22/01/2016 5:09 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST

Love Thy Neighbour, Unless They Steal Your Pet

'Cat Burglar Newspaper Headline.  Newspaper, copy and creative all created by the photographer.'
Kirby Hamilton via Getty Images
'Cat Burglar Newspaper Headline. Newspaper, copy and creative all created by the photographer.'

My neighbour has stolen my cat.

I'm sure they didn't mean to. They probably just found him pussyfooting around near their front door and decided to give him a cuddle and a treat. But now he stays out all night, he's getting fat and he hardly hugs me anymore. And he isn't even a teenager yet.

I know it's not totally my neighbour's fault. Kakashi is more of a player than Leonardo DiCaprio -- and just as handsome.


Meet Kakashi, channeling his inner Leo. Image: Supplied

So I'm trying not to imagine them like the child catcher from 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang', luring him into a creepy cage-truck with offerings of feline snacks and bowls of butter. Or like that 'breeder' I once visited in a back-alley warehouse, which was basically a shoulder-deep maze of cardboard boxes that smelled of cat piss and rotting meat.

I am sure one thing led to another: first they smooched on the doorstep, then he was invited in for dinner and, before they knew it, he was slinking into their bed and they let him because he's warm and gives kisses in the morning.

But they must have been feeding him Big Macs. He might be the first cat contestant on 'The Biggest Loser'. Are they going to pay for his bariatric surgery when he's too fat to fit through the cat flap?

How do they know he's not a vegan cat, outraged by the Lee Lin Chin lamb commercial? Or if he has quit sugar? Or gone Paleo? It's 2016! Cats can do stuff like that.

Surprisingly, accidental pet-theft is a thing. In the (very scientific) study I conducted when I was holed up in a hut with my family over Christmas, I discovered there are plenty of sticky-fingered pet-snatchers lurking among us.

My grandmother feeds her neighbour's dog pancakes. I found them in a little Tupperware container in her fridge labelled 'dog pancakes'. When I confronted her about it, she was very defensive. "He barks all day because they neglect him," she declared. "He needs someone to love him."

My cousins have 'acquired' many cats over the years. They find them around the neighbourhood, coax them inside with Whiskas and then, all of a sudden, they've got a new pet called Kitty and some little-old lady two streets down is sticky-taping signs to telephone poles with pictures of her missing feline friend. (I'm speculating now, but it seems likely).

The thing is, my neighbour doesn't know my cat. They don't know that he'll eat anything, anytime, anywhere. They don't know that we have to lock him in the bathroom while he eats because otherwise he steals all his sister's food. They don't know that, as a kitten, he once demolished two entire chickens I left defrosting on the bench.


Yeah, life's tough... Image: Supplied

He doesn't meow and nip at people's ankles because he is neglected -- he does it because he's a little piggy.

I know him. I've cuddled him and loved him and cared for him when he was sick. I've cleaned up when he's peed in the bathroom, vomited on the carpet and pooed behind the couch. I've taken him to the vet when he jumped off the second storey of our house and broke both his front legs, which cost more than three months rent.

Pets are rewarding, but they're also hard work.

So, to my neighbour I say this: if you want one, buy your own bloody cat.