In the early 1980's, my husband and I moved to Germany. He went over a few months before I did because I was working in a school and needed to stay until the end of the term, and he needed to find us a place to live. When I finally arrived with our two cats (Beast, or Mr. Beast to you -- a big ball of fluff similar to a Maine Coon, and Wretch, a sweet orange cat), Spence told me, "Oh, by the way, we have to hide the cats, since the lease doesn't allow pets." (WHAT DO YOU MEAN, the lease doesn't allow pets?! We have two cats -- how could you do this?!!!!)
Our apartment was one of 4 in a large building in the northern part of Bavaria. The ground floor held garage space, workshop, storage, and room to store an extensive array of gardening/farming equipment. The first floor had a large apartment inhabited by the landlord's son and daughter-in-law and a smaller apartment that was usually rented to another U.S. military family. The second floor had another large apartment in which the landlords lived (Mr. & Mrs. Amhrein). When you went up the stairs you would turn right to enter their apartment. To enter our apartment you would turn left and walk up two stairs. On the landing were two doors -- one to our bathroom and one to our apartment proper -- so we had to actually leave our apartment to get to the bathroom. It sounds worse than it is, since you couldn't see the doors to our apartment/bath from the stairway or the landlord's place.
We spent two months trying to "hide" the cats, which was rather difficult, them being cats and all. Funny little guys liked to sit in the windows and look out on the parking courtyard or the beautiful garden which went up the hillside in the back of our building. One day I looked out from our library onto the landlord's balcony and started screaming. The landlords had killed and skinned our cats and had hung them up by the feet. At the sound of my shrieking, our two cats came meandering into the room as if to say, "What's the matter with you?" Oh, well, if those aren't our cats, what ARE they? A closer look revealed the mystery -- rabbits, apparently for a stew.
On New Year's Eve, we had a few friends over to our small apartment to celebrate. Since we didn't have enough room for everyone to sit, I was on the floor next to the door basking in the warm glow of sparkling Eastern Bloc wine (from a work trip to Berlin), good conversation, and a contented Beast in my lap. Just before midnight, Spence stepped out to go to the bathroom. After a few minutes, there was a knock at the door. "That's odd," I thought, "why is he knocking?"
With the cat still in my lap, I reached up and pressed down on the door handle. The door opened, and our landlady entered the room and exclaimed quite ebulliently -- "HAPPY NEU JAHR!" At that moment I had an involuntary reflex -- after months of "hiding" the cats, shooing them from windowsills and out of doorways, I was busted with a cat in my lap -- and all I could do was throw the poor dear just as far as I could, in hopes that she wouldn't see him. (This is a teeny apartment, so it wasn't very far, so don't worry that I hurt the Beast.)
Well, the cat was out of the bag, so to speak, but apparently, she was so full of holiday cheer and spirit and champagne that either she didn't see the cat, or she saw him and was too "happy" to care. I spent an uneasy week or so anticipating an eviction notice, but it never came. We continued to live there for almost 4 1/2 years with never a rent increase. Over time I learned enough German to renegotiate the lease (a big deal with this family -- it takes 45 minutes or so) and converse with the family on a daily basis.
Beast and Wretch had long, happy lives (except, perhaps for being thrown), and we have three new cats. Every New Year's Eve I give one of them a little toss just to continue the Throwing of the Cat Tradition.