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Does your pet like to pinch?

Dog-with-brush

Here at Petplan we adore our animals, but some of them steal more than just our hearts. Sophie Mackenzie reveals the reasons behind our furry friends’ thieving tendencies.

Just about anyone who’s had a puppy will know the horror of hunting for a favourite pair of shoes, only to find one of them chewed beyond recognition in the dog’s basket. Hungry bunnies have been known to filch juicy carrot sticks and crunchy biscuits from under their owners’ noses. But perhaps the most criminal creatures of all are cats.

Sophie and Richard Windsor first realised they were harbouring a cat burglar when Norris, their long-haired tabby, was about a year old. “At first it was just the odd thing – but over the last four months, he has really started to up his game,” Richard told the Bristol Post in August 2013.

This one-cat crime spree left the Windsors with a box-full of loot that included dusters, dishcloths, underwear, washing-up gloves and even a mop head. Eventually the couple resorted to putting notes through their neighbours’ letterboxes inviting them to reclaim their belongings.

Norris is by no means the only feline Fagin out there – stories of kleptomaniac kitties abound. There’s Denis, who became a YouTube sensation when his owners filmed him bringing home a designer polo shirt, a Barbie doll and men’s underwear – but only boxers, never briefs. Frankie had a particular penchant for plush toys, and Dusty’s long reign of terror saw him half-inch some 600 items.

But what makes cats turn to a life of crime? We have to remember that our domestic moggies are first and foremost hunters. A cat who doesn’t have access to live prey, or who is sufficiently well fed that rodents don’t seem appetising, still needs an outlet for this powerful urge – and might well get his or her predatory pleasures at your neighbour’s washing line.

Of course, turning up at the cat flap with a pair of knickers, a Christmas-tree ornament or, in the case of Wilf, the entire skin of a neighbour’s roast chicken, still warm from the oven, is guaranteed to get your cat attention. Even negative feedback can reinforce behaviour, so ignoring any gifts could help your cat go straight.

Indoor cats are prone to a spot of thievery too, often targeting shiny items like coins and jewellery and stashing them in a favourite place. This could be a sign that your cat is lacking an outlet for his or her hunting instinct and is turning to your valuable possessions in frustration. Try offering more stimulation for your cat: feeding puzzles and climbing trees are great, but there’s no substitute for an exciting game with you and a favourite toy.

However, if your cat is showing other signs of stress such as chewing inedible substances, toileting outside the litter tray or grooming excessively, a trip to the vet is probably in order.

Have you dealt with a delinquent dog, cat or bunny? Have you consulted a behaviourist, or does your pet get off scot-free? Tell us in the comments box below.

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11 Responses to Does your pet like to pinch?

  1. Julie Long says:

    When we moved a bed one time we found our Burmese cat’s stash of goodies. A ribbon, a bit of string, the cardboard tube from a toilet roll… But the best ones were some dried flowers from a bowl of pot pourri. If we were out she would happy destroy a couple of flower heads and leave them strewn across the floor. I loved the fact that she carried these up stairs without damaging them. She watched us as we found her treasure and stalked off. This was years ago and I still miss her.

  2. Susie Barnes says:

    If you want to see a real theif check out Kleptomaniac Poodle on youtube. Woody was such a theif that he was spotted by Animal Planet in Los Angeles. They asked me if they could come and film him for their TV show called Bad Dog. They came 18 months ago and Woody was a real star.

  3. Trish Jones says:

    In March I gave home to a Whippet puppy. The breeder told me they are terrible thieves. I blithely said, I’ve grown up with Siamese (and other) cats, “no problem”. Believe me, the cats have nothing on Whippets. 99% of cats’ stealing is food. Whippets steal anything and everything that is left unattended. As Withy has grown, everything in the house has had to be moved up in level. She can now get her nose over the kitchen cabinets, so I have to ensure nothing is left near to the edge. Bedroom, bathroom, living room, everywhere has had to be Whippet-proofed, and if I forget to put any personal items in the cupboard at night, they are chewed. In comparison, cats are a doddle.

  4. karen says:

    my spaniel henry dont steal he actually ‘borrows’ thing is its so funny we usually knows when its going to happen.
    if we sort the dirty laundry we usually have socks disappear usually just to his dogs bed. if my partners doing DIY the odd hammer screwdriver will disappear they are usually put in a bush. if he gets paper or tissues they are his only naughty trait is to shred them. he has his own soft toy cows which he ‘holds’ and them carry around. he is adorable and i wont change him for anything. (well except maybe his awful singing, eat you heart out xfactor)

  5. Barry Gregory says:

    I have a 7-month springer spaniel who will steal, chew and swallow almost anything both in the house, garden or out on walks (especially when he is off the lead).

    Includes cardboard, paper, tissues, plastics of all sorts (bottles & caps, bags), washing up sponges etc etc etc. Earlier this week he found the spent casing from a firework rocket in the garden – chewed and swallowed it. it really upset his tummy the day after.

    He is well fed and has plenty of toys and chews.

    Is it possible to stop this habit? If so how? I am concerned that sooner or later he is going to chew/swallow something and get a blockage.

  6. Harriet says:

    I have a collie x terrier and a greyhound and between them they have all the bases covered – collie x terrier chews hard objects, greyhound likes soft fluffy things. Their best double act was when he ripped up a pair of wellies and she chewed up the long wellie socks I wore inside them. I also have to be careful taking off a woolly hat when coming in from a winter walk – hold it in your hand at the level of her nose and it will be snatched!

  7. Olly says:

    My worst chewer was Frank, my Springer Collie cross. We lost countless TV remotes and shoes, everything was a toy!

    I managed to train this out of him after watching a dog trainer’s video.

    If anyone is interested here is a link to the video (it’s free to watch but I found it really useful)

  8. Sylvia Rose says:

    Our 6 month old cocker spaniel Leyla just can’t resist the toilet brush, in fact any brush is fair game plus all the usual puppy tricks,socks,shoes,tissues,plants in pots,t.v.remote,glasses,watches,keys,door stops….. Now she is bigger she can reach higher, sewing is hazardous as she runs off with my pin cushion and scissors. She has loads of chews and toys and and lots of attention and long walks but she is just so mischeivous and bursting with energy. Will she calm down or is it a spaniel trait I wonder? P.S. we love her to bits.

  9. Margaret says:

    My German Shepherd ‘Wispa’ collects things. Found my knitting in her bed last night. She must have climbed on a chair to get is from the middle of the kitchen table.

  10. Lol Evans says:

    Well im glad im not alone, I have a springador turn your back and he will take any clothing at the first opportunity. This morning he jumped like a kangaroo and had a piece of bread. Nightmare but wouldnt be without him:)

  11. wide indigo earth says:

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