Does your pet like to pinch?

Here at Petplan we adore our animals, but some of them steal more than just our hearts. Sophie Mackenzie reveals the reasons behind our furry friends' thieving tendencies.

Just about anyone who's had a puppy will know the horror of hunting for a favourite pair of shoes, only to find one of them chewed beyond recognition in the dog's basket. Hungry bunnies have been known to filch juicy carrot sticks and crunchy biscuits from under their owners' noses. But perhaps the most criminal creatures of all are cats.

Sophie and Richard Windsor first realised they were harbouring a cat burglar when Norris, their long-haired tabby, was about a year old. "At first it was just the odd thing - but over the last four months, he has really started to up his game," Richard told the Bristol Post in August 2013.

This one-cat crime spree left the Windsors with a box-full of loot that included dusters, dishcloths, underwear, washing-up gloves and even a mop head. Eventually the couple resorted to putting notes through their neighbours' letterboxes inviting them to reclaim their belongings.

Norris is by no means the only feline Fagin out there - stories of kleptomaniac kitties abound. There's Denis, who became a YouTube sensation when his owners filmed him bringing home a designer polo shirt, a Barbie doll and men's underwear - but only boxers, never briefs. Frankie had a particular penchant for plush toys, and Dusty's long reign of terror saw him half-inch some 600 items.

But what makes cats turn to a life of crime? We have to remember that our domestic moggies are first and foremost hunters. A cat who doesn't have access to live prey, or who is sufficiently well fed that rodents don't seem appetising, still needs an outlet for this powerful urge - and might well get his or her predatory pleasures at your neighbour's washing line.

Of course, turning up at the cat flap with a pair of knickers, a Christmas-tree ornament or, in the case of Wilf, the entire skin of a neighbour's roast chicken, still warm from the oven, is guaranteed to get your cat attention. Even negative feedback can reinforce behaviour, so ignoring any gifts could help your cat go straight.

Indoor cats are prone to a spot of thievery too, often targeting shiny items like coins and jewellery and stashing them in a favourite place. This could be a sign that your cat is lacking an outlet for his or her hunting instinct and is turning to your valuable possessions in frustration. Try offering more stimulation for your cat: feeding puzzles and climbing trees are great, but there's no substitute for an exciting game with you and a favourite toy.

However, if your cat is showing other signs of stress such as chewing inedible substances, toileting outside the litter tray or grooming excessively, a trip to the vet is probably in order.

Have you dealt with a delinquent dog, cat or bunny? Have you consulted a behaviourist, or does your pet get off scot-free? Tell us in the comments box below.