Why Are Some Cats Kleptomaniacs?

Kleptomaniac cat
Kleptomaniac cat – Tigger.
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Every so often we see a cat news story about a “kleptomaniac cat”. There is one doing the rounds at the moment. It concerns a policeman’s cat, ironically, who has been dubbed a cat burglar. Tigger “steals” everything and anything such as trash, toys and even a bag of marijuana. Other cats have stolen plush toys, jewellery and shinny objects.

When a cat takes a plush toy and brings it back to the home you can see the link to hunting prey. It looks like a deviant version of innate feline behavior: hunting prey and bringing it back to the den where the kittens are, to feed them or to eat the prey themselves. We can see the similarity with outdoor cats who bring back real prey to the home, which is quite a common occurrence.

But when the objects are shinny and bear no resemblance to “prey” in the slightest we tend to scratch our heads while trying to understand it.

Another time that cats carry things to a den is when the female moves dens to protect her young. She picks up her kittens by the scruff of the neck and carries them quite good distances sometimes. But this does not really help to explain kleptomaniac cats. Having considered the causes for a moment, I briefly set out my idea on the subject.

Domestic cats have innate behaviours which are hard-wired into their brains. These behaviour traits explain everything about domestic cat behaviour. However, over nearly 10,000 years of domestication the North African wildcat’s behaviour (the domestic cat’s ancestor) has become distorted sometimes. We could call it “deviant natural feline behaviour”.

The domestic cat being surrounded by human objects and the human lifestyle develops modified and deviant behaviour based on his/her natural hard-wired wild cat behaviour which is coloured by the presence of human artefacts and human behaviour.

This deviant behaviour is a distortion of true feline behaviour but it hints at the original. Therefore I’d say that kleptomaniac cats are demonstrating a deviant version of normal behaviours to do with raising young. They use human objects as an outlet to express their natural behaviour traits even though it serves no function and does not make sense. The domestic cat is not concerned whether his behaviour makes sense; he is simply behaving instinctively. It is a miss-mash of natural feline behaviour in a non-feline environment.

Another example of this is when my cat Gabriel has sex on my left arm when I am wearing a fleece dressing gown which feels like fur. When he does this he purrs and kneads my arm. It seems to be a mixture of male cat procreation and kitten suckling behaviour. It is “deviant” or distorted. It is an amalgamation of various natural feline behaviours which are expressed in a way that is only possible in the human environment. He treats me as his mother and as a female for procreation. However, perhaps the Gabriel example is not a great one because it may be that young male cats do this to their genuine mothers.

P.S. The Tigger cop’s cat burglar story is all over the internet at the moment so I won’t provide a link as links to other sites often end up broken.

5 thoughts on “Why Are Some Cats Kleptomaniacs?”

  1. I wish I had an answer for the stealing that goes on here.
    Over the years, I have talked a lot about my Damon who is a career criminal thief.
    Nothing is safe from him. He’s a hoarder. I’ve had to replace debit cards 4 times now and can never leave my pocketbook or cabinet door open. I no longer have any potholders or pens. I’ve checked his hoarding piles, moved furniture, and checked under the stove. Can’t find. I found one of my slippers wedged between the refrigerator and wall 2 months ago.
    At least, I am able to retrieve some personal items from his hoarding piles most of the time. He, especially, loves my hair accessories, socks, and panties (can’t leave a dirty laundry basket in sight).

    Here is an exerpt from 2013, I think:
    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.

    • My God, I never knew you lived with such a prolific cat thief. The degree of his thieving is extraordinary and not to be able to find the items at all, ever, is also extraordinary but predicable. It can be hard to find cats in homes sometimes if they want to hide! 🙂

      I believe my theory is correct on this. He is simply expressing instinctively his feline behavior traits with the tools that he has: human items.

      • I have some photos of him stealing my socks to take to one of his piles. It’s rare that I can catch him in the act. He’s a very good criminal and looks angelic to boot.

  2. I think you summed it up wisely, and it makes perfect sense to me. I’ve never had a cat burglar, or known one, except for online stories and videos.

    Many cats revert to kitten behavior of kneading and suckling, even when they’ve been born into caring homes with good socialization. So, this must also be hard wired.


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