If you’re a frequent visitor to Nextdoor.com, you likely see a fresh list of thefts and break-ins in your neighborhood every morning. The comment sections on these posts are usually full of arguments about police, elected representatives, and people living in homeless camps. Everyone is angry and on edge.
Lettered Streets resident Laura Boynton had a different experience with theft and sought to change that narrative by sharing the fun.
Boynton is a fourth grade teacher and self-proclaimed cat lady. Every year she reads her favorite book to her class, Six-Dinner Sid, by Inga Moore. The story centers on a cat who makes the rounds between six houses in the same neighborhood, with everyone believing they’re Sid’s only home. Sid is finally busted when all six owners bring him to the same veterinarian. Boynton had no idea a similar story was playing out at home with her own cats.
When Boynton’s male tabby, Maoli, lost his feline brother, he seemed lonely, so Boynton set out to find him another friend. It was the peak of the pandemic, and most animal shelters were closed to the public. She tried Nextdoor, where she’s an active member, to see if other options were available.
A post from another woman looking for a kitten caught her eye. Someone responded to the post with a photo of a young calico, which said, “This one is already 4 months old, but she’s available to a good home.” The poster declined to meet “Elsa,” saying she wanted a younger kitten. Boynton contacted Elsa’s person and said she’d be interested.
Boynton went to a home full of active young children, and one of them toddled over with the cat and dropped her in Boynton’s lap. “I could feel the relief in her little body as I held her,” Boynton says. They bonded instantly, and Boynton chose a new name for the cat’s new life. “Junie hit it off with Maoli right away,” she says with a smile. “She’s a perfect fit for our home.”
This happy new situation took a turn to somewhat creepy when Boynton came home one afternoon to find a pair of men’s socks on her couch. She checked her doors and windows and looked for any other signs of intrusion. The socks were balled up like many people do to keep them together in a drawer. If someone took their socks off in her house, it wasn’t likely they’d ball them up like that. She posted the “mystery” on Nextdoor in an effort to shake the unnerving feeling. Neighbors responded with lighthearted comments, which helped.
The next day she found another pair of socks on the couch! This pair were clearly hand-knit and would be missed. Boynton realized the only possible point of entry was the small cat flap in a window that her cats use to go out in the fenced yard while she’s at work during the day. One of the cats must have brought them in — but from where?
Boynton took a picture of the socks and posted it on Nextdoor to see if any of her neighbors could identify them. Nobody claimed them, but a few people shared funny stories about things their own cats brought home.
“All felines seem to have larcenous impulses,” Boynton says as she pats Junie’s head.
Maoli likes to follow Boynton on walks around the block. One day, a neighbor opened his door to say hello and Maoli ran into the house like he owned the place and sprawled confidently on the living room floor. The neighbor introduced himself, invited Boynton in, and asked if Maoli belonged to her.
That’s when Boynton learned her cats had been living a double life; they’d been easily leaping her fence and spending daytime hours with other human friends a few doors down.
As they talked, Junie crept in through the open back door and grabbed a pair of socks from the laundry basket. “Kiki!” the neighbor shouted. (The cats even had other names.)
Boynton pulled up the photo of the hand-knit socks on her phone and asked, “Are you missing these, by any chance?” The neighbor threw back his head and howled with laughter.
“I’m so glad the neighbors have a sense of humor about this,” Boynton says. “It could easily have gone the other way.” The victims of the theft are also teachers and they’ve become friends.
Most of the items come from the one set of neighbors, but occasionally the cats hit other houses on the same block.
“Junie likes socks, dish towels, and hats,” Boynton says. “She doesn’t hunt birds or mice, so maybe this satisfies her prey instinct. It’s not like she could go up in a tree unnoticed — she’s dressed like a clown.”
Junie’s calico markings are indeed conspicuous, including a jaunty “mustache.” Maoli, the well-concealed tabby, wears a bell outside to protect neighborhood wildlife. The cats’ travel path involves back yards, and they seem to stay in the small one-block area, where they are known to the neighbors.
“Only one commenter has ever criticized me for letting them out,” Boynton says. “There aren’t many places where we could do this; we’re lucky to be where we are.” She locks the cat flap at dusk to keep the cats from tangling with the one threat in their neighborhood — urban raccoons.
The comment sections to Boynton’s Nextdoor posts are as entertaining as the posts themselves. People often suggest that her stories be made into a children’s book. Dozens of neighbors have asked Boynton to keep on posting, saying that Junie makes their day.
The Lettered Streets Cat Burglar has become a favorite of Nextdoor users from all over town. “In a time when there is so much to be rightly angry about, and so many reasons to be afraid, I think Junie’s stories help to lighten the hearts of the community,” Boynton says.