‘The only problem is they stink up the place’

Landlord rents $1,500 studio to two cats, hits “peak Silicon Valley.”

By Marisa Kendall / The Mercury News

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Looking to make some extra cash, David Callisch found the perfect tenants for the $1,500-a-month studio apartment behind his Willow Glen home — a pair of cats.

“Basically I’ve got two renters that don’t have opposable thumbs,” Callisch said. “It’s actually great. They’re very quiet, obviously. The only problem is they stink up the place.”

The rent is taken care of by 43-year-old Troy Good, who saw the studio as a solution to a pressing problem: what to do with his daughter’s beloved cats, which he couldn’t abandon but also couldn’t house in his new apartment.

It’s a situation that perhaps could only come about in Silicon Valley, where rents are astronomical and residents treat their pets like children, feeding a booming demand for amenities like pet-friendly offices, doggy day care and pet massage clinics.

The scenario is “peak Silicon Valley,” said Jennifer Loving, CEO of Destination Home, an organization working to end homelessness in Santa Clara County.

“While this story is funny,” she said, “it really does highlight the tremendous inequity in the Silicon Valley. We have thousands of people on our streets, and we’re paying to make sure that our cats have a place to live.”

Callisch says it’s much easier to play landlord to a pair of cats than to a human tenant. Still, with housing for people so scarce in the Bay Area, a problem that’s driving prices through the roof and forcing residents to live in cars, RVs and tents throughout the region, Callisch says he does feel bad wasting valuable living space on animals. But the situation came up, and to help his friend, he accepted the offer.

“It’s just a weird thing that happened, that’s all,” said Callisch, who works in marketing for Palo Alto-based analytics software company Nyansa.

For $1,500, Good and his cats got a decent deal. An average studio apartment in San Jose rents for $1,951 a month, according to RentCafe. But the unit Good is renting has no kitchen, which could bring the price down.

Good adopted Tina and Louise as kittens for his now 18-year-old daughter, Victoria Amith. The tiny, inseparable kittens grew into huge cats — Amith thinks they are Maine Coon and Bombay mixes, and her father estimates they weigh about 20 pounds each. The cats, who Amith named after characters on the animated TV show “Bob’s Burgers,” still sleep snuggled together in the same bed.

Amith is devoted to them, even creating an Instagram account to document their antics (Tina — and — Louise). But she couldn’t take them to the dorms when she started college this fall at Azusa Pacific University, outside Los Angeles. Around the same time, Good moved into a new apartment in San Jose with his fiance and her dog. The animals didn’t get along (Good worried about Tina and Louise picking on Jack, the terrier), but Good couldn’t give the cats away without breaking his daughter’s heart.

Meanwhile, Good’s friend Callisch was getting ready to rent his granny unit on Airbnb. Good had an idea — Why not rent it for the cats instead? Callisch agreed, and the animals moved in over the summer.

“They definitely have the nicest cat apartment in Silicon Valley,” said Good, a custom furniture designer. He recently started his own business designing and selling phone booths for offices with open floor plans, to give workers a quiet, private space to take calls.

Callisch pops into his granny unit, which he calls the “casita,” every day to feed and play with the cats, Good stops by regularly and Amith visits on her breaks from school.

Good says he would have paid more than $1,500 to maintain the peace in his home, keep his daughter happy and make sure Tina and Louise are safe. He and Callisch send pictures of the cats to Amith, who plans to bring them to Southern California when she moves out of the dorms.

“I love my cats so much,” she said. “I’m so attached to them. I’m like a cat lady.”

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