Klepto-cats: the reason why they are natural born burglars

NEWS AND COMMENT: From time-to-time news media reports on the klepto-cat. You must have seen them online. They are domestic cats who like to ‘burgle’ and ‘thieve’ in human terms. They thieve objects as diverse as a plush toy or a spoon, or wherever else they can find. They tend to go for objects that belong to people such as gloves because of their scent. What the klepto-cat has in common with other cats of a similar ilk is that they take objects from neighbours’ homes and bring them back to their home. One such example, currently in the news, is Charlie.

Charlie a klepto-cat

Charlie a klepto-cat. Photo: Alice Bigge/SWNS.

He lives with Alice Bigge, his caregiver. She decided that she had to take action when Charlie brought a pair of reading glasses in through the cat flap.

He is described as a prolific burglar although the word “burglar” really only applies to people as I’m sure you realise. A cat cannot be a burglar or a thief because they don’t have sufficient mental capacity to have the intention (mens rea) to thieve and burgle items. That’s a little taste of the legal context.

Charlie has brought a variety of objects into his home from the homes of neighbours including toy dinosaurs, cutlery, model cars and a rubber duck. They live in Bedminster, Bristol, UK.

From time-to-time Alice has to try and return the items to their rightful owner. As you can see in the photograph, she puts them at the front of her house and asks anybody to take what is theirs.

Alice is slightly worried that Charlie may get targeted as he’s now been outed as the local neighbourhood burglar. Charlie started when he was three months old. He inherited this desire.

And there lies the answer as to why he is a klepto-cat. There can be only one reason and it is this. Domestic cats can become slightly confused ?. And I’m referring to the relationship between themselves and their human caregiver and the human environment in which they lived. The reason? The wild cat character from their ancestor, the North African wildcat, is just below the surface.

RELATED: African Wildcat Facts For Kids

Normally their relationship with their human caregiver is of a kitten to a surrogate mother. The former being the cat and the latter being the human. Adult cats feel like kittens all their lives under this relationship. Sometimes the roles are reversed when the cat brings in a genuine prey item (mouse) and shows it to their human caregiver. In this instance the cat is the mother and the human is their kitten to be taught how to kill prey.

In a slight aberration of this behaviour, some cats, perhaps without sufficient prey to hunt or without sufficient skills to do it, choose to take inanimate objects wherever they can find them on their patrols around their home range and to carry them the core of their home range which is the home of their human caregiver.

My conclusion is that Charlie is bringing home ‘prey items’ and rather amusingly he doesn’t see any difference between a plastic duck and a wriggling mouse.

Terry and Paddy

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Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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