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Monday, June 20, 2011


Cat steals 600 items from neighbors

Cat steals from everyone in San Mateo neighborhood

Carolyn Jones

Chronicle Staff Writer

San Francisco Chronicle
04:00 AM

Sunday, June 19, 2011


Michael Macor / The Chronicle

Dusty rests among the many items that he has brought home over the years to his house in San Mateo.



Lucky for Dusty he's a cat. Otherwise he'd surely be in jail, or at least a 12-step program.

The San Mateo feline has pilfered more than 600 items from neighbors - behavior so odd it's baffled and delighted animal experts and made Dusty a minor celebrity.

"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 nocturnal heists started about four years ago, a year after his owners adopted him as a kitten 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 Jean Chu, a dentist. "He said, 'It wasn't me. I think it was the cat.' "

After that, Chu and her husband, Jim Coleman, were greeted each morning with a tableau of neighborhood detritus on their doorstep: gloves, towels, Crocs, swim trunks, Safeway bags, bubble wrap, a Giants cap and other backyard sundries.

Chu started keeping a log of Dusty's haul, which averages three or four items a night. His record spree is 11 in a 24-hour period.

"It's work. Every time I go out to get the paper in the morning, I have to pick up after him," said Coleman, an artist. "Sometimes he brings things that are sort of expensive. I get a little worried about that."

As for the booty, Chu washes it and hunts for the rightful owner. If she can't find the owner, she stores the loot in boxes in the dining room. The boxes are now piled two deep.

"He stole my bikini," said Kelly McLellan, who lives a few doors up the street. "He did it in two trips. He was very focused on keeping the ensemble. When it went missing I wasn't worried, though. I knew where to go."

McLellan's son, Ethan, 6, lost a Nerf rocket football.

"I looked for it, but I didn't know where it went," he said. "Then I remembered. The cat took it."

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."

A year ago Chu contacted People magazine about her kleptomaniac kitty, and a star was born. Dusty has been on the David Letterman show and Animal Planet, and infrared footage of his nighttime antics are a hit on YouTube - there's even video of him dragging home a brassiere. The public can meet Dusty at an adoption event June 25 at the Peninsula Humane Society, where he will be posing for photos and allowing fans to pet him.

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.

Neuroses aside, everyone agrees Dusty seems to be a perfectly happy and healthy cat.

"We always try to find meaning in what animals do," Liljenwall said. "But maybe he just does this because it's fun."

Link to photos:

That's halarious! they should name the cat Klepto! lol
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