It didn’t take Inspector Claw- seau long to work out the identity of Shelley’s feline felon...
Waking up, I was clamped into place by four cats sleeping around my body. ‘Morning,’ I said groggily. Then a fifth cat dashed into the bedroom, a pair of mischievous green eyes met mine, and a loud meow broke the silence.
The troublemaker had arrived! ‘Hello, Paddy,’ I said. ‘Where’ve you been all night?’
The Night Bandit, as we called him, had no doubt been at large, wreaking havoc on our sleepy Suffolk town…
It was March 2017, and I was cat-sitting for my Uncle Paul and Aunt Lesley.
Paddy, four, a statuesque grey and white cat, was a Norwegian Forest – apparently his ancestors were mousers on Viking ships.
I could well believe that – tough cats for tough times, and Paddy had inherited their genes.
Uncle Paul adopted Paddy in 2015, after his previous owner passed away.
The evening he arrived, I popped round to meet him.
‘He’s so timid,’ I said as he
crouched in a corner of the room, eyeing us suspiciously.
But that soon changed.
Next morning, Paul woke to find Paddy drinking from the kitchen tap.
When he’d finished, he pushed the tap down with his paw to switch it off!
Over the coming weeks, Paul and Lesley often woke to find Paddy had brought them a present overnight.
Not the sorts of presents most cats bring, either, but plant pots and kids’ sandwich boxes stolen from their neighbours.
If his haul was too big to fit through the cat flap, he deposited it in pride of place on the patio.
‘What have you brought me this morning, Paddy?’ I asked now, heading downstairs with the cats, all demanding breakfast.
Paddy was the leader – Pebbles and Pringle, the nine-month-old kittens, and Pepsi, two, worshipped him. Pinto, 16, wasn’t impressed, though. He just wanted a quiet life, and Paddy disrupted that ambition.
Still, the hall and kitchen were clear of contraband this morning.
So I opened the back door and, sure enough – a big terracotta plant pot with what looked like the remains of a beautiful orchid in it lay on its side on the patio.
Hard to identify the flower after it had been dragged from God knows where...
‘How do you do it?’ I asked Paddy, baffled. He just waved his big feather duster of a tail and gave me an imperious look as if to say, ‘I’m not giving away my trade secrets.’
So, Paddy’s at it again,
I texted Paul and Lesley. Shall
I ask the neighbours if they’re missing a plant pot?
I’ll add it to the list on Facebook, Paul replied.
A few months earlier, he’d written an inventory of Paddy’s ill-gotten gains on our town’s community page.
If one of our neighbours lost something, they knew exactly where to look...
So far, Paddy had pinched countless soft toys, 25 plant pots, a Manchester United football, a bucket and spade, and even a dog’s bone.
‘Can you steal these instead?’ Paul teased him, waving £20 notes in his face.
During my two-week stay, Paddy gifted me another plant pot and a yellow toy banana.
I laid them all in a pile in the garden for Paul to deal with on his return.
By the end of my cat-sitting duties, I was exhausted.
It was hard to relax with a glass of wine in front of Eastenders of an evening with Paddy leading the cats in a Viking war dance along the back of the sofa.
But, lately, he’s been leading the younger ones in something else, too – his criminal underworld!
‘Now Pepsi’s stealing at night, too,’ Paul gulped the other day.
He’d caught her bouncing through the cat flap with an empty KFC box in her gob. Hardly a diamond heist, but... ‘This is how it starts,’ Paul shuddered.
Still, what could we do?
Paddy might be a rogue, but he’s a lovable one and everybody who collects their stolen belongings sees the funny side of being struck by the furry felon.
So the Night Bandit’s criminal career will continue, with a couple of keen apprentices in tow.
Paddy’s a cat burglar, all right – lock up your plant pots!
Shelley Rippingale, 21, Newmarket, Suffolk
Paddy likes to bring presents
Cat burglar! Who can stay mad at that face?
Paddy’s our lovable rogue
Just a few of the things Paddy has ‘gifted’ us
of Flowerpots are some Paddy’s favourite loot