I’m a good person, you know? I still pay for music, I give up my seat on the bus for the elderly, and I haven’t gotten a speeding ticket in a decade. I am proper and I do things by the book.
But there are moments in life when desperation will grind your high and mighty morals into a fine powder. Such was the case when I had to find an apartment very quickly after a big break-up. The atmosphere was such that sleeping in a gas station bathroom would have been a psychologically healthier choice than staying at the house. Emotions were running high. It didn’t help that the rental market was tight.
My situation became even more dire when my ex, despite having a close relationship with the cats, refused to take a single one of the three. I was now the woman with three cats. A couple with three cats in a large house is one thing; a woman with three cats in an apartment is, you know, suspect. It’s a special sort of man who can handle that news with aplomb.
But I couldn’t find a single apartment that was okay with three cats. Usually one was fine; two was not. And so panicked was I that when the landlord at the place I really wanted said, "You have one cat?" I just said, "Yep. Just the one." Then I signed on the dotted line and could finally breathe again.
The ensuing year is riddled with stories of shuffling the cats around in order to make it appear that I only had one cat. He was a hands-on landlord, maybe even a little nosy. He officed on-site, which was weird because he only managed, like, six apartments. Not a heavy load. But, right from the beginning, there were locksmiths and handymen and pest-spray dates. The amount of cat-hiding I was forced to do took me by surprise. There was closet stuffing, box stuffing, carrier stuffing, bathroom hiding, under-bed nudging, car smuggling, and music playing very loudly (Feist) to drown out the sounds of Caper stuffed in a carrier.
But nothing tops the time I had a vacation planned and my landlord chose that weekend to change the locks on the apartment. I couldn’t change my travel plans, so I enlisted the help of my BFF, Bobby, and my helpful downstairs neighbor Corinne to pull off an elaborate caper.
Here is the actual e-mail I sent them:
This is going to be stupidly complicated. Here’s what’s going to happen:
1. I’m leaving Wednesday in the early afternoon. I’ll leave the key in an envelope taped to your door, Corinne. I’ll have to leave the external door unlocked because I won’t have a key, so remember to lock that when you get home. Just feed the cats Wednesday night. I’ll send other instructions about that.
2. Feed the cats Thursday morning. Leave the key in the envelope taped to the upstairs back door. You’ll need to leave the downstairs external door unlocked so that Bobby can get into the building.
3. Bobby, you’ll need to be in my apartment between 10-10:30 on Thursday morning. Once inside, you’ll probably only see Caper, the other two will have disappeared into the back empty room. Or can also just shuttle them in there and close the door. You can also put Caper in there, but you might want to wait until the locksmith comes to do that otherwise you’re going to have to listen to A LOT OF YELLING. She’ll probably leave you alone if you just sit at the table and work. Just make sure that she’s put away when the locksmith comes, so the landlord doesn’t see her. It’s OK if he hears her. She can easily be thrown into the bathroom instead of terrorizing the other cats in the other room.
4. The landlord will want the current key. In exchange, he will give you the two new keys. They’ll change the locks on the front and back door and that’s supposed to take 1-2 hours, though I’m sure it’ll be closer to 30 minutes.
5. After everyone is gone, let the cats out. Stick around for a bit longer just in case the locksmith needs something else.
6. Lock the upstairs back door when you leave and leave the new keys in a box that I’ll leave upstairs by the door. You’ll have to leave the external back door unlocked when you leave, that should be fine. Just don’t do it while the landlord is around and no one will know.
7. Corinne, pick up the keys from the box upstairs Thursday when you get home, feed the cats, lock up and resume normal feeding schedule Friday through Sunday.
OH MY GOD THIS IS STUPID, RIGHT?
Your insane friend,
Of course, nothing ever goes as planned when you’re dealing with anxious cats. One cat wanted to stay under the couch, so Bobby had to shake the couch to get her to come out, which he was sure shaved years off her life. Then when he got them into their designated rooms, he opened the patio doors to let some air in and the other doors popped open and the cats came back out. But it mostly went okay, until I got this message:
I’m pretty sure my landlord knew. I think he was possibly an okay dude who realized that I was in a bind when I moved in, and he forgave my trespass. I never received an eviction notice, and a few months later he sold the properties. Now I have a landlord who doesn’t seem like the kind of landlord who cares if I have three cats.
Have you ever been threatened with eviction over your cats? Also, what’s the deal with rental properties imposing a limit of two cats? I know two cats is a "reasonable" amount, but some of us manage to reasonably have three.
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