Caturday felid: cat burglar!

February 26, 2011 • 5:45 am

In San Mateo, California, lives a cat named Dusty, now called “Klepto Cat.”  In the dark of night, Dusty sneaks out from his home and ravages the neighborhood, stealing things from other people’s houses.  He’s purloined bathing suits, stuffed animals, sponges, towels, underwear—you name it.

Dusty’s booty now totals more than 600 items.  Some are so large that he has to waddle when bringing them home.

Dusty’s been a klepto cat for three years; his gateway theft involved a sparkly pink purse.  Animal Planet set up a night-vision camera that captured him in flagrante delicto; here’s the LOLzy video of the investigation:

In an interview with a local television station (video at link), his owners display a sample of Dusty’s swag.

And, in his ultimate fifteen minutes of fame, Dusty appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman, where David read Dusty his rap sheet.

25 thoughts on “Caturday felid: cat burglar!

  1. So the owners don’t return the stolen items? This wreaks of stagedness. You’d think there would be complaints from the neighbors if they keep getting their stuff stolen.

    Yes, I know stagedness is not a word.

    1. The owners DO try to return the stolen items, inviting neighbors over to the swag pile to identify and reclaim their items. But you can’t return an item if you don’t know where it came from. Presumably the stuff in Dusty’s collection of booty was unclaimed.

      Coyne’s rule #1: There is no weird photograph, no matter how well documented, that someone won’t claim is Photoshopped.

      Coyne’s rule #2: There is no bizarre news item, no matter how well documented, that someone won’t claim is fake.

      It behooves us as skeptics to be dubious, but in this case there’s sufficient evidence that Dusty really is a thief.

      1. Perhaps there should be a Coyne’s rule # 3: Someone will always comment without having viewed/read the material linked to.

        (Unless the neighbors were all in on this “staging” [including some pretty ingenuous little kids] I’d think their comments would support this story’s veracity quite satisfactorily.)

  2. When Keeshu was a kitten, she stayed with some med student friends for about a week and a half, while we went on an extended vacation. One of the women claimed she would steal bras from her dresser, drag them through the apartment, and deposit them in her favorite sleeping spot. They thought it was hilarious. I’ve never seen her do anything like it before or since.

  3. Yeah–I was wondering about that, too. I assumed they didn’t have any idea what belonged to whom to be able to give it back–and it seems Dusty brings home quite a number of things. The best they could do, I would think, would be to put up a sort of Lost and Found (or Found on the Ground?) board outside their home and let neighbors claim their own things…

    (“Stagedness” sounds fine to me. Word Faerie says it can be a Real Word if you love it enough. Clap your hands three times and say Bing!;-))


    Forgive the advert before this, but this clip appears to confirm kitteh theism or some sort of runaway meme afflicting our feline friends.

  5. I had a kitteh who loved stealing stuff from my drawers and closets. The more she had to work at retrieving the item (drawer opened just a crack, for example), the more she liked it. I’d come home to find bras, underwear, and other items in the living room that she had stolen from my bedroom upstairs.

    The oddest items that she liked to retrieve were bathroom sink stoppers. These were that long kind that extend several inches into the drain. I’d find stolen stoppers deposited in various locations in the house. I can’t imagine they were easy for her to remove–it must have required quite persistent effort.

    The funniest item I found was a wrapped condom she retrieved from my nightstand drawer. She deposited in my entryway, where I and any visitor I might happen to have with me couldn’t miss it. And she had thoughtfully punctured it many times over with sharp little teeth.

    1. My cat looks almost identical to that (chin only has a single white spot under his lip, and he’s a lot longer, but otherwise about the same). Fortunately he never got into the habit of stealing anything from the neighbors except for the occasional mouthful of cat food.

  6. Come on Jerry – let’s have some cod (ha!) kitteh evol psych to explain this. Is it an extreme form of the habitual “here’s a dead animal for you”? What does Dusty think he’s doing? Is there an adaptive value to it, or is he just nuts? There was a story of a similar cat thief in the UK a couple of years back, but I can’t trace it. Above all – WHAT ABOUT THE STEGOSAUR RIGHT AT THE END?

    1. My first evo-cat-psych reaction is that it’s derived from cats’ tendency to bring prey back to their kittens, both to teach them to deal with it (when it’s alive) and then to eat it. From there you get cats bringing prey to their owners, a behavior derived from the same instinct. Many cats bring “presents” of dead birds and mice to their owners.

      From there, you simply assume that Dusty sees purloining a bra as the equivalent of catching prey (a lot easier for an indolent kitteh!), and then bringing the prey back to the owner.

      I can haz Templeton moniez now?

      But I have no explanation for the stegosaur, except that the kitteh likes to get items of manageable size . . .

      1. We had a cat who liked to steal balled socks from the laundry. She would wander around the house mewing through the sock (in a muffled sort of way). We figured it was a maternal thing — she thought it was a kitten, but didn’t quite know what to do next. Eventually, we did get her a kitten ;-).

  7. I reckon it’s a combination of ‘here’s a mouse for you’ and the cat’s a bit loopy but it can’t be all that unusual for cats to steal stuff. In the “Hairy McClary(sp?)from Donaldson’s Dairy” series of children’s books there’s one with a cat that goes out at night and nicks all the neighbours’ things. One of the best series of picture books evarrr.

    Note: I have seen it before, my kids showed it to me last week. 🙂

  8. As kittens, our cats used to steal makeup brushes from under the bathroom sink. Later they graduated to nabbing tools from the cable guy’s bag.

  9. I had a cat who became enamored with an exchange student and would bring him socks, washcloths, sponges, laundry, and all sorts of other items from around the house.

    It was amusing when he had to explain in broken English that he was not the one pilfering these items– we just decided to just keep them in a basket in his room and he’d return them when she wasn’t around.

    You can’t really scold a cat by saying “bad cat!” They just look at you as if you are having a momentary lapse of sanity.

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