A Renter's Nightmare
FROM: The FerretPaw Print, July/August 2000

I have lived in my current apartment for the past six years. It is a nice one-bedroom place with lots of space, including a large outdoor patio. My landlords have known from day one that I had ferrets. In fact, they couldn't wait to meet the little ones when they found out. They even asked their vet about ferrets and the vet assured them of their suitability as excellent apartment pets. All was well, and the young ferrets were free to be happy and frolic through our new home. They were "out" and proud of it.

Late in 1999, to my shock and disbelief the building was put up for sale. I was petrified of what was going to happen. What followed was an endless stream of people coming into MY home, looking at MY things, poking in MY cabinets, and wondering where my "cat" was hiding. I had made sure to make my home look like a cat home: Cages were covered, litter boxes, ferret tunnels, low ferret doors between rooms, and all food and water were tucked into a closet behind and under clothing. I even hid my ferret magnets on the far side of the fridge, and changed the word magnets on the front to read "My spoiled, fluffy 'lil kitten is always the spunky princess." The only thing left to see was the cat tree in the corner. My surviving little one (her mate had just recently passed away) was brought over to a relative's home for the day our would live under the desk in her carry, hidden behind a pushed-in chair with a coat hanging over the back while appraisers, plumbers, termite inspectors and countless other came streaming through to look over and inspect my apartment. Needless to say it was NOT fun.

Last month, six years after I moved in, the building was sold. Things seemed quiet for a time. I even wrote a nice letter to the new landlord introducing myself, and sent it off with the rent check. I thought that maybe it would be okay ... Maybe nothing will changed and we can still live here in peace. I put my magnets back on the front of the fridge and started to relax.

Then a bomb went off in my safe little world. I saw the new manager outside and went to introduce myself, and mention that an outside light had gone out. I showed him where the light was and made small talk with him for a couple minutes.

Me: "So, you're fixing up the place next door?"

Manager: "Yes, we're putting in a new foundation.

"So you aren't tearing it down then?"

"No, we aren't tearing it down. Ummm, you live here in number three?"

"Yes, that's me."

"Uh, there was a complaint that you have an illegal animal. Is this true?"

My heart starts pounding so hard I thought it might break. My breathing stops. My jaw drops in total disbelief. What the Hell do you say to that? I tried not to start crying when I asked him who told him this. He said "The landlord got a complaint you have an illegal animal. Do you have an illegal animal?"

I am a horrible liar, especially when put on the spot unexpectedly. I finally replied, "I have a ferret. She has lived with me for six years. My landlords have always known about her. Do you know what a ferret is? A ferret is one of the best apartment pets you will ever find. It is the favorite pet of the Japanese and it is legal everywhere in the world except in California and Hawaii due to political reasons." He doesn't say much after that. I mention the light again and go back inside.

By now I am hysterical, imagining Fish and Game at my door by tomorrow morning. Why doesn't he go after the pot-smoking druggie in the building, or the illegal alien living upstairs? Oh, I guess that's okay, but a small, harmless, six-year-old apartment pet is not. I begin plotting against them and thinking of all the ways that the building was not built to code; all the things that have to be fixed, and what housing inspectors would say to all this. I am so angry I can't even begin to describe the hatred I felt at the moment, and still feel toward this idiot (that's the nicest word I could think of to put in print to describe this fool).

It took two days before I could see out of my swollen eyes again.

I know that no one has complained about my little girl. Instead, somehow they found out about her and are using her as an excuse to get my out of my rent controlled building. Every day I go to the mailbox expecting to find a "Notice to Vacate" there. My girl and I cannot live this way, in constant fear of being "discovered," having her taking away from me, or -God forbid-the much worse unmentionable alternative. So, I have to leave the apartment I love and find another place to live.

Apartment hunting brings with it a whole new set of worries. Money for one; rent has gone up a lot in six years. Finding a comparable place has become an impossible quest. And how do I protect my little girl in a state where she is forbidden to live freely? A landlord may permit a cat or dog, but how do I break it to them that I am the proud owner of an illegal ferret? My solution: I don't disclose anything unless I have to.

My search continues. During this time, my girl's title is "Spoiled Rotten Single Ferret" and her new name is "No Pet."

Apartment owner: "You know there are no pets allowed?"

My reply: "I have No Pet."

Apartment Hunting with a Furry Illegal Alien

Following are some hits for finding a new place to live with your ferret in California.

  1. Find a place that allows pets. If they don't allow any pets, then they definitely will not tolerate a ferret.

  2. Investigate the place thoroughly. Do at least two walk-throughs: One to see if the place is suitable for you, another to see if it is suitable for your ferret.

  3. Talk to the landlord and/or manager. Find out what kind of people they are. If they are nice folks with critters of their own, they may be more tolerant of yours.

  4. Talk to the neighbors. Find out what they are like, how they feel about the landlord/manager, and if there have been any problems with the building, neighbors, landlord, or other critters in the building. This might give a good indicator of what conditions you would find if you move in.

  5. When you decide this is the place for you, think long and hard about whether to have a slinky "cat," or a disclosed ferret.

    Disclosure is freeing: you won't have to worry about the landlord finding the ferret in an apartment emergency. If you choose this option, make sure to give some ferret literature to the landlord explaining what wonderful pets ferrets are and how great they are for apartment dwellers.

    On the other hand, you always take the chance when showing your true pet to others. Carefully weigh the advantages and disadvantages of both options. Ultimately, it will become an issue of trust - how much you trust your landlord and neighbors. It is a tough call to make.

  6. NEVER be the first to tell someone that ferrets are illegal. It is one thing to own a ferret, a pet that few folks in California know about. It is another thing altogether to own an illegal animal. If you don't mention it, they if it is mentioned to you, you can always claim that you didn't know they were illegal.

No, this is not the best solution. But until our pets are legal, it is a viable one. Good Luck and Happy House Hunting


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