Tales from AirBnB — If a Cat Dies, Am I Responsible?

After 2826.5 miles through the Unites States, I returned back to the homestead to the welcoming embrace of my own bed. In tow was about 150 cans of beer, 6 bags of coffee, an expensive pair of jeans and a small cartel of stickers.

My AirBnB experience ranged from the best ever to “Am I going to be the asshole who ruins the guy’s 4.9 rating?’ Since this was a last minute trip and I’m on a tight budget, I bypassed the chain hotels in favorite of staying in a stranger’s spare room. Sorry, Captain Obvious and Trivago Guy & Gal.

Of the five places I rented, two of the hosts were never there. Apparently, this is common practice in the AirBnb world. People let a complete stranger into their home without them being there. I could easily set-up a brothel like in Risky Business or just steal all their crap. “Yeah, but they have your info.” Sure, but AirBnb doesn’t know the real me.

The usual procedure is that your key is in a lockbox, you get the combo and you just follow their guidelines. Not to go into specifics, one place went completely smooth, the other was almost a disaster.

Basically, the guy had a cat. I knew this going in and was fine with it. He then told me a five days before I arrived that he was going to be away. Okay, then. I got the lockbox number and instructions. In the instructions was to not let the cat out.

In the back of my mind, I assumed that the cat would be with him, with a neighbor or in a shelter. I wasn’t informed how long he would be away.

I get the key, open the door and not even within a second, the cat darts out and runs away. FUCK!!!! It runs under the house and I can’t see it. In a slight panic, I get down and try to whisper for it. At this time in the afternoon, it’s about 96 degrees. I’m sweating profusely.

Instead of looking for the cat, I start to unload my crap. I find the cat’s food and water bowl and leave it out. Nothing. After 20-30 minutes, I’m starting to get lightheaded from the heat and panic. I eventually call the guy. He tells me to leave the back porch screen door open a crack, put the food inside the porch and the cat will eventually come back.

So here’s the thing — why the fuck am I taking care of your cat, bro? A coyote or dog could easily mangle your cat while you are away and I’m there. I’m renting your room, not your cat.

AirBnB has no policy on this, and a few AirBnb message boards suggest that you remove the pets if you are not there. One place I rented had two dogs, and they were put into the bedroom when they were not there. There could be one of a thousand bad circumstances that ended badly for me. Even if the cat didn’t get out, my luggage could have tipped over and crushed it.

I leave for a few hours, and come back. Thankfully, the cat made it to the porch and I let it inside.

Fast forward to the night, I get home at midnight and I’ve had a few drinky drinks. Not falling down drunk, but just want to get to bed ASAP. I close the door, get into bed and I hear scratching at the door and meowing. STFU please.

I eventually passed out and woke up a few hours later needing to use the bathroom. I opened the bedroom door and the cat darts in. I did my business, came back to the bedroom and don’t see the cat. “Whatever,” I think and left the door open. I got into bed, turned off the light and then the sheets staredt to move. The cat is in the bed with me. I shoo it out the room and close the door. This fucking cat.

When I went to pack my stuff and get it into my car, I lock the cat into the bedroom. The last thing I did before I left was let it out.

This wasn’t cool. I have nothing against cats, but common sense would tell the AirBnb host that you shouldn’t leave your pet in your house with a stranger when you are not there for a long time. Between the escaping and not leaving me alone while I slept, it was an awkward and unpleasant situation.

I decided not to review my stay, but contacted AirBnb about my story to see if there is any policy about pets and owners not being there. Mainly, if this cat never came back, could the host sue me for damages.

I will let you know if they respond.

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