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Woman charged with theft of $840 cat

(ran SS edition of METRO & STATE)

The 18-year-old is accused of taking the gray Egyptian Mau from a pet store where she used to work. She was charged with felony retail theft.

Sure, you've heard of puppy love. But kitty love?

Apparently, it's pretty strong stuff, enough to risk jail for.

A Pinellas Park woman found that out this week when she was arrested on charges that she stole a kitten from a Largo pet store where she once worked, giving new meaning to the phrase cat burglar.

Police said she entered Pet Land in the Largo Mall wearing a large jacket, then used her knowledge of the store to get to the cat's cage. Once there, she nabbed the cat, stuffed it into her jacket and left the store, police said.

She told former co-workers that her cat had died recently. She told officers she stole the store's cat because she had fallen in love with it while she worked there, according to police.

The 10-week-old kitty is an exotic feline, a gray Egyptian Mau that retails for $839.99.

With such a stiff price tag, police charged the woman, 18-year-old Linsey Sanchirico, with felony retail theft. She was arrested Tuesday night, then held in lieu of $5,000 bail until she was released on her own recognizance Wednesday night.

She could not be reached for comment Thursday.

"She said she fell in love with it and wanted it and decided to take it," said Largo police officer John Lovett, who arrested Sanchirico.

However, store owner Steve James said he doesn't believe the cat was at the store when Sanchirico last worked there about a month ago. He said she may have confused it with another cat.

The Egyptian Mau is an intelligent, fiercely loyal cat that places great importance on family, both human and its own, according to the Cat Fanciers' Association Web site. The cats are moderately active and often express their happiness by chortling in a soft, melodious voice and wiggling their tails at great speeds while treading with their forepaws, according to the site.

James said Sanchirico worked at the store for less than a month. She had attendance problems, and after James talked to her about them, she never showed up for work again.

But store workers noticed Sanchirico in the store Tuesday night. She talked to one employee about how her cat had died recently, James said.

Employees noted that she wore a large jacket, even though it was warm outside. When they noticed the cat missing, "They figured it was her," Lovett said.

Workers summoned police to the store and Lovett went in search of Sanchirico. He found her at a home at Vagabond Trailer Park, 7570 46th Ave. N, Pinellas Park, where she was staying with friends.

The friends initially said she wasn't home, but Lovett saw her inside, he said. She denied having the cat at first and allowed Lovett to search the home. He didn't find it, but he told her he knew it was there, he said.

She then opened a kitchen cabinet, revealing the cat, Lovett said.

He allowed her to hold the cat _ which he described as "kind of frisky" _ while he drove her to the police station. A store employee later came, picked up the cat and returned it to the store.

"She seemed remorseful," Lovett said of Sanchirico. "I think she learned her lesson."

James said this isn't the first time someone has tried to steal an animal from the pet store in the two years he and his wife have owned it. The store has lost several birds and a ferret.

An employee once foiled a man's attempt to steal a $2,000 umbrella cockatoo. "Retail theft is a big problem," James said.