Kleptocats: play-hunt with them to stop it


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Do kleptocats tells us something about cat behaviour and the instinctive drives within our domestic cats? Dusty is an American kleptocat and Norris is an English kleptocat.

Bedminster Bristol
Bedminster Bristol

Norris lives in Bristol, England. He is a two year old tabby. He roams the Bristol suburb, Bedminster, where he lives and “steals” anything and everything from neighbours; underwear from washing lines to food from tables. Norris brings it all back to where he lives. Items that are too large to get through the cat flap he walks through the door after requesting that it is opened. He is determined to get these objects back into his home.

Norris started off by raiding recycling bins. He’d “hunt” dusters and dishclothes. He graduated to:

  • underclothes, including bras
  • jumpers
  • T-shirts
  • a bath mat! (that is one of the items that goes through an open door)
  • “a tube of gravy paste”
  • a German sausage
  • a pair of washing up gloves1

This is a wide range of items. Norris’s owners are trying to stop him doing this. They are refusing to open the door when he meows with a new trophy1. I don’t think it will make the slightest difference.

What is the driving, instinctive behavior that makes Norris do this? It has all the signs of a style of hunting that can only be done by a domestic cat in a suburb of an English city.

So, we have to assume that kleptocats are expressing their desire to hunt. However, it is quite a big departure from conventional hunting, which is sad. Does that mean we should do more to give them the opportunity to hunt? Does that mean we should play with our cats more in simulated hunting sessions?

Well, it is not certain that kletocats are exhibiting a sort of humanised version of wild cat hunting. In the wild, the female of species of wild cat bring prey back to the den as a way of teaching their cubs to hunt. It is this behavior that makes me believe that kleptocats are doing the same thing but a gross distortion of it to suite the human environment and where there is little or no “real” prey.

Obviously, it is about individual cat preferences. Most domestic cats don’t seem to be too bothered about hunting. However, perhaps bored at home cats don’t realise that a lack of opportunity to hunt is what is lacking in their world.

What I think is that, without realising it, Norris is telling cat owners that they should provide their cat with plenty of stimulation. This must mean play/hunting role play sessions. We provide the prey. They hunt it. Not enough of this is done in households across the country. There is no blame. It is just the way it is.

Is a cat “stealing” someone’s bra a “cat problem”? I am not sure it truly is. If it is a problem, I believe that Norris’s owners, Mr and Mrs Windsor, should try and fix it by employing extensive role play sessions with Norris, in which they use cat teases and other tools, some of which can be bought, to allow Norris to express his innate hunting desires. This might stop him hunting a pair lady’s knickers. No guarantees though.


  1. Times Newspaper 20th Aug 2013.
  2. Map of Bedminster: Wikipedia under license
  3. The picture is not reproduced under license but I claim fair use on educational grounds. If there are problems please leave a comment and I will act promptly.

4 thoughts on “Kleptocats: play-hunt with them to stop it”

  1. I’m so happy that I’m not the only one with this issue. My Damon is now about 1 1/2 years old, strictly an indoor cat, and has been a thief since he was about 9 months old.
    I have to remind/inform my visiting children and their families not to leave any belongings on counters, shelves, etc. when they retire. Damon is a hoarder. He has 4 areas where he stashes his goods, and I have to routinely clear them out. He is, particularly, fond of human scented items like combs, hair accessories, and socks. But, when I have put away these sort of items, as well as any bricker-brack, he will steal a bath tissue roll while I am showering or nudge the roll of papertowels on the floor for all to shred.
    There are things that I have never found and know they are here because he never goes outside. Most sleep time I have him in my room with me because he is such a prowler.

    • Gosh, he does it all inside the home. The hunting drive is there it seems to me. You say, it is normally human scented items. This confuses me a bit because it seems to go against the idea that I have put forward that this is a expression of the hunting instinct.

      Perhaps it is that he is insecure and wants human scented items near him – the scent he knows – to feel relaxed.

      It is very interesting. This is an individual cat trait. When it is this extreme it is rare. If it is a distorted example of domestic cat hunting is shows that the wild cat instinct is always there inside and not far away.

      • Another roll of T.P. just bit the dust while I was in the shower!
        I don’t think it’s hunting behavior either. He doesn’t really play with his treasures unless they are shredable. But, he will visit he stashes and lie in the middle. I’m not sure why.
        He has plenty of toys and company. I thought it might be attention seeking behavior because this is a very multi-cat home, but I spend one-on-one with him often.
        I’m not sure that he doesn’t have fetishes, because he is obsessed with my hair when he sleeps with me – kneading my head, sucking strands of my hair, burying his face in it.
        Hell, maybe he’s just a pervert!

    • Red did this on a small lever – he brought an oven glove over once and some materials from a building site.

      Molly takes things to the bath and leaves them in there like a little nest – usually cat toys, kitchen items and bits of garbage. But from around the house.


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