roommate who was aware of my cats complaining

golfcatsMarch 5, 2011

Hello. New member and first post here, but I need some advice.

My boyfriend and I have been together for about 8 months now. His sister, who is disabled, has lived with him for a year and a half and is home all the time, she does not work.

The 3 of us decided to get a larger apartment together about a month ago, in part to benefit his ex wife and daughters (long story) and in part because it was financially smarter for all of us. I have 2 cats, and the kitties were a topic of extensive discussion as the sister is a confirmed animal hater. She insisted it wouldn't be a problem. She said if they were out and around, sahe would just spend time in her room, and I agreed to minimize their contact with her.

We are all now living together. She has her own bedroom and bathroom that my cats stay out of. It is her living room furniture in our living area.

Initially, it seemed to be going well. I kept the cats closed up in the 3rd bedroom and she came in to see them and agreed to let them out and around, but she didn't want them on the furniture. I supported this although I disagreed with it...her furniture, known dislike of cats, etc. But when she roughly pushed my 19 year old mostly blind and deaf cat off the couch, I told her we'd need to have a chat. I was concerned about him being injured from her pushing him off when he doesn't understand and has always been allowed up.

After we talked, she made an effort for a few days to learn a bit about their personalities and such, and seemed to actually be enjoying them. I made an effort to make sure they didn't cause problems. She was sitting with them on her lap and petting them and all was well.

Last night I come home from work to the roommate complaining about the "overwhelming stench of cats in here". One of my 2 cats just went to the vet this week for a bath and nail trim and to have an angti-shedding treatment.

I have a poor sense of smell, and asked my boyfriend if he noticed anything. He doesn't. I definitely don't. My boyfriend's 2 daughters don't notice a smell. I completely change the litter box every day and keep their food dishes in the bathroom that is attached to our bedroom, and often keep a window open just in case. Neither cat has had any litterbox issues.

Today's rule is that she doesn't want the cats in the "common living space" or "on my furniture". She stated that after they sat on her lap the other day (at her invitation) she had to shower because all she could smell on herself was cat. Funny...she sat with them and then stayed up watching TV for hours afterwards...I didn't see her running to the shower.

I am upset that first of all, she was aware of the cats and originally said if they bothered her she'd stay in her room. Now I'm being told the cats aren't welcome in the common areas even if I vaccuum and use the cat hair cleaner every day. They are short haired indoor cats.

I'm also insulted at the "stench" comment. No one who has been in the apartment can even tell we have cats if they don't know and because she "didn't grow up with cats I can tell when there's a stink of something that shouldn't be here." The cats didn't just get added here after we moved in...she knew about them and agreed before we made this arrangement and signed a one year lease that we are less than a month into.

I don't like the rules changing every day. It is their home, too, and it saddens me to have them closed up in a bedroom alone if I am at work. My older boy is a kind, gentle soul who is 19 years old and fading fast, and wants nothing other than to just lay in the sun next to someone and sleep. My younger kitty is playful and interactive but not the least bit naughty. She's probably the most affectionate cat you'd ever meet.

The terms of the lease allow it to be broken with 2 months rent only if all people on the lease agree to do so, which she won't....she has said a number of times that she is never moving again. She cannot afford this place on her own income.

I think she's being petty and snide and is re-negotiating things she agreed to. Funny to me that she made an effort with my cats during the time I was helping HER unpack and put her pictures up, and fixed her computer and did her taxes online for her. Now that SHE is all unpacked and settled in, etc, and doesn't need me, she's become a different person. My boyfriend says that this is who she is....multiple personalities, almost.

Any suggestions?

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I'd be talking to the landlord about how I could get out of the lease. Maybe your boyfriend and his sister could take it over.

But if you want to try staying there, there are a few things you could try. First, I'd have all three of you sit down and come to an agreement on the cat rules. Then write them down and post them in the kitchen or other common room. That way, Dear Sister can't keep changing them. While coming up with the rules, keep repeating what DS agreed to before she moved in.

