Condo Cats

I am writing about condominiums for people in this article. I mention that because you can buy an item of cat furniture that is called a cat condo.

For international visitors ‘condo’ is an American term and is short for ‘condominium’ and condominium usually refers to a block of flats or apartments in which the leaseholders (the owners of the each apartment) are also freeholders (the owners of the freehold to the block and therefore the ‘common parts’ which are the gardens, staircases, lifts, roofs and halls etc.). In condos you will find that a group of apartment owners decide to run the block as a committee. They are also directors of a company that has been created to legally own the freehold. The shareholders of the company are the apartment owners. That is a bit technical but it sets the scene. Essentially if you live in a condo your neighbors will run the complex. In the UK we refer to these complexes as places where you have a ‘share of the freehold’.

Beautiful Condo Arizona USA - Photo by PlotzPhoto

Beautiful Condo Arizona USA – Photo by PlotzPhoto

OK, condo cats are specific species of domestic cat! There are certain aspects to life as a condo cat that do not happen as a house cat. The first aspect that comes to mind is the fact that if you live on the ground floor your cat has access to the outside and therefore to the common parts. As soon as your cat steps onto the grass (if there is a garden) she is walking on someone else’s property as well as your own.

And the other people in the condominium may not like cats. They may even report the cat to animal control if a apartment owner has several cats and lets them wander around the gardens. If that happened it would cause a lot of disharmony in the condo. And you do not want disharmony. Above everything else in a block of apartment units, you seek harmony. The problem may be more complicated than that.

Even before a person buys an apartment he/she needs to check the lease (title deeds) to make sure they are allowed to keep a cat in their apartment. And if they are allowed to keep a cat, what are the rules? There may be quite extensive rules on keeping a cat in an apartment or no rules at all. Usually cats are OK but dogs might not be because dogs are noisier than cats. The lease may limit the number of cats to one.

Condominiums are different to blacks of apartments (flats) that are owned by a landlord – someone who is not connected to the tenants or flat owners. In this situation the landlord may have rules that make it obligatory for a cat to be declawed (an objectionable demand in my opinion). But if the leaseholders are also the freeholders they can make any rule they want. There is real freedom but….to get agreement is very difficult so in practice the rules are very similar across all condominiums.

The biggest problem for condo cats is that some people dislike cats so you have to be wary of upsetting neighbors, who are by force of the building arrangement very close to you. It is not like living in a detached house where you can separate neighbors. In an apartment you are literally on top of each other. There has to be a particular sensitivity towards each other under these circumstances.

Another consideration is garden maintenance. The gardener, who might even be an apartment owner and neighbor (or an outside commercial contractor), may fertilize the grass or treat the grass and parking areas with chemicals. If your cat goes out these chemical treatments may present a hazard to your cat’s health. You could ask the management committee to reconsider the matter and stop putting down chemicals but if you do you may upset someone and get into a heated discussion which would lead to a dispute with close neighbors. You don’t want that to happen. So you keep quiet.

Another issue is that the group of apartment owners who have decided to run the block of flats may not be that good at the job. Some of them may be former managers or accountants etc. but you may find that if a committee member is making a nuisance of some sort and in breach of the rules (the lease) the other committee members might support that person. If this happens you cannot make an effective complaint about the nuisance because action has to be taken by the committee and if they are supporting the offender no action will take place. You can see how things can be a bit complicated and unfair.

If a committee does not act properly and in the interests of all the owners in enforcing the terms of the lease they can be sued. There may a special tribunal (court) that deals with these matters. However, you don’t want to sue your neighbors, do you! You might win in court but you’ll lose the war because you’ll have made permanent enemies of some of your neighbors.

This has probably happened in the case of the neighbor to a person who is keeping 20 cats in a one bedroom apartment in a condo (the West Surf, Lake View story at mid August 2012). The committee who manage the block failed to take action to deal with the cat hoarder. There were (still are as I understand it) smells coming up through the block’s ventilation system or through windows which made life intolerable for the hoarder’s neighbor.  The person complained. Nothing happened. In the end the person had to go to court to force the hand of the management. This is an unfortunate state of affairs as it creates animosity amongst close neighbors. Ironically, it is the person who is the victim of a neighbor’s bad behavior who might become ostracized. That is life unfortunately.

There are good aspects to keeping a cat in an apartment. If your neighbor likes cats they are a great way to meet people. I remember a person who used to walk her Siamese cat around the garden on a leash. That always prompted a meeting and discussion.

I am sure there are a lot of people who live in condos and who keep a cat. Nearly all the time things go just fine but there are certain aspects to condominium life that apartment dwellers need to be aware of.

