Ted Burrows has a problem: how to stop his cat from bringing home his neighbour's clothes.

In the last month, Joe, a 7-year-old siamese lilac point, has brought in seven pairs of matching socks, still neatly folded.

Mr Burrows, a retired naval commander, says he cannot find the owner of the socks.


Last Sunday he put "Have you lost?" flyers in letterboxes of his neighbours at Castor Bay.

Fortunately, he had better luck with finding owners for previous items laid on his bedroom floor - a set of women's black lace underwear.

"My wife was away for the weekend. I wondered if Joe was trying to set me up," joked Mr Burrows.

"I was lucky I had such sporting neighbours - a young lady neighbour claimed the set before I had to go round all the neighbours asking them."

Another time, Joe brought home a slipper. He yowled to draw attention to his find, blinked his deep blue eyes innocently at the astonished Burrowses, slipped outside and brought back the other half of the pair.

Mr Burrows said Joe's record in a three-year career in crime is a dozen pairs of socks over six weeks.

"He is a very handsome cat but he is wicked."

Although retrieving is not rare among the siamese breed, Mr Burrows said Joe was the busiest cat burglar he knew of.

The condition of the clothing suggested it had been taken straight from a drawer rather than a washing basket.

"He will get through a window that's open an inch."

A veterinary animal behaviourist on the North Shore, Dr Elsa Flint, said it would be hard to cure Joe of his gathering trait.

One suggestion was to "show no reaction" when he presented an item.

Dr Flint said that at the same time the owner could increase games, toys and attention to give the cat something else to do.