Animals who steal are referred to as kleptomaniacs, or in the case of cats, "cat burglars," but they most likely just think of themselves as collectors -they find something they like and take it, with no consideration of the ethics involved. Cats are particularly successful collectors, as they have the combination of curiosity, stealth, and agility necessary for a successful career in petty larceny.
Peter Weismantel and his wife Birgitt of Portswood, Southampton, England, took in a 13-year-old cat to foster from a shelter. Oscar showed his gratitude by bringing his new family gifts. He showered the couple with socks, gloves, and toys, but has a particular penchant for underwear. Oscar brought home dozens of pairs of women's and children's underpants! The Weismantels were so concerned they called police to report the thefts, in case someone suspected them of stealing the underwear. But they found his habit so endearing that they decided to adopt Oscar permanently.
Margrit Geiger of Wiesendangen, Switzerland, admits that the small items missing in her town were probably taken by her cat Speedy. She says the cat brings things in through a hole in a shed, then through the attic into her teenage son Daniel's room. The Geiger family handed out leaflets that said “Help, our cat steals!” to encourage victims to come and claim the stolen items. Speedy only began to steal things three years ago, and although he will take anything he finds, he has a special preference for black socks. You can see Speedy in action in a video report.
Frankie the tomcat likes toys of all kinds, but he has an obsession with plush leopards. He finds the toys in his neighborhood in Swindon, Wiltshire, England, and pushes them through the cat flap at his home. Frankie will bring home socks, plush toys, and discarded food items, as well as small animals he hunts all times of the day and night. He doesn't play with the toys, but seem happy just to bring them home. The cat collected 15 copies of the same small plush leopard, which his owner Julie Bishop believes is made to be a cat toy. Bishop put up posters to notify the owners of the purloined items. See Frankie carrying his loot in a BBC video.
A cat named Chrysanthemum in Chandler, Arizona, began a career of petty theft by stealing socks. But then Kissy, as he is called, moved up to suspected identity theft. Or maybe he is impersonating an immigration officer. See, Kissy brought home a stolen green card! Kissy's owner Kim Cocio turned the card over to police, and no one pressed charges.
No one knew that Henry, a cat in Loughborough, Leicestershire, England, was stealing laundry from clotheslines until his owner Louise Brandon caught him in the act. The shocked woman followed Henry, who was carrying a sock in his mouth, into the house. Brandon saw him stash the stolen sock behind his cat bed, where she found his collection of 51 socks! Taking the socks away did no good, she said, because he would just steal more. The family handed out leaflets in order to find the owners of all these socks.
As far as Ray Lewis and Rachel Meyrick of London, England, knew, their black Siamese cat never stole anything until the family had a baby daughter in late 2007. After that, Cwtch started bringing toys home from who-knows-where. The parade of plush toys seemed endless, as if the cat knew what a baby human wants and needs. The family launched a website in order to reunite the stolen toys with their rightful owners. See Cwtch caught in the act in this video.
The most notorious cat burglar in recent memory is Dusty, who became world famous thanks to various TV appearances, including a hilarious segment on the Animal Planet series Must Love Cats.
Dusty brings home items from his neighborhood in San Mateo, California every night, an activity that has continued for several years. Marilyn Krieger, a cat behavior consultant, thinks he may have a feline form of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Other specialists say his predatory instinct is misdirected, but understandable.
Dusty takes everything from toys to shoes to trash to swimsuits. His owners, Jean Chu and Dennis Coleman, try to return the items to their owners, but still have amassed a garage full of unclaimed loot. They estimate that the cat has taken over 600 items since he was a kitten. Dusty is thorough; when he stole a bikini, he made a second trip to pilfer the matching piece. He also made two trips to keep a pair of tennis shoes together. Coleman and Chu eventually had a "reverse garage sale" in which they publicly displayed Dusty's booty and invited neighbors to take back their belongings.