Monday, December 8, 2014

Too Much Cattitude

Possum, raising a ruckus and being unneighborly, as usual

Our offer on the co-op in Beacon Hill wasn't accepted. 

They said we have too many cats! Imagine! Sure, their rules permit only one dog or cat, but if one is okay, what's a few more? If, say, 120 pounds of dog is allowed, what's wrong with a collective 56 pounds of cat? 

A friend has been house-hunting for a few years on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where all the apartments are co-ops. She was shocked that a building had a cat limit. She said NY co-ops don't mind cats. They don't bark, pee in the lobby, or bite you in the elevator. Perhaps we should move to Manhattan. 

I wrote a nice letter to accompany our offer. There were a few paragraphs of gushing about the charms of the apartment and listing our credentials, including my husband's tenured teaching post and my activities as a local volunteer. I talked about how we are friendly, considerate people who had spent decades living in small Back Bay condo buildings, so we understood the importance of both being and having good neighbors. Co-ops usually ask very personal questions about finances and lifestyle as they're deciding whether to accept you into the building, so I mentioned that we don't drink, smoke, or throw wild parties. I said we both work at home at all hours, and are very quiet, and like to garden. I said we love historic architecture and care deeply about preserving and maintaining our home.

In other words, I said we were classic cat people. And I was honest. I'll bet there are people who aren't when it comes to applying to co-op boards. I came right out with our cat family situation. And then I explained a few things about our five:
I’d like to try to anticipate any cat-related concerns your co-op board may have, so I hope you will give me a little more of your time and attention to explain a few things. Our cats are all fluffy Maine Coon mixes. Most weigh about 10 pounds, although one is… portly. They are neutered and spayed, up-to-date on vaccinations, and never, ever leave our apartment except for vet visits. They are quiet, healthy, and well behaved. They do not howl or make noise audible beyond the apartment (a few of them meow at mealtime). They all get along beautifully and use the litter box perfectly. We trim their claws and brush their teeth. I’ve done a lot of research on feline nutrition, and we feed them an expensive, 95%-meat diet that I special-order from a shop on Newbury Street. Cats are pure carnivores and should only eat meat. When they are fed properly (and the vast majority of cat owners don’t do this), they digest food extremely efficiently. As a result, there is much less matter in the litter box — and much less odor, too. One cat fed dry or canned food from the supermarket will leave more solid waste in the box each day than our five. Even so, we take care of that chore religiously, twice a day. 
Adult cats sleep between 16 and 20 hours a day, so our visitors often don’t see more than one or two of ours, and they are surprised they don’t smell them, either. I’d be happy to provide a veterinary or neighbor reference if you like. In 30 years, we have never received a single complaint from a neighbor.
I should have included a photo of Possum. Who wouldn't want Possum for a neighbor?

I can only conclude that we escaped from having to live among barbarians. 

We decided that we don't want to live in that silly co-op anymore, anyhow. It had some lovely features: a real library for my husband, a sunny living room, a big dining room with a fireplace, and loads of storage. High ceilings, a bay window, old floors, and some nice molding here and there. I could tell it would work for us as soon as I stepped in the door. 

But it had quirks. It had only one bathroom and no possibility of adding another... inside the unit. We don't mind sharing a bath, but it's unusual for a large apartment with a seven-figure price tag to have just one — especially one done up with elderly Corian, Formica, cheapo tile, and brass hardware. We could have added a half bath, but only outside the unit, beyond the locked back door. The cramped second bedroom (former maid's room) was back there, under lock and key. Halfway up a flight of ugly service stairs was a closet with a stacked washer-dryer that could be converted to a tiny half bath. Some of the other units had done this, but we didn't see the point. 

We found a mousetrap in the master bedroom. I'd say they should rethink their cat policy.

When we got our rejection (five hours after it was due), we also found out within minutes that a condo we've been interested in for some time had finally gone under agreement. It had everything we wanted, including a lovely walled garden, but it was in a rough part of the South End, on a noisy, sketchy street. We wouldn't have felt safe coming and going. I'm glad it's gone.

The decks are clear; we can move on. 

But I can't help hoping the new owners at the co-op will have a huge, untrained, barking, biting, severely incontinent dog. I also hope they drink like fish, smoke weed for breakfast, have a set of disturbed toddler triplets, and hold salsa and flamenco parties several nights a week. That co-op board missed their chance to have very nice neighbors. Seven of them.


  1. Well, you wouldn't want small-minded neighbors anyway. (Even though it may have just been one stubborn holdout on the board who would prevent the application from going through. Coop boards, at least in Manhattan, seem to attract would-be despots.) You have such a clear sense of what you're looking for, I cannot help but believe that you will find it--the seven of you certainly deserve it, for all the reasons you offered in your letter, and the board or owner who deserves _you_ will recognize that.

    1. Thank you, VL. We have been looking for far too long and keep losing hope, because we're really not in a good situation where we are... but then someone offers some kind words and we remember it's just house-hunting, not an impossible task. Something WILL come along and maybe next time we'll get it!

  2. how much do I adore you got the word carnivore in to an apartment (okay fine co-op) application..

    1. I get "carnivore" into more cat conversations than you can imagine, especially with total strangers.

  3. Actually, your cats did you a huge favor. Your should be heaving a collective sigh of relief that you did not get the co-op. I had an Aunt (worked at Yale for many years) and bought a co-op right outside of the university. When you buy a co-op, you don't own your unit or whatever you want to call your new home. You own "stock" in the co-op. You are now part of a collective where you hope that the other shareholders agree with the shared expenses....roof repairs, elevator, window replacements, repointing, heating and cooling, interior upgrades and repairs, master insurance, and the list goes on. Unfortunately, the co-op where my aunt had bought and liveed kept deferring maintenance and eventually it all caught up with the shareholders and many could not take on the needed expense of upgrades. And because it wa s a co-op, banks were not interested in taking on equity loans or refinancing. The co-op went bankrupt. I, myself, am in a very small condo complex (2-unit Victorian cottage, plus garages separately owned). Again, always dealing with other owner(s) who don't want to make needed repairs, etc. Having owned my own home before, my goal is to sell my condo or buy the other unit. Either path, the goal is control and you loose it when you buy in a condo or co-op. So, bottom-line, my advice is try to find a single-family home. I know you love the Back Bay (who wouldn't!), but I respectfully suggest that you consider other communities outside of the city...many have lots to offer...more affordable (ha! well at least compared to Boston) as well as being vibrant, growing, and---often easily accessible by train or T to the City. My comments are from personal experience and as a former Realtor. I hope you ultimately find a new home that works for you and all of your (furry) family members.

    1. Thank you for the horror story. I love hearing them and they make me feel better!

  4. I've never commented before but I wanted to say go girl. Anyone would be very lucky to have such cute kitties and devoted animal-lovers for neighbors.


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