Gabrielle Hendel is a busy medical student preparing to specialize in emergency medicine. Her cat, Snorri, meanwhile, makes his own nightly rounds pilfering shoes and flip-flops from the neighbors. Catster recently chatted with Hendel about Snorri’s life of crime. A GoFundMe campaign raised money to buy Snorri a collar camera.
How did you get Snorri and how long have you had him?
Gabrielle Hendel: I found him sad, shivering, and wet in a stairwell of an apartment complex I lived in during school. I thought that if he was still there in the evening, I would take him in and try to find his owners. He was there when I got home, in the same spot, so I brought him in, warmed him up and fed him. He scarfed down some food and fell asleep upside down. Looks like he steals hearts as well as shoes. He wasn’t microchipped and nobody ever claimed him, so I am pretty sure he was dumped.
We’ve had him a little over two years. Our vet says he is almost three.
What kind of cat is Snorri?
An orange one.
Tell us about Snorri’s name.
He is named after the-11th century Icelandic poet and historian Snorri Sturluson. He needed a solid Viking name for his ginger colored hair. His actual name is Snorri Sturluson, Piercer of Skin, Drooler of the Early Morn, Ravager of Flip-flops, and Crier of the Door Crack.
Do you have any other pets?
Yes, we have a nonfamous judgmental tuxedo cat named Mrs. Richie, who is 12, and two little dogs named Trixie and Elvis.
When did Snorri begin his life of crime?
He began early this spring by bringing in small sticks and pieces of garbage. We couldn’t figure out where the stuff was coming from until we found a piece of purple sidewalk chalk with little teeth holes in it. It all made sense.
What kinds of things does he bring home?
At first, he brought children’s and dogs’ toys, matchbooks, little pieces of plastic, grease rags, a wine cork, a leopard-print towel, gloves, baseball hats, a Frisbee, and other small items.
Now, he pretty much just steals shoes. Although sometimes we get the occasional glove or hat. Flip-flops are his favorite. He has managed to bring in some pretty heavy items, like wooden clogs and men’s size 13 sandals. It is so impressive that he can get them over several fences and through the two cat doors. One video showed him walking all the way around the block to get home instead of climbing the fences, so maybe he uses that technique with the heavier items. He brings in one to three items per night, almost every night, and it seems that he has about a one-block radius.
How does he get out?
He has a cat door with outdoor access all the time. He comes and goes as he pleases. For a while he was only stealing at night, but now that the weather has cooled and the rain is starting, he has been stealing during the day and cuddling at night.
What is the strangest thing Snorri has brought home?
I think the strangest item has to be a monkey costume. It is a full monkey costume for a baby, in its original packaging.
How do you keep track of Snorri’s hauls?
I haven’t kept count, but my best guess is several hundred things. I document all of his thefts on his Instagram: @Snorrithecat. That is where the neighbors go to find their lost items. Who knew Portland had so many flip-flops?
When did you realize there was, um, a problem?
Once he started bringing in “nice” shoes, I knew someone was going to be pissed. I know I would be. After that, I did my first door-to-door of the neighborhood and found many of his victims.
How did the camera collar come about?
I crowdsourced about $100 from friends and neighbors through GoFundMe. I bought a Dogtek Eyenimal collar camera. It’s like watching The Blair Witch Project, only much worse.
The neighbors wanted to see what he was up to and some Internet trolls thought I was making it up. I am thinking of fundraising for a wildlife cam so I can get some pictures of him actually carrying the shoes instead of just the collar view. He also has a YouTube channel. The camera holds two and a half hours of footage, so if I put it on him I have just obligated myself to skimming all that footage to find anything good. Usually, it times out before he steals anything. Although I have caught two of his burglaries in progress.
Where did the donations come from?
Hawaii, Oregon, Pennsylvania, New York, California, and Seattle, but mostly neighbors and friends. I thought the Internet’s crazy cat people would come out of the woodwork with funds, but instead it was the crazy cat people that I already knew.
What do the neighbors think about Snorri?
Most take it in stride. If there is something missing, they usually ask us first. We had so many shoes that were unclaimed that I went around the block door-to-door with a wheelbarrow full. We found one victim who didn’t speak any English. She was just tisking her teeth and saying: “No good, no good.” She reclaimed about half of the shoes in the wheelbarrow that Snorri had stolen from their front porch. The kicker is that she just made a pile on the porch and the same shoes started coming back the next night.
Another neighbor is four years old. His mother says that he sometimes has major anxiety if he leaves a favorite toy in the yard because he thinks Snorri might take it while he is asleep.
There seems to be a divide with age: The younger neighbors follow his Instagram to get their stuff, but the older generation we have to find door-to-door.
Do the neighbors know to come to your house to look for missing items?
Most people come by to find their items, although our Rubbermaid bin is filling up again.
What was Snorri’s biggest haul?
The biggest shoes he has brought in are running shoes in a men’s size 13. As far as quantity, Snorri paces himself. One or two items per night is pretty standard, although his max is four.
Does he hit the same people over and over again?
Unfortunately, yes. You’d think the neighbors would learn to bring their shoes inside at night. At least they know where their items are going and can retrieve them. He ditches some of the heavier shoes halfway home.
Does Snorri bring stuff into the house?
The items are usually carried over a six-foot fence and into the house through two cat doors. If he is really excited, he will bring the shoe upstairs to the bedroom and announce it. Other nights, he gets lazy and leaves it in the backyard.
Is Snorri proud of what he does?
He is very proud of his items. He will leave it for us to find, but once we do (usually over morning coffee) he will sashay over to it, stretch on it, sharpen his nails on it, or rub his face on it. It’s almost smug.
Is Snorri destined for a life of crime, or is there hope for him?
My hope is that winter will hit and the thievery will taper off a bit. He is usually snuggly and lazy next to the fireplace, out of the rain and ice. It is fun but challenging to balance medical rounds and the time required to manage my cat’s Instagram account. Although I am pretty sure it is the best Instragram account out there.
Check out Snorri’s Instagram @Snorrithecat or follow his life of crime on his YouTube Channel.
About the author: Anne Forline is a freelance writer in Bellmawr, New Jersey. She is an unrepentant foster failure. Her three rescue bunnies, JoJo, Bennie, and Nibbles, allow Anne, her husband, Steve, and daughter, Cara, to share a home with them. Anne likes to run 5Ks and has placed a few times in her age division. She is also a certified teacher who homeschools Cara. Anne makes friends with all of the neighborhood dogs and keeps treats handy to give out when they pass by on their walks. See more of her work at her website, and follow her on Twitter.