Dusty – The San Mateo Cat Burglar
Dusty, the brown and white moggy has a unique problem. Seemingly happy in all facets of his feline life, by day he is as content an animal you are ever likely to meet.
By night however, he can’t help but go on the prowl for items that don’t belong to him.
Over a 3 year period, the San Mateo cat has ‘collected’ over 600 items from his neighbours. The issue is so bad that Animal behaviourists have labelled him a kleptomaniac. The reasons behind his actions have left experts baffled.
“It’s extreme, but it’s absolutely adorable,” said Marilyn Krieger, a cat behavior consultant in Redwood City. “I can’t say exactly why he’s doing it, except it has to do with mixed-up neurotransmitters. I think it’s a form of OCD.”
Dusty’s unusual habit as a part time ‘cat burglar’ began after he was adopted from the Peninsula Humane Society.
“I noticed a piece of latex glove on the bed one morning and told my husband he should do a better job cleaning up his work stuff,” said owner Jean Chu. “He said, ‘It wasn’t me. I think it was the cat.’
The problem quickly escalated with items belonging to the neighbours finding their way into Dusty’s home.
“He always steals stuff,” neighbor Ethan McLelland said.
Things go missing so often the neighbors now know Dusty by his alias — Kelpto the Cat.
Stephanie Somers’ family lost six bathing suits and countless shorts, towels and car wash sponges.
“We don’t leave anything out anymore,” she said. “But we don’t mind. We like Dusty.”
Every morning, Dusty returns with his booty. And the mix of items is truly astounding. Favorites include gloves, towels, Crocs, swim trunks, toys, balls and caps. Kelly McClelland’s bikini also went missing from her clothes line.
“He did the bikini in two trips.” McClelland told KGO-TV. “He was very focused on keeping the ensemble. When it went missing I wasn’t worried, though. I knew where to go.”
His crime sprees received wider recognition after The Animal Planet television show ‘Must Love Cats’ installed a camera outside the house. It captured his nightly forays for a week.
Dusty’s predilection for theft is rare but not unheard of, animal experts said. Some cats will bring home half-dead mice, acting on their instinct to teach kittens to hunt. Dusty’s habit is likely related to that somehow, minus the kittens and mice.
“It’s like a predatory instinct gone awry,” said Richmond cat consultant Mikel Delgado. “He’s obviously very bold.”
Anika Liljenwall, behavior associate at the Peninsula Humane Society, said Dusty’s predatory instinct has become “crossed in his head.”
“In his mind he’s caught something and he’s bringing it home to share,” she said.
“We always try to find meaning in what animals do,” Liljenwall said. “But maybe he just does this because it’s fun.”
And fun he certainly has. Dusty’s record take for one night is a pretty amazing 11 items. He shows no sign of letting up from is nocturnal hobbie.
His owners have adapted to it all too. Chu says she tries to return the items to the rightful owners, but if she can’t find them, she has two lost-and-found boxes in her dining room for locals to reclaim their goods.