Would You Give Up Your Cat for the Perfect NYC Apartment?


A very mean and probably loopy landlord recently tried to make me give up my cat, Mimosa, to sign a lease on an apartment in Brooklyn. After a long and drawn-out application process — I’m convinced that merely renting an apartment in New York City is a more arduous process involving more ridiculous hoop-jumping than buying an entire house anywhere else — the Mean Landlord sent a short but devastating email: “Our building doesn’t allow any pets. We are really sorry about your cat.”

Excuse me, you’re sorry about my cat? My first reaction was more along the lines of, “I’m really sorry but, yeah, I won’t be paying you any money to live in your apartment. I’m really sorry my cat’s better than your apartment, even though the stainless steel appliances in the kitchen were admittedly really nice.”

Once the initial state of shock had passed though, I attempted to persuade the Mean Landlord that having Mimosa in the building wouldn’t be any sort of a problem at all. I pointed out that the original apartment listing said cats were okay (it didn’t specify either way) and that the super who showed the apartment said cats were okay (he didn’t, but I figured he’d take one for Team Feline as he seemed like a decent guy). I also mentioned that at least three people with dogs came into the building while I was there. (I was exaggerating as it was just the one, a fluffy Shih Tzu-type varmint).

The Mean Landlord emailed back: “Those are old tenants that we took in the beginning; as of the last two years, we don’t allow anymore pets.”

At that, I went into battle mode, taking a stance that was equal parts defiant and intended to give the Mean Landlord a brief but informative lesson in cats. I emailed, “She’s a small indoor cat. She’s lived in two apartments before without any issues. I’ve lived in New York for 10 years and always had a cat in the apartment without any issue. She’s not like a dog that’s going to foul the pavement outside of the apartment or bark all night and disturb people.” I added that if Mimosa was not allowed in the building, I’d be withdrawing the application to rent the apartment.

The Now Possibly Reasonable Landlord wrote back, “If we make a signed agreement that next there won’t be a dog, and that she won’t be in any of the hallways, neither will any of our tenants know about the cat, then we can sign an agreement and sign the lease.”

Success! Although I did wonder about some of the Potential Landlord’s reasoning: I was unaware that cats are seen as gateway pets to dog ownership; having to hide and keep the cat a secret from other neighbors seems a little strange; and why would I ever let my cat roam the hallways on her own? But this all just seems par for the course when it comes to the crazy thought process of the average New York City landlord.

I can sort of understand many landlord’s reluctance to rent to tenants with a dog: The damage an untended dog can do to an apartment could be significant, especially if the dog’s owner doesn’t give it the necessary time and attention. But I’ve never understood the opposition towards cats. They’re perfect New York City pets. I struggle to imagine how a cat could possibly do more than a deposit’s worth of damage to an apartment. Mimosa once knocked a small lamp on the floor. The floor escaped unscathed. I think the deposit is safe.

In the end, I didn’t sign the lease — it was full of clauses that you could kindly suggest a less-than-stable person came up with, such as requiring the tenant to be responsible for any and all repairs in the apartment and a strange rider about requiring the bathroom to be kept locked at all times. But I felt good for persuading a landlord that cats make fine apartment dwellers. After all, what’s a one year lease compared to the lifetime of happiness a good cat brings to a home?

Have you ever been kept out of a nice place due to your cat? How did you handle it? Let us know in the comments!

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