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Cat Thief

Page Nine

Klepto Cat Midnight A Real Cat Burglar!

July 2003

Sue & Midnight

Sue Boyd lets her cat Midnight bask in his booty for a few moments before bagging it up for the neighbours in her Simi Valley neighbourhood to reclaim.

It's nighttime on Simi Valley's Christine Street. Midnight, the marauding black feline, slips into the dark to raid his neighbours' possessions.

Night after night, the four-legged street pirate plunders garages, sheds, back yards and patios for his prey, which he proudly carries home to his distressed owners, Sue and Richard Boyd.

"We get so embarrassed by this," Sue Boyd said. "We wake up in the morning and go out and there's stuff under the truck. The cat leaves things all over. We don't want these things."

This cat burglar's special talent lies in what he steals. He has an affinity for wearables - shoes, hats, shirts, panties - all of which are easily dragged through the quiet streets to his Cory Street house, as late night witnesses to his pilfering attest. Each day, his owners leave a bag with the purloined goods hanging from their mailbox so neighbours can reclaim missing items.

Gary Sampson, an Indianapolis-based veterinarian who specializes in cat behaviour, said Midnight, now 13, is probably drawn to body odors.

"He's obviously a hunter," Sampson said. "He's doing this at night. This is when they can get prey. It's just an extension of that."

On occasion though, he has surprised his owners with some interesting acquisitions. Once Midnight brought home a Christmas gift.

"It was wrapped and everything. He's like a little klepto cat," said Boyd, who swears Midnight is an otherwise loving kitty.

He wasn't always this misguided. Years ago, Midnight was like any other judicious cat on a continual quest for small rodents and birds.

Boyd said that changed seven years ago when she brought home a new family member, a Doberman pinscher.

The addition of the new dog could have triggered Midnight's unique behaviour, said Deena Case-Pall, a Camarillo-based psychologist who specializes in animal behaviour.

"It's possible that this made the cat not want to be home as much," Case-Pall said. "That's why matching pets is such an important issue."

Midnight's neighbour, Jerome Ricard, has another theory. He remembers another cat in the neighbourhood that occasionally lifted personal items from homes. That cat, named Squiggy, didn't make nightly runs, but might have passed his legacy.

"I wondered when Squiggy died a few years ago if maybe he left his spirit and Midnight got a hold of it," said Ricard, who keeps his garage locked tight to deter the marauder.

Not all of the Boyds' neighbours are humored by Midnight's proclivities. Angel Balandran lives around the corner and became Midnight's victim after his own cat died two years ago.

Since then, Midnight has laid claim to at least $200 worth of clothing and has triggered fights among the Balandran clan, who used to accuse each other of borrowing clothes before they caught Midnight in the back yard a year ago.

"For some time I didn't know what was going on. I used to buy socks and I thought it was my kids taking the socks," Balandran said.

Sgt. Paul Fitzpatrick with the Simi Valley Police Department said there isn't anything the police could do about Midnight's crimes, except refer the complaint to animal control.

The Boyds tried the most obvious option for Midnight's rehabilitation - locking him up at night. It didn't work.

Case-Pall said another option would be to let him out during the day only, or, possibly look into one of the obsessive-compulsive medications allowed for cats. The cat is vulnerable to cars and coyotes while carrying his loot home, she said.

"The hunting is a very satisfying feeling," said Case-Pall. "It can be a stress relief. It almost becomes an addiction. I'm much more concerned about the cat's safety."

For now, the Boyds continue to add to their daily collection of other people's stuff.

"All we can do is laugh," said Boyd. "We feel sorry for the people who have to keep going out and buying socks and underwear. Somebody's definitely spending money."

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