TAIPEI • An alleged cat burglar from Hong Kong reportedly smuggled two stolen persian kittens through Taiwan's biggest airport by hiding them under her clothes and pretending to be pregnant.
The brazen theft prompted the authorities at Taoyuan airport to launch an investigation into how the woman was able to breeze through security without her feline contraband being spotted, Apple Daily reported yesterday.
The Taiwanese tabloid said police obtained footage from the airport showing the woman, carrying a white bag, leaving a public washroom more plump than when she entered before passing through security.
Cat breeder Chang Chin-yi said she noticed two kittens - Anngi and Da Lili - had been stolen on Feb 5.
"It was during feeding time, I went in... with bowls of meat and that was when I saw that the cats were missing," she said.
Her apartment houses some 40 persian cats that sell for as much as US$3,300 (S$4,500) each.
Ms Chang immediately suspected a Hong Kong woman who had planned to buy Anngi and had stayed at her house the month before.
Ms Chang changed her mind on the sale, fearing that the woman already had too many cats.
"(She) went crazy. She was crying and screaming at me over the phone when she heard the news," Ms Chang recalled.
Surveillance footage outside the apartment in an upmarket suburb of New Taipei City showed the woman leaving through a side door with a cat under each arm, before bundling them into a white bag.
Ms Chang confronted the woman on Facebook messenger and the latter eventually admitted to the theft, according to screen grabs of private messages Ms Chang posted publicly on Facebook.
Agence France-Presse (AFP) contacted the Hong Kong woman by phone on Tuesday and a man who identified himself as her husband answered.
He said he had no knowledge of his wife's plan and that a friend of Ms Chang's who lives in Hong Kong is now looking after the two cats.
"We are sorry that this incident happened," he told AFP.
New Taipei City Police Department confirmed that it was treating the incident as a burglary - although they have limited recourse, given that Hong Kong and Taiwan have no extradition agreement.
Ms Chang said she planned to travel to Hong Kong in the coming days to pursue legal options.
It is not clear what Anngi and Da Lili's fates will be.
Cats arriving without documentation in Hong Kong must spend at least four months in quarantine or face being put down.
Taiwan accepts only cats from Hong Kong that have certificates showing they are free of rabies.