I don’t have a pet at the moment. Don’t get me wrong - I love animals, which is why I avoid them. I once bought a goldfish, and it lasted two hours (do you think I should have put some water in the bowl?) And so for me, renting is the best excuse not to have a pet (FYI – I’d love to own one of those miniature horses.)
Others are less considerate. People who live in flats exhibit a disturbing tendency to own creatures known as ‘house cats.’ To me this seems cruel: cats should be out stalking mice and fighting urban foxes, not sitting on a sofa eating custard creams and watching Loose Women.
The main problem however is that many landlords don’t allow pets of any kind which (here we go again) is different to the attitude of our wiser cousins on the continent, who allow tenants to treat their rented property like a home, part of which is owning a pet. I can understand that a rambling, shambling shared house with revolving doors and many occupants, each with a dog, would be un-manageable, but even in family homes, pets are forbidden.
But still people answer the call of the wild by buying a Chihuahua. In a shared student house, one, determined fellow tenant acquired an ‘illegal’ cat (pets were banned.) It had a habit of strolling in, bold as you like whenever the landlord came to visit, obliging us all to act outraged while claiming it belonged to a neighbour.
This worked well, until another housemate bought some zebra finches. It was like the circle of life: the devious cat managed to open the cage door, and devoured the little birds. Thing is we were all simultaneously horrified and grateful – those birdies made a vile squeaking noise, or else they squawked with fear.
The alternative, I suppose, is one of those nasty little dogs that live in a handbag and look like a furry pencil case, or more worryingly perhaps, resemble one of those humorous posing pouches I’ve been told about. But what is the ideal pet for a tenant? Gerbils? They are neurotic and they smell. Tortoises are banned as pets, and anyway – what’s the point – it’s like a matchbox toy with no wheels on, and they are dreadful at small-talk.
What harm can pets do – if looked after properly, they don’t make a mess (most animals are cleaner than many first year students, and I’ve been one) and if they scratch (puppies use doors as chewy toys) then the tenant can buy another door, or repair it.
Mostly I think it’s unfair to imprison animals in a flat – they all need space to roam, and dogs need a park to gad about in. Other than that, lizards and snakes should be banned due to being creepy, and because they eat rats. A friend once viewed a flat where the potential co-tenant introduced her to their pet tarantula. The ensuing screams curdled milk in the next town.