Letter of Recommendation: Vacation Rentals That Come With Pets

Tuxedo Todd is the coolest cat on the Lower East Side. No, that’s not local mob chatter. He really is a black and white long-haired cat living in New York City and he was my roommate at an Airbnb I rented there a few months ago. Evidently, pet-friendly and pet-inclusive are two very different categories of vacation rentals. I’m opposed to neither.

I hadn’t set out to stay with a four-legged roommate when I booked my travel to the City. Instead, Tuxedo Todd’s lodging was floated my way by a friend I’d invited along on the trip. She, a former drama student who fell hard for New York City after a school-sponsored trip to see Hamilton, was determined to get the real city experience. I would soon find out that meant exposed brick, late-night Chinese food, and absolutely no hotels. For weeks, she forwarded links to quaint, shoebox dwellings I was certain had been used to stage at least one episode of Law & Order: SVU.

“Walking distance to East Village, SoHo, Chinatown, Little Italy, and Williamsburg Bridge,” I read with interest about her most recent find. I clicked through photos of a small, one-bedroom apartment with moody lighting, designer throw pillows, and, of course, exposed brick walls. For the first time since we began planning our trip, I agreed that her insistence on finding something authentic was worth it. The apartment would be available for self check-in — my preference when it comes to Airbnbs because I’m not exceedingly sociable and, to be frank, I enjoy traveling on my own beat wherever possible. The Apple TV and Google Home functionalities were a welcome bonus, too, since it was still freezing in New York City in mid-March. 

“Snag: includes a cat. That’s why it’s so cheap!”

I paused at the last line. Huh. “That’s… different,” I thought. The guest manual went on to include Tux’s biography (nine years old, very chill), his feeding schedule (a cup of dry food for the day, a tin of wet food at night), and litter box instructions (scoop out daily, old litter goes in the toilet). Immediately, I considered whether or not I wanted the responsibility of caring for a cat during my time away. “Would I have to make plans around him? What if he escapes somehow? The manual explicitly says he’s an indoor cat.”

I toggled between my roles as paying guest in a stranger’s home and pet owner to my own rescue dog who would love nothing more than for someone to treat my Taco like I would when I’m away. Weirdly, I decided on Tux’s place because I worried that someone less responsible would opt to spend the week with him. Of course, none of the reviews implied this would be the case. Everyone raved about Tux way more than they did about the place itself. And that’s how I, a person who had never before interacted with a cat for more than 30 minutes, wound up spending four days with one of New York City’s finest.

As we cracked open the door to the apartment, Tux made a dash for a tiny cutout in the wall, where he would spend most of his days. At night, though, I found that he was most comfortable falling asleep perched face-to-face on my chest, in straight-up horror movie fashion. I’m not going to lie, this definitely freaked me out a little so I started sleeping with the covers over my head… just in case. He was not phased by this at all.

There was one hiccup — nay, cough — though. Being, you know, a cat, Tux brought up the occasional hairball (which was totally fine) except his definitely looked like poop, sending us into major panic mode when we first started spotting them among our belongings. No big deal, Tux. We forgive you (and we miss you?).

At the end of our stay, I was bummed to be leaving Tux behind and I wondered, selfishly (foolishly?), if he felt the same. I thought about how many new people he shared his space with each month and whether he enjoyed the company or loathed the invasion. Sure, he was chill like his bio revealed, but he was also pretty skittish.

As much as I’d love my dog to be taken care of in his own home when I’m away, I’m not sure a similar situation would work for him. I hope it does for Tux. In exchange for a price cut, guests of this Airbnb and others like it should take their responsibility of the pet seriously, for Tux[‘s] sake.

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