Link to original photo on Flickr

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Condo Cats — 4 Comments

  1. Another interesting article 🙂 – I live in a ground floor apartment which I own and it is one of 6 in an old building. I am the only one who is very close to the communal garden and that is why I chose it. So my cats could have outdoor access. I have made a few friends because my cats, Red in particular, would often try to get in the front door when a neighbour was on his or her way inside. I sometime get a knock on my door at 7 in the morning from one of my upstairs neighbours who is standing there with my cat weaving around his legs and I apologize and bring my cat in. I am very lucky because they all just love my cats and none of them mind at all and I do believe them . I dont believe they are just being polite because I wanted to be 100% sure. Red even once, right in front of me and my same floor neighbour just ran in her apartment and sat on her couch and refused to move. It was very funny and she was rather delighted by the whole thing. I went in her place and picked him up, of course apologizing. She promised it was no trouble at all and she even said in our house meeting that he had done it before.

    Once a year everybody meets with a man from the company who manages the house. We all sit there and discuss issues and things to be done and we all vote. Its all very official and terribly formal and swiss, but everybody is very nice and we all seem to be happy. I have not yet owned the place for a year so I was worried about the impact of my nosey cats, but its all fine. Apparently I apologize too much on their behalf. They all love my cats clearly. I consider myself very lucky. When I was in Canada things were vbery different. For a start there are so many stray and feral cats and possibly because of this, there are alot of cat haters. It’s very scary. Glad I dont live there anymore. At least not everybody in Canada has a gun in their closet! Phew! Here in Switz where I now live, we all own the same garden. Red was even digging the odd hole in the lawn but nobody seems to care, they always ask after him with a smile. The garden is a bit minimal and plain and of course they ALWAYS cut the gras just when it gets to an interesting length for the cats to play in and stalk eachother. I know I cant ever change that – people and their damn lawns will never change.

    Lawns will forever be incredibly boring areas of outdoor space for everyone. There is a lack of flowers too and bushes etc. Now I do understand that the more there is in the garden, the more it will cost us owners to pay for the upkeep. But I would like to plant a few things around my side of the garden. I am going to ask at the next meeting, and I will also say that I will be responsible for looking after it. I am sure they will all thing its a lovely idea and be delighted to have more plants and flowers at no extra cost of effort. I will have to draw a map of the garden and show what I want to plant where – and send everyone a copy before the next meeting so they can review and we can vote on it at the meeting. Thats how it works.

    I feel lucky I dont have a bad neighbour. Canada was like the wild west – I livd in ‘little Portugal’ in Toronto nd they pretty much didnt like anybody living there who wasn’t from their country. That’s ‘multi culturalism’ for you – a mosaic of different and very seperated cultures. Not as nice as it sounds and very un’cosmopolitan. I basically felt like I was living in a small village in Portugal. It was a constant issue. I had other neighbours in my first house in Toronto who hated my cats and would freak out on them and throw rocks at them albeit the neighbour on the other side, an elderly lady, had 14 cats. They were just nouveau riche snobs and cou8ldn’t stand that an easy going british guy lived nextdoor to them – they were all worried about how MY front yard looked when they had a party. Idiots. I offered to do whatever they wanted to help which just confused them more. Small minded people. I had some real bad luck in Toronto and I have heard from many other peope in that city that they had similar stupidities.

    In London people don’t care, they just let you live your life. I like that about London (England, not Ontario) – and Slovenia was fine, no problems there, and Switzerland too. I think its the total failure of ‘multiculturalism’ in norht Amaerica and the fact that people have sooo much space they dont ever learn to live with other people properly. Glad thats over – took me 8 years to reach a point where it got boring. Now I can imagine living over there in a Condo and having much more serious problems by virtue of proximty to neighbours. If I were to have a problem with a bad neighbour where I am living now, it would be nothing short of a disaster, because as Michael explains, we share the ownership of the building and we are close to eachother.

    BUT life is good and I sure do appreciate it after some bad experiences with people who don’t know how to share space.

    • You have a lot of experience of apartment living. I have too. It is about attitude and culture. I find your point that when people have lots of space (Canada and USA) they are less tolerant of people infringing their space interesting. That sounds true to me. We are pretty laid back in England in general. The worse people in England for apartment living are the middle class nimbies (not in my back yard). They love to maintain the status quo and nothing will interfere with their world. They are very dogmatic.

      You have found a great block of flats. It sounds like a conversion from an old house but I may have that wrong. Conversions are obvious because the apartments are always different in size and shape. I think you had better stay where you are. If you have neighbours who see cats as a benefit to the block you have found a home.

  2. I am SO sorry my comments are so long – I totally understand if you can’t be bothered to read them! Gotta learn to be more succinct 🙂

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