Cuffs the cat - live-in mascot of the Philadelphia police mini-station on South Street near 9th - has been missing since Wednesday night.
"We had the door open because it was warm," said Sgt. Paul Sprigg, "and Cuffs wandered right out in front of the station around 11 p.m. and sat on his favorite bench.
"He usually sits out there and lots of people come by and pet him," Sprigg said.
"Wednesday night, one of the officers saw a white male on a red bicycle stop to pet Cuffs. A few minutes later, the male was seen riding off with the cat in his hands."
Sprigg is a big cop with a friendly manner, but yesterday there was sadness beneath his smile.
"Cuffs is in the habit of getting out of his collar, so maybe the guy assumed Cuffs was a friendly stray," Sprigg said. "That's what we're hoping."
Lt. Gerard McShea said mini-station officers have posted "Missing Cat" fliers all over the area featuring a color photo of the yellow short-hair cat and the words, "Police Station Mascot. Missed By Many."
McShea is asking anyone with information about Cuffs' whereabouts to call the mini-station: 215-922-6706.
He said Cuffs came into the officers' lives on South Street as a kitten almost three years ago.
"We had a little mouse problem here," Sprigg explained.
When Officer Matthew Matt's cat had kittens, McShea said, one of them became Cuffs.
"We have no mice in here anymore," Sprigg said.
Cuffs is such a big hit in the neighborhood, McShea said, that one man comes by every day just so his bassett hound and Cuffs can study each other through the mini-station window.
Two neighborhood ladies insist on paying for all of Cuffs' veterinary care.
Young mothers bring their little kids to play with him.
"Cuffs gets more attention than the officers do around here," Sprigg said. "Everybody loves him. Of course, I'm the one that always gets to clean his litter box."
The cat plays both sides of the law. "He's as friendly with prisoners as he is with police officers," McShea said.
"He jumps right up in prisoners' laps," Sprigg said, "and sits with them."
Cuffs drinks Deer Park water from the same cooler that the cops do.
When K-9 Corps Sgt. Edward Mayer visits with his bomb dog Blaster, the big German shepherd and Cuffs play peacefully.
"A lot of hearts are broken over Cuffs' going missing," Sprigg said. "We want him to come home." *