Then consider a few preventive measures, like slipcovers or even just blankets on the living room furniture. That way, if a cat does get on the furniture, it can't damage it.

Frankly, the way DS feels about the cats, I'd feel safer if they were shut in my bedroom while I was out of the apartment.

And do discuss this issue with your boyfriend when his sister isn't there. He's in a tough place--he's got to choose either his girlfriend or his sister. I don't see how he can keep you both happy in this situation. You need to know where he stands. If he agrees with his sister about the cats, I'd move out.

The sister has said that she is never moving again. Do you really want to spend years living with this person? Leaving the cat issue aside, she doesn't sound like a great roommate.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2011 at 4:33PM
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I think GW's Apartment forum is a good place to vent! There's a brilliant law forum I love that doesn't allow it so it's good to have perspective. The only reason I mention the latter is b/c you're entertaining a potential legal solution to a personal problem.

It's clear you love your kitties and that your BF's sister is miserable, the worst kind of person with whom to enter a contract. Until you go to court and/or leave her behind completely it's best to be considerate letting her do all the bad deeds, change the rules, make demands. It's an equal partnership if you're all on the lease with 1/3 of the power. Don't give her, a lawyer/judge or landlord any reason to be upset with you. Any fear about the cat's safety is easily solved by calling an authority, but will mean nothing if you're also instigating, changing it from a crime to a domestic issue. You'd be amazed how many people destroy a clear victory b/c they let another party make them act as foolishly.

Camlan is right. Your boyfriend has a tough choice to make - as do you. The sister forced it but unless her disability questions her state of mind, you're stuck for now. A calm talk with your BF is the best start. My concern is this may open up more issues than the crazy-acting sister but please don't compromise what's best for you (and your BF?) by accepting a horrible situation.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2011 at 9:20AM
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Sorry for the delay in responding.

The last few days since this incident with sister have been tough, but I think we may have a solution.

First, BF is completely on the side of the cats. He loves them and hates that they are all cooped up and thinks sister shouldn't be changing the rules, nor is she the only one who gets a vote. She's also difficult with his 2 daughters when they're here....she really is a control freak. The reality is that neither one of us really wanted her to move with us, but the time between the talk about it and the actual move was very quick. His ex couldn't afford the unexpected increase in the month to month rent at her place that started March 1st, so she moved into BF's house, and BF and sister and I moved here. We had actually talked about it around Thanksgiving, but Exwife didn't want anything to do with the idea then. BF and I both sometimes work from home, and there is an apartment layout here that we love and would be perfect for us...2BR, 2BA and a den for an office. But unfortunately, at the time exwife told him she had reconsidered and wanted to do this move, there were none of those available on none even on the horizon, so we took the 3BR, 2BA that was available now.

I sat Sister down last night with BF present but not saying anything and told her that I was not ok with how things had been with the cats and that I had come up with a possible solution. I found a pet gate online that will work beautifully with our apartment layout called a retract-a-gate. (which *I* am paying for t the tune of $150 or so) I showed it to her and (had shown it to BF before) and told her that I was willing to buy it and give it a try but that she needed to do her part, too. It can be mounted in a way that allows the kitties access to the bathroom all the time and then either just "their" bedroom or theirs and ours, but not the kitchen or living room, which is her gripe.

I said that I understood and supported that she didn't want the cats in HER bedroom, but that I wasn't going to be made to sit on the floor in the living room watching MY tv (a 47inch HDTV flatscreen) because of her not wanting cats on the furniture. I said I was willing to run the cat hair thing or vaccuum whenever necessary and that obviously if the cats did any damage I would repair or replace whatever needed it. But neither BF nor I was going to be told that if we were sitting on her chair or her couch we couldn't hold one of the kitties.

I also said that I wasn't willing to stay in this apartment if I had to worry about the cats when I wasn't home. I told her I had already decided to not renew the lease and furthermore, if she didn't do her part between now and the end of the lease that I would consider breaking the lease.

