'Cats Rarely Cause Problems': Campaigners Push For Renters' Right To Keep Pets

Lack of pet-friendly housing leading to more cats in adoption.

If you’re a renter and would love to own a cat but your tenancy agreement won’t allow it, you’re not alone. Research shows that less than half (42 per cent) of private rented housing allows cats, which has prompted a new campaign promoting the benefits of living with cats to tenants and landlords.

The charity Cats Protection said difficulty finding cat-friendly housing is one of the top five reasons why cats have been handed into its adoption centres over the past 12 months.

Dilys Barnes, of Gorleston, Norfolk, and her partner were forced to give up their pet cat Buster in June 2018 when their landlord decided to sell their property, leaving them unable to find new rented housing which accepted cats.

“Every single advert we saw said ‘no pets’ and whenever we enquired, the answer was always no,” Barnes said. “We were devastated, and the whole thing was very traumatic. We loved him dearly, yet had to give him away, very much against our wishes.”

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To combat the issue (and prevent further heartbreak), Cats Protection is offering free guidance to landlords and letting agents to help ensure that tenancy agreements reflect modern day living. This includes downloadable legal wording which sets out simple conditions on cat ownership to protect and benefit both landlords and tenants.

Jacqui Cuff, the charity’s head of advocacy and government relations, said making these changes can benefit both parties as the current situation means “tenants are missing out on being able to own a cat, while landlords may be losing out on attracting responsible and settled tenants”.

She added: “We hear from renters who tell us most adverts state ‘no pets’. Often, the reason for not allowing cats is simply habit, with a third of landlords who don’t accept cats saying they didn’t proactively choose to ban cats, but instead followed a standard template or advice from a letting agent.”

Cat-friendly landlords would be asked to advertise properties with the listing ‘pets considered’ which ensures they stay in control and can make a decision once they’ve met their potential tenant.

Downloadable cat clauses can be added to existing tenancy agreements and include certain conditions like requiring cats to be neutered, vaccinated and microchipped.

The charity is also offering advice to help tenants speak to their landlords to ask for permission to own a cat. “Landlords are often willing to be flexible, especially as tenants with pets are likely to stay for longer,” Cuff said.

A survey of private tenants that own a cat found 94 per cent reported their pet has a positive effect on their life such as making them happy, providing company and affection, or improving mental health. Earlier this year, the Labour Party suggested tenants should have the “default right” to keep a pet.

Cuff said: “The reality is that cats very rarely cause problems for landlords. In actual fact, many cat owners tell us that having a cat is what makes their house a home and helps them put down roots and value the home they’re living in.”