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’.
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