Sarah Sands: I know what drove the Catnapper of Bramley Crescent

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Imagine snatching your neighbours' cats, driving 25 miles and releasing them to fend for themselves as a punishment for straying across your fence.

Call me Michael Mansfield, defender of the indefensible. For the mystery catnapper of Bramley Crescent, Southampton, may be the most hated person in Britain this weekend but his (let us assume it is a male, for a woman who dislikes cats is a crime against nature) action has lit a social fuse.

We are crammed into a small island and must protect our territory ferociously. Our paper walls and little backyards are what we call civilisation. It requires tremendous self-discipline. We must live as if we are always on the Tube during rush hour, guarding our precious centimetres of personal space.

And into this tense environment we have bred thousands and thousands of cats. With more single working people now, cats are the pets that suit us because they are independent.

What this means though, is that they break all the rules of privacy and territory. If your children roamed over neighbours' roofs, climbed through their windows, defecated on their plants, then stuck their noses in their air and their bottoms in your face, you might chastise them. But there is no corresponding responsibility for cats.

Indeed, their anti-social behaviour is praised as a measure of their discerning natures. "A cat chooses you, you can't choose a cat," is the mad woman's mantra.

But old men waving cans of Foster's at bus stops choose me, Nigerian internet con men choose me. I have never regarded this as an honour.

In my experience, the only tolerable cats are jolly old moggies. My Persian kittens were exotic and neurotic and needed more grooming than Anna Wintour. Their family trees were longer than the Windsors. When they arrived, there were called something like Ernest and Albert Hapsburg de Winter Tudor. We called them Denis (after an aggressive Chelsea footballer) and Spike.

They never chose me, but they loved the children's nanny and entertained her by urinating on the carpet. The cat experts smiled indulgently at this bid for territory and suggested that I went into therapy.

Then their really evil campaign began. They lived next door to a wet cat called Bob. My orange Persians, who looked much like those missing cats of Bramley Crescent, began a Clockwork Orange-style persecution of Bob.

They would push their fat frames through his catflap and taunt him with deposits of birds. They urinated on all the family beds. When the inventory of insults was first presented to me I suggested that my neighbours pour a bucket of water over my Persian delinquents, but of course they did not dare take on the paramilitary RSPCA.

Instead, Bob finally plucked up the courage to bite Denis's tail. It turned septic and had to be amputated by the vet. By this time our nanny had moved on, but she maintained full visiting rights to the cats.

I hoped she would not notice the missing tail, but of course her wrath was biblical. She insisted it was not safe for Denis to leave the house because of the neighbourhood predator.

When I knew that she was safely on holiday I opened the back door and Spike and Denis flew out of the house. Straight next door. Those primped up Persians were a couple of Glasgow bullies underneath and they took Bob's house apart. The following day I received a note from the neighbours threatening legal proceedings.

Shortly after, the cats were loaded into cages, put into the boot of the car and driven to a new home in the country. Bob has blossomed. The neighbourhood is peaceful again.

I shall pray with the rest of the nation for the return of the Bramley Crescent Seven. But seven cats constitute a gang, and who knows the provocation that tips a law-abiding man into a vigilante?

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