Ever since his family adopted him as a kitten, Gonzo has always loved being outside. He loves to roam around the family’s yard, and always comes back inside when he’s called. Eventually, his family started letting him hang out outside unsupervised because they felt safe doing so — and Gonzo loved this so much, he decided to start bringing his family gifts.
“One time, maybe a few months into letting him roam, he brought home a small stunned, but still alive, bird,” Derek, Gonzo’s dad (who asked that his last name not be included), told The Dodo. “He brought it straight to the lady of the house (my wife), who saw it and screamed like someone had been murdered. It scared Gonzo (and me, and the neighbors).
We set the bird outside, and it flew off after a minute or two. Gonzo seemed to take that reaction to heart because from that moment forward, the only thing he’s ever brought home is inanimate objects.”
Once Gonzo realized that other animals weren’t an option for gifts, he started getting creative. Anything he could find outside that looked interesting or unique he would pick up and bring home to his parents — and usually, it’s trash that someone has thrown away. There’s an abandoned storage area under his family’s apartment building that he’s started using as his one-stop gift shop, and that has definitely helped him find a lot of treasures.
“Most days that he goes outside, he’ll bring us one or two trash gifts at some point,” Derek said. “Some days he doesn’t bring any and some days he brings us a lot. His current record is nine in one day … He brought us the centerfold from an old Playboy magazine and an old lightbulb in a box from [the storage area]. One time he brought some brand-new plumbing parts still in the plastic from a construction site. I returned those to the workers, who were a little confused when I explained how they came into my possession.”
Gonzo always brings home such interesting trash gifts, and it got his parents thinking about all the adventures he must go on while he’s out and about. They wondered if there was a way they could find out what he’s up to and where he goes all day, and that’s how they came up with the camera idea.
“My wife and I talked about it and just felt like it would be a good idea to educate ourselves about what he was up to,” Derek said. “Even though he clearly loved being outside, if he had been murdering wildlife or finding himself in dangerous situations or eating weird things, we would have considered making him an indoor-only cat. I’m a documentary filmmaker by trade, so it was also kind of a natural extension of my day-to-day routine. I searched for cat camera collars online and really only could find one at that time, and I didn’t like the design. So I ordered a cheap, tiny spy camera and built my own rig by attaching it to a breakaway collar using a plastic 3D doodle pen.”
Gonzo’s parents started putting the camera collar on him from time to time, just to monitor what he was up to — and some of the footage they’ve captured has only made them love Gonzo even more.
“The majority of the footage he gathers is of him sleeping in the bushes,” Derek said. “But on the second day, he brought back footage of his encounter with some baby possums. When reviewing that for the first time … we watched it very nervously. But then he just hung out with them peacefully. And it was super cute and interesting, and we loved learning that about him.”
Besides his miscellaneous adventures, Gonzo’s family also loves seeing footage of him collecting his trash gifts. It’s super fun for them to see how he chooses each gift and where he finds them. Collecting gifts for his family is a very important part of Gonzo’s daily routine, and now there’s footage documenting it all.
Even though Gonzo’s family has loved watching the footage of his life, they don’t recommend everyone strapping a camera onto their cat. They’ve found a way to do it safely, but it’s certainly not the right move for every cat.
“Gonzo is a large, strong cat and is unusually intelligent, but the results are not going to be cute or safe for all cats,” Derek said. “We don’t let our other cat, Fish, run around the apartment complex because she definitely would kill wildlife and is prone to panicking and could run into traffic. And we wouldn’t put a collar on her because she’s small and if the collar got caught, even if it’s a breakaway, it might not release. Gonzo’s never snagged his collar on anything in two years, and he’s heavy and strong, so we’re not too worried about that with him. But if enough people try this on enough cats, eventually it’s not going to go well.”