The Cat Burglars

Janet Coburn
3 min readJun 23, 2024


I used to live in a drafty log cabin on a windy hill. There were plenty of odd noises, especially at night. Now I live in a regular home in a windy valley, with lots of clutter. There are still plenty of odd noises, especially at night.

It’s been my policy to blame the cats (usually from three to five of them) for any noises — rattling, thumping, skittering, whining, tapping, crashing, howling, et endless cetera. Even if every cat in the house is occupying my lap at the time, I still try to find a way to blame alarming noises on them.

One night, however, my husband and I were peacefully sleeping when I thought I heard a noise in the living room.

It sounded like whispering.

Whatever else they do, cats don’t whisper. For once I couldn’t blame them. It had to be burglars, I thought, discussing what they wanted to take or which house to hit next or why we had such crappy stuff and was any of it worth anything.

I didn’t want to wake my husband, because then I’d have my N.O.W. card taken away, so I tried to remember where we put the baseball bat and extended my hearing as far as it would go. I crept closer to the bedroom door, where I could hear the sounds better.

Then I realized that the noise was indeed people whispering. In French.

Even in my fearful, dazed state, I couldn’t believe that there were actually burglars in my house, in Ohio, speaking French.

So I tiptoed into the living room. If for some unlikely reason, there were French-speaking burglars, I could astound them with my knowledge of French, threaten to call the gendarmes, or at least ask them for directions to the bibliothèque. (That’s most of what I remember of my high school and college French. I also remember some of my college Russian, in which I can say useful things like “Excuse me, please. Where do they sell books on history?” and “Yes, cabbage is a good thing.” (At least I would never be bored or starve.) But I digress.)

When I tentatively poked my head into the living room, however, I found the French speakers were on the television. A foreign film was playing. Funny. I hadn’t left the TV on when I went to bed.

Hm. My husband doesn’t watch foreign films or know any French or other foreign languages. (Actually, that’s not quite true. He knows a song in high school German that goes “My hat has three corners. Three corners has my hat. If it doesn’t have three corners, it’s not my hat.” But I digress some more.) Besides, he was asleep in bed.

Then I realized what had happened. Someone had activated the remote and selected a film channel. With the sound very low. Although I couldn’t name the culprit, it was clearly Matches or Maggie or Chelsea or Shaker, all of whom were giving me the “Who, me?” look. One of them had done it, or they had all cooked up the plot together. There was no use dusting for paw-prints. No doubt they had wiped them off with their floofy tails.

So the one time I knew it couldn’t be the cats, it was. Now I blame them for everything. Always.



Janet Coburn

Author of Bipolar Me and Bipolar Us, Janet Coburn is a writer, editor, and blogger at and