Masks. Gloves. Spiderman kneepads. Fabric scraps. One camera. A taxidermy bat.
Those are just some of the items that Kate Felmet’s cat, Esme, has stolen from neighbors over the past couple of years.
Ever since Felmet adopted Esme, the feline used her gatherer tendencies and would come home with all kinds of gifts for her family. When she was an indoor cat, Esme started small and would carry fabric pieces and doll clothes around the house. On her first ventures into the outside world, she graduated to retrieving plastic bags and pieces of paper.
Over time, Esme’s hunts became more advanced and she started to curate specific items. At the start of the pandemic, she began bringing back timely items for her family, including plenty of face masks. One by one, she’d retrieve masks of all sorts from the neighborhood, at one point bringing 11 masks back home in one single day.
“I’m an ICU doc, so we were worried about my safety but it does seem like she has some sort of uncanny ability to bring on stuff that has to do with what we’re doing at the time,” Felmet, 50, told TODAY.
Case in point, when Felmet was painting her daughter’s bedroom, Esme would bring back rolls of tape and paint roller covers. Another time, when she was making Halloween costumes for her kids, Esme brought home three separate lengths of fabric. to help with the construction of the garments.
Esme took a brief break from her scavenger hunts during the rainy winter, resuming once spring broke and Felmet began gardening. Being the considerate cat she is, Esme began stealing gardening gloves, bringing back one glove at a time, but always matching pairs.
After committing her “petty” crimes in her neighborhood for a year, Felmet finally posted a sign in her yard and fessed up to her cat’s tendencies. Next to a clothesline littered with pairs of stolen gloves and masks, Felmet posted up a sign with a drawing of Esme carrying a single glove in her mouth, reading, “My cat is a thief. Please take these items if they are yours."
The sign has, which has been up for just over a month, has been helpful for returning items. Felmet has been able to reunite some of the belongings to their rightful owners.
“A few things have gone back,” she said. “The neighbors in my community know where to look for their stuff.”
While the sign has attracted worldwide attention on social media, it’s also caught the eye of some locals.
“There was a school bus that drove by and the guy got out and got a few things,” she explained. “I’ve noticed that the clothes disappear from day to day.”
Felmet isn’t quite sure where Esme got her thievery tendencies from, but it may have a thing or two to do with the praise she gave her cat when she brought home inanimate objects rather than small animals.
“The gloves have mostly replaced Esme’s bird hunting,” she said. “She knows that she gets praise for bringing home gloves and she knows she doesn’t get praise for bringing home birds.”
When she brings her newest find back home, Esme will announce her grand arrival with a loud “meow,” no doubt waiting for some praise from Felmet.
“As she brings things, she comes to the back door and she yells and it’s like ‘I brought you something!’” Felmet said. “If I’m working nights in a row, she’ll come to show me or I’ll come downstairs and say ‘Good job, Esme.’ I feel like there’s no questions that Esme requires my attention.”