For people living on Kathy Gabriel’s quiet street in Levin, just north of Wellington, it’s not uncommon to find socks and T-shirts suddenly missing from clotheslines or the odd shoe taken from their back step in the dead of the night.
Thanks to Kathy’s small ginger cat Floyd, the sculptural artist wakes most mornings to find random items from her neighbours’ homes sprawled across her lounge.
“It started off with Floyd bringing in twigs and leaves when he was a kitten, but once he worked out how to use the cat flap, it was all on,” says Kathy, 53, who adopted her beloved orange cat and his brother Teddy, now 18 months, just after the first Covid lockdown last year.
“Other things started appearing in my lounge, like socks, beanies and merino thermals. Once there was even a men’s size 13 steel-cap boot! I have no idea how he dragged it over the fence.”
Kathy, who moved to Levin from Upper Hutt three years ago after a marriage breakdown, doesn’t know how her mischievous kitty manages to pinch so many goods in the night, including items that appear to come from inside people’s homes.
As a way of returning her street’s stolen goods, the animal lover hangs items on a line in her front yard, beside a sign that says, “Collections from Floyd the Kleptomaniac Cat. Sorry Neighbours”. She also created Facebook and Instagram pages (@floydthekleptomaniaccat) where more than 400 amused followers can see updates about Floyd’s findings.
“Sometimes I’ll get woken up at night by the sound of the cat flap and Floyd going in and out, in and out. I don’t know where he goes, and I’d love a little GPS tracker for him to see where he ends up,” laughs the mum of Kelsey, 26, and grandmother of Alfie, 4, and Lucy, 2. “I’ve got the gist of what socks belong to which family now, and I go around the street and give them back, but I still have a full line of items, including what I assume is a leg strap.”
Floyd went through a Nike phase recently, Kathy says, taking a pair of branded scuff shoes over two nights, before gifting his mum with a Nike soccer boot.
“Today it was more socks, the insert of a headphone and a freshly made bird’s nest,” tells the former mental health social worker and counsellor. “There were a couple of nights where I didn’t get anything and I wondered what was going on. Then I saw something poking out from under the bed and it was three pairs of socks and a whole lot of cabbage leaves he’d stored away!”
But not all of Floyd’s gifts are pleasant and Kathy admits she throws away items she dubs “undesirables”.
“I get things like soiled wet wipes, unused tampons, fortunately, and I’ve had an unused incontinence pad,” she says. “I have no idea where he gets them and he brings home lots of disposable face masks too!”
Kathy, who also has rehomed dog Grace, 12, believes fiery furred Floyd started his pinching as a way of bringing the community together. When she moved to Levin, after a testing few years that included a battle with tongue cancer and undergoing jaw reconstruction, Kathy felt lonely in her new neighbourhood, where she didn’t know anyone.
“I studied art in Wellington for six years and was travelling there a couple of times a week, but decided when I’d finished my studies I’d get cats,” says Kathy, who is now in remission.
“I saw on a Facebook post there were two ginger baby boys available and I couldn’t decide, so I ended up with both. Ted, who is laid-back and a bit cautious, is a lot different to his mischievous brother. They both love Grace too and like to lie on her and follow her around.”
Kathy recently wrote a book about Floyd and his light fingers called Grandma’s Cat, which she originally planned on gifting to just her grandkids, before deciding she’d publish and sell to other families and cat lovers. Since she’s on an assisted living benefit following her jaw surgery, Kathy is fundraising to cover the costs of self-publishing through a Givealittle page.
“There are some kids across the road who Floyd often gets socks and underwear from, and I gave them a copy of the story to see what they thought of it. They told me I had to get it published,” she enthuses. “The book is about the power of this jolly cat who came along when I was lonely and now I know all the neighbours. Everybody has been lighthearted and amused about Floyd. He has brought a lot of joy and connection.”
To donate to Kathy’s Givealittle page, visit: https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/floyd-the-kleptomaniac-cat
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