Nacho, Alex’ cat

When your landlord won’t allow animals

Hidden pets

Nacho, Alex’ cat
Most student housing contracts ban tenants from having pets. That doesn’t stop some of them from hiding cats and dogs in their rooms, though. ‘Whenever the landlord came over, I’d open my balcony door and usher them out via the rooftop to the neighbours’ house.’
By Lotta Groenendaal / Video by Macy van Geldrop
17 October om 16:52 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 17 October 2023
om 16:52 uur.
October 17 at 16:52 PM.
Last modified on October 17, 2023
at 16:52 PM.

Alex and Nacho 

Whenever the landlord visits Alex’ house, he quickly moves his cat to his ex-girlfriend’s apartment halfway across the city. He has to. Because Nacho is the most important thing in his life. 

When the little ginger cat first came up to Alex on his way back from a McDonalds in his home country of Romania at 2 a.m., they immediately hit it off. ‘He started to rub his head against me and followed me everywhere from then on. Every time I left the room, he would meow like crazy.’ They have been best friends ever since.

In 2021, when the second-year student left home to study media studies in Groningen, he hoped to take Nacho along to this new chapter of his life.

However, Nacho had to stay behind. When Alex and his then-girlfriend saw the state the apartment was in, he decided he couldn’t bring his best friend. ‘The building had black mould everywhere. I kid you not, we would get sick almost every week.’

It took a year for Alex to find a place that was healthy enough. One pricey plane ticket later, Nacho joined him.

I was so depressed without him that first year

But his landlord doesn’t want to see any pets in the building. ‘One morning, someone working for the agency went up to the roof of the building. Nacho was meowing in my room because he wanted attention, as usual.’

Later that day, a message from the landlord came in, warning him that keeping a cat is not allowed. But moving again, or worse, parting from Nacho, was not an option for Alex. ‘I was so depressed without him that first year, but ever since I brought him here, I’ve been feeling okay.’

That’s when he started ferrying Nacho to his ex-girlfriend’s apartment whenever the landlord announces a visit. 

But this summer, while Alex was on vacation and he left a neighbour he trusted to feed Nacho, the landlord announced a visit.  

In a panic, Alex sent the neighbour a DHL express delivery from his vacation spot, containing the keys to his ex’s apartment, who was also on vacation. The neighbour picked up Nacho, drove him to the other apartment and kept him there until the maintenance people were done.

It was a lot of trouble to go through just to keep Nacho hidden, but the cat is worth all the trouble, says Alex. He has been with him through his parents’ separation, his own break-up and many more ups and downs. ‘Me and him, we have a special bond.’

Maaike, Mojo, Lily and Ket

Maaike’s dogs Mojo and Lily

‘Pedagogy student Maaike has been living at her student house for three years now, together with her two dogs Mojo (10) and Lily (3) and her cat Ket (15). Her housemates love the occasional cuddle sessions with the pets, but her rental contract says ‘no pets allowed’.

‘Whenever the landlord came over, I would quickly open my balcony door and usher them out via the rooftop to the neighbours’ house.’ But six months ago, an employee of the landlord came over unannounced. ‘She didn’t enter my room, but Mojo barked so it was no longer a secret that there was at least one dog in the house.’

Maaike anxiously waited for an email telling her that pets are not allowed, but to her great surprise that email never came. This encouraged Maaike to no longer hide her pets. ‘If I had a landlord who constantly came by to check, I think I would’ve kept the lie that I’m just pet-sitting them’, she explains. And if the landlord should one day decide that he does want the pets out, Maaike has a clear answer: ‘I’d take him to court!’ 

If it wasn’t for these three cuties, I don’t think I’d still be here

Her pets have been a real comfort to her. Whenever she’d have difficult mental health days, it was her dogs who forced her to get out of the house and breathe in some fresh air. ‘If it wasn’t for these three cuties, I don’t think I’d still be here.’ 

She especially loves to see the different personalities in her pets. ‘Lily is scared of everything. She would just go out, pee and poop, then go back in. But Mojo is more playful, she loves to sniff around, and that motivates Lily to do the same.’ And Ket? ‘He always looks grumpy but once you gain his trust, he’s the cuddliest cat ever.’

Maaike is glad that the animals live with her, particularly because they aren’t getting any younger. ‘Take Mojo for instance, she used to have so much energy! But now when we go for our walk at the Noorderplantsoen, she’s really out of breath on her way back. Today I even had to carry her.’ 

Femke and Munchy

Munchy, Femke’s little man

‘He’s just a little man, he’s part of the family.’

Recent psychology graduate Femke can’t imagine her life without Munchy. The tabby cat was still tiny when the animal ambulance found him in a ditch and Femke’s sister pleaded with her to take him in. ‘She said if I didn’t take him, then he would go to the shelter.’

Femke, who at that point wasn’t really planning to get a cat, couldn’t say no once she saw Munchy’s little face. ‘For me, he’s the ideal cat. He’s so sweet and loving.’

But Munchy’s cute personality didn’t matter to Groningen’s landlords. ‘They told me that not even fish were allowed because their tank could break and damage the apartment. So I asked whether I could put a water tank in my room, without any fish in it. The answer was yes.’ 

Femke can’t accept this illogical reasoning. ‘Pets should be seen as family, I don’t understand why that wouldn’t be allowed.’ That’s why, despite her contract, she still decided to take Munchy home. 

I would rather move back to my parents’ house than live somewhere without Munchy 

At her family home, there have always been cats. ‘For me, a house isn’t complete without a little cat around.’ Femke explains that before she had Munchy, she was feeling quite depressed. ‘Getting Munchy made me so much happier!’

That happiness did come at a cost though. Femke became an expert at hiding Munchy from the landlord. ‘I would take all of his toys and food to the bedroom, put Munchy in a basket and then hide with him in the locked bedroom.’ She pretended to not be home while her boyfriend did the talking with the handymen in the apartment. 

But just last week, that plan failed. The landlord came over unannounced to check the apartment. ‘My boyfriend wasn’t home, so we couldn’t use our usual tactic. I panicked, threw Munchy in the bedroom, and stood in front his litterbox so they couldn’t see it.’

She used to freak out about these situations a lot. ‘In the first couple months when he was freshly illegal, it was so stressful for me to know that any moment the landlord could come over. I was sick from stress.’ 

Luckily, these are worries from the past. During the interview, Femke is in the middle of a move which will finally make Munchy a legal pet. ‘Having a hidden pet is a lot of work’, she admits. But living without him is not an option. ‘I would rather move back to my parents’ house than live somewhere without Munchy.’