I recently moved out of a condominium complex where my neighbors called my cats the ‘welcoming community’. Every day I would open my front door and my Persian Blue Tomcat and his Bengal Tabby sidekick would trot down to the first floor and
hang out by the fountain at the entrance where they were greeted, petted and adored. Because my cats liked dogs, they even made a few canine friends. All was well. Peace on earth. Goodwill toward…well, cats.
That ‘live and let live’ attitude did not exist at the new condominium I bought where my cats became pubic enemy number one. It started out fine. My new place did not have an open stairwell so instead of hanging out on the ground floor my cats would lie in the sun on the exterior second floor walkway in front of my door. They spent those first few days looking over the balcony at people passing below – perhaps thinking of greeting opportunities lost. Of course, there was the occasional appearance of neighbors that live on either side of my unit who would stop to… you guessed it, pet and adore the Persian and Bengal. One neighbor she told me she loved to see them because her cat had recently passed away and it gave her comfort to interact with mine. And then I got the HOA letter, informing me that the Board was obligated to enforce the rules and regulations on ‘no cats allowed outside the unit’ or face a hearing and potential fine.
A hearing? Fines? Facing ‘enforcement?’ Why such a heavy hand? What heinous act did my cats commit besides soaking up some vitamin D and being outside in the fresh air? My other condo had the same rule, but the residents there didn’t see the need for cats to ‘do the time’ as in locked up for life, if they didn’t commit a crime.
When I found out that two out of the five Board members lived at the end of the hall, I decided to ask one of them if I could let my cats out at night after all the doors and windows were closed so the Gray and Bengal would not have to be cooped up 24/7. She said, ‘No, because if I allow you to ignore the rules than other people in the complex would follow suit.’ Even though I went on to explain that all the pets at my other condo were well behaved and got along fine with each other, she insisted total animal anarchy would ensue, creating chaos.
This is the part where a lawyer got involved. Not mine – theirs. I received a three-page letter from the condo’s attorney informing me that my cats could not go outside unless they wore a collar attached to a leash. I bought the items, and will give you two clues as to how that turned out. Whirling Dervishes. Bloody hands. (Now my cats have trust issues with me.)
In the beginning, HOA’s were established to protect property values as in no purple doors or placing a different style fence on every patio. That makes sense. Rules and regulations are important and meant to help out communities, however, over 200 pages of CC&R’s give Board Members the legal right to enforce rules even if they don’t interfere with property values or other residents. In the case of pets, if they are not causing problems, and giving pleasure to their neighbors, they should be given amnesty and allowed the opportunity to spend some time outside.
As it stands today, my cats, appropriately attired in their prison stripes and gray fur, sit behind the screen door just a foot away from a path of sunlight, with only memories of what it felt like to be the welcoming committee where they live.