She was agreeable to the gate idea and said she felt badly about them being closed up all the time. I don't buy that for a minute....I think she knows she went overboard and was a bit freaked out at the idea that I would break the lease. She needed my income and credit to qualify here to even be on the lease, but I do not need hers. She is definitely Jekyll and Hyde. I will stay for the duration of the lease assuming no further kitty issues but have already found another apartment complex that has the 2BR 2BA den layout that is in a good area and also even has a putting green. (BF and I are avid golfers.) When we moved into this apartment I was able to transfer without any lease termination fees. Once this lease is up we will go to the other without any fees.

So I'm ordering the gate and will give it a try. I told her if this didn't suit her then there really is no other option but to consider moving....the cats are MY family. If t was just my older boy Tonka it might not be an issue. He is 19 and not going to be around forever. But my younger girl Katie is only 7 and will be with me for a long time to come. She's the kind of cat who starts purring as soon as you look at her and loves her people and isn't even a little bit naughty. Curious, maybe, but not naughty.

I have my doubts about whether or not the gate will actually stop Katie-cat, but all I can do is try. Testimonials on their website say that cats will not usually jump over something. They might jump up onto something, but not over, so we'll see.

Thanks again for the thoughts and insights.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 8:49AM
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Cats won't jump over something? News to me - I'll just go inform my two cats that they have been very un-catlike jumping over the fence. Cats will do whatever is necessary to get to wherever they want to be. Let us know how it goes, but I will be extremely surprised if the gate works.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 1:21PM
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Your sit-down meeting and what transpired is admirable. It wouldn't be in your best interest to break your lease, but perhaps the mere threat of it will get wishy washy sister back in her place, since she needs you more than you need her. She just can't arbitrarily be making rules to suit her moods, it is your home too.

I also wanted to make a suggestion about the odor part. I have pets, a sensitive nose. I recommend these a lot because they do work wonders: either Natural Magic (my favorite) or Citrus Magic odor absorbers. I get mine at Lowe's, there's a new brand they carry now too, name escapes me, but it's also excellent. (Same price and container shape as Nat Magic). I've seen a different brand name at one of the dollar store chains, but they don't work quite as well IMHO. Home Depot, Lowes and Ace are all in the household cleaners section. Tho they have a hint of scent, it's not a masking scent. If she's sensitive to fragrances (as I am), these aren't a problem. They literally do absorb and neutralize odors. I use them everywhere, and always in rentals between tenants. So when prospective tenants walk in for a viewing, there are no trace odors of prior occupants in kitchen, etc. Just neutral/fresh. They list the square footage coverage on the tub, if you want them to work a bit faster buy an extra or two. Set near registers so air flow nearby speeds up the process. (That's what I do in rentals.) I promise she won't have any odors to complain about; within 3 days there's a noticeable reduction, by about the one week mark there's no odors left at all.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 3:30PM
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Thanks for the info on the odor control products. The really crazy thing is that no one except her smelled anything that day....not me (although I have a poor sense of smell after nasal surgery last July), not BF, not either of BF's 2 daughters. But in the interests of keeping the peace, it can't hurt to try those things, and I will do so. I don't really think the cats were ever an honest issue...she was bugged because BF told her to lay off his daughters and she was looking for some way to exert control over the household. She doesn't like that his daughters are allowed to take a bowl of chips into the living room to watch TV, and it was shortly after THAT interaction that she started complaining about living in a pigsty...."the overwhelming stench of cats" and "all of the crumbs and things the girls leave laying around". In reality? I feel like I live in a museum.....I'm an RN and am a clean person, but she goes to extremes....I think a bit of OCD. It's gonna be a long year, but the financial benefits are significant assuming there are no kitty issues. It may even mean that BF and I could buy a house of our own at the end of this lease, too. But not at the cost of a lousy quality of life for my fur-kids.

I am uncertain about how the gate will work. But I really think if Katie has a little more room to roam and can get to our room with BF and I, she won't even care to go out into the living room, especially if she's not getting a warm welcome from his sister when she goes out there. It's worth making the effort....$150 for a gate isn't cheap but it beats breaking/buying out the lease and shows effort on my part.

Thanks again for the comments.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 4:38PM
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