I'm beginning to think so.

it is an American cultural norm

You can quiet down about it already, seeing as how it applies to your own country.

The new roommate will not be able to go to his girlfriend's place too because the dander will come with him on his clothes.

Then it's basically settled. He knew there would be cats when he signed the lease. He agreed to have cats in the house. If it's problematic for him to live there under the terms of the lease, then he needs to find other living arrangements.
posted by oaf at 5:39 PM on May 23, 2007

By the way, if you start bathing the cats when they are young, they acclimate quite well.

(One who bathes her cats on a regular bases.)
posted by JujuB at 8:29 PM on May 23, 2007

get the cats, screw the roommate.

Er, how about get the cats and politely inform the roommate? Seriously, what's with the hate streak in some of the comments here? Based on the information in your question, there's really no reason to be antagonistic towards the new roommate, unless he starts being a real jerk after you tell him your decision.
posted by the other side at 6:53 PM on May 24, 2007

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