The battle over the bounty on pets' heads has turned into a real catfight. Management has offered employees of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village $150 to rat out residents' dogs and cats. But the workers at the two giant housing complexes got a better offer yesterday - $160 to keep their mouths shut.

It came from Richard Thompson, the "top cat" of the company that makes Meow Mix cat food. "Cats and their owners shouldn't have to go underground," said Thompson, who said he was "disgusted" when he read in The Post about the bounty offered by landlord MetLife. "I live in New York, and I can't have MetLife throwing out cats and messing with my customers," he said.

"I gotta make a living here." The battle began when MetLife decided to crack down on tenants who have pets in violation of their leases, by offering $150 gift cards to workers who turn canary. Thompson said that not only will he pay the $160 awards out of his own pocket, he'll also send the tenants coupons for free cat food. "

Cats and other pets are like children to some people, especially older people who need them for companionship," Thompson said. "Cats do not make much noise. They don't mess the complex." Thompson also said he will take his case to the streets over the weekend. He said he will drive through the neighborhood in his company's "Meow Mix-mobile." "My message to MetLife - which has cute, little Snoopy as their mascot - is to come on, have a heart," he said. "You just can't be all about business."

Tenants have argued that MetLife CEO Robert Benmosche wants to boot tenants and convert their rent-regulated apartments into luxury housing. They say that while dogs have always been outlawed, the complex has traditionally turned a blind eye to cats. Some residents are now scared to call maintenance out of fear they will be turned in.

"MetLife has unleashed forces and emotions that have now pitted employee against tenant and tenant against tenant," said Assemblyman Steven Sanders, who lives at Peter Cooper Village. "It's destructive, it's unnecessary, and this whole episode would be laughable if they weren't so serious because they're talking about evictions," he said.

The "pet snitching" program began last month and will continue through March, according to a memo written by a Met Life legal-affairs manager, obtained by The Post.

MetLife refused comment.



Lovable cats and dogs lapped up a sweet victory over Metropolitan Life Insurance yesterday, when the company announced it is scrapping its bounty on illegal pets at two large apartment complexes it owns in Manhattan.

Facing yelps from pet lovers across the city, MetLife said it will no longer offer employees $150 for turning in tenants at Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town who have furry friends in violation of their leases.

The Post broke the story about the bounty on pets' heads this week, touching off a storm of outrage. J. Brian Peters, senior managing director of Rose Associates, which manages the two massive middle-class complexes, turned tail in a statement yesterday. "The trial employee incentive program, implemented by property manager Rose Associates Inc. in response to tenant complaints, will end March 1st," Peters announced.

The last straw may have been The Post's report yesterday that the outraged head of Meow Mix cat food had promised bigger rewards - $160 - to employees of the complexes who don't rat out tenants. He also planned to protest at the housing complexes this weekend. Tenants, who feared the goal of the bounty program was to evict rent-stabilized tenants and charge luxury rates for their vacant apartments, were ecstatic. "Aborting this misadventure could not come a day too soon and a lot of credit goes to the New York Post," said Assemblyman Steven Sanders, a tenant of Peter Cooper Village. "Aside from looking petty and greedy, MetLife also were made to look ridiculous," he added. "This is going to calm the very frayed nerves on the part of tenants."