Fleet-footed Petaluma feline has yen for thievery

Della looks like a normal, well-loved pet. But don’t be misled by that sweet expression. Della is a thief. What’s more, she continues her crime spree almost daily.|

Like most cats, Della is inscrutable. Her gold-green eyes look calmly around the room. Her black fur gleams, thanks to frequent petting. She sits in the middle of the living room, tail neatly wrapped around her legs, then yawns, showing a pink tongue and sharp white teeth.

Della looks like a normal, well-loved pet. But don’t be misled by that sweet expression, or the way she sleeps in Petaluma owner Tony Buckmaster’s arms almost every night. Della is a thief, possibly on the Most Wanted list of the FBI (Feline Bureau of Investigation). What’s more, she continues her crime spree almost daily.

Buckmaster and his wife, Hanne, say Della’s about 4 years old.

Della’s wayward ways, and nefarious habits, started when she was about 2. It began with small stuffed toys, Tony said. The couple’s neighbor, Gary Cader, had some in his garage and Della brought one home: a stuffed monkey. The Buckmasters recognized it as Cader’s and returned it.

That was only the beginning. “She’d bring one over,” Hanne said, “and we’d take it back.”

Cader, it seems, may be an accomplice, encouraging Della’s thievery. “He bought more for her,” Hanne Buckmaster said.

Della, it turned out, took the title Cat Burglar seriously. Next up were several Beanie Babies. Although she’s on the small side, Della seems undaunted by the size of items she fancies.

“She went into one neighbor’s house,” Hanne Buckmaster said, “and stole a teddy bear from his coffee table. He watched her take it over the fence, figured out where she lived and found the bear in our backyard.”

After the Great Teddy Bear Caper, Della discovered her true calling: liberating garden gloves. Again, she stole first from Cader. “He’s in the construction business,” Tony said, “so he has packs of them. She even brought home a stapled-together pair, tags still attached.”

Eventually Cader tired of never having gloves and began hiding them from Della. “Then,” Hanne Buckmaster said, “she started showing up with more random gloves.” At this point, the Buckmasters, who pride themselves on being good neighbors, warned folks on their street about their pilfering feline.

Now, Hanne Buckmaster said, “she’s going further afield.”

In desperation, after the cat had brought home almost two dozen gloves, she posted the following on a popular Petaluma Facebook group:

“I am reaching out to anyone living in the West Payran area. Keep your gardening gloves in a safe place!” She described Della’s kleptomania euphemistically as “a little problem” and warned, “Even though our immediate neighbors know to keep their gloves hidden, she is still coming home with just as many. Do any of these belong to you? If so we would love to return them!”

Hanne Buckmaster included a photo of a glove-filled basket and her husband supplied a video he’d taken of Della returning home from the hunt, prize firmly in her teeth. Head high, in pride perhaps, she carries the glove into the front yard, then sings the song of her people - or as she calls it, “her glove yowl” - to notify her family of the fine present she’s snatched.

The Facebook post alerted neighbor, and serious gardener, Carol Latvala.

“I had no idea where they were going,” Latvala said, “but figured it was something like missing socks (in the washer). When a nearly new one disappeared a few days ago, I did think it odd. I’m often taking them off and putting them back on, so I just wrote it off to absent-mindedness - or general dizzy blonde syndrome.”

Latvala was able to reclaim five, but many gloves are left, and Della keeps adding to her collection.

“She’s mischievous,” Hanne Buckmaster said. “She’ll sit on the fence and tease the neighbor’s dogs. They’re fenced in, so she sits above them, makes them bark.”

Tony smiled at the family’s felonious furball. “She’s goofy, so silly.”

Della, they said, has another quirk: this one legal. “She walks with us when we walk the dog.”

They find the cat’s career as an outlaw to be not only amusing, but a great way to turn neighbors into friends. No one’s gotten upset, they said - but no one gave Della gardening gloves for Christmas, either.

Hanne Buckmaster admitted that, rather than take Della to a cat psychologist or psychic, she encourages her “little problem.”

“I say ‘Thank you, Della.’ She’s doing it as a present; paying us back for taking care of her.”

On the bright side, the couple pointed out, Della never brings home lizards or mice, dead or alive.

Curiously, for all her interest in gardening gloves, Della isn’t the least interested in helping the Buckmasters in the garden. And she doesn’t seem to be a four-legged Robin Hood: stealing from the garden glove rich and giving to the gloveless. She’s not interested in finding new homes for her thefts, just in cadging them.

A quick Google search, “cats stealing things,” reveals Della’s not alone.

Oscar, a British cat, was fond of bringing home underwear; Speedy, a Swiss feline, preferred black socks.

And Dusty, from San Mateo, stole so many (more than 600) items from neighbors, his chagrined owners held a reverse garage sale to try and reunite owners and belongings.

“I wish she could talk,” Hanne Buckmaster said, looking wistfully at the cat, now tired of being inside and eager to stalk her latest prey. Early evening is her favorite hunting time, she said.

“She’s such a troublemaker,” she said, looking lovingly at the cat. “It’s so funny, sitting here like this. She knows we’re talking about her.”

Contact Towns Correspondent Katie Watts at goodegg2004@gmail.com.

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