LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Garfield, the syndicated cartoon cat, may be fat and lovable, but is he worth stealing? Youthful felons apparently believe so, according to police.

Detective Ken DeBie said Wednesday that scores of cat burglars have smashed automobile windows to steal the latest fad decorating Southern California autos - 6 1/2 -inch stuffed Garfield toys stuck to inside windows by suction cups at the end of each paw. A wide grin, kind of panicky-looking, is fixed on Garfield's face.

''I would say that the majority of the thefts of these Garfield toys, are at the high schools,'' DeBie said. ''Generally it's a window smash of the vehicle and the item is removed.''

At Taft High School in Woodland Hills, Dennis Creed, the dean of students, said Wednesday: ''We've probably had seven or eight since Christmas vacation. That's all they do. They break the window and take the cat. ...

''The cats are what, $15 or $20? And how much does it cost to replace a car window? Maybe $120 or $140? They'd be better off if they stuck the cat on the outside of the car.''

During the past five months or so, West Valley division detectives have taken about 40 reports, authorities said.

''I haven't heard about the crime wave anywhere but in L.A.,'' said Paul Roache, vice president of sales for Dakin Inc., which manufactures the toy marketed as ''Garfield Stuck on You.''

News accounts of the cat-nappings this week have unleashed a torrent of media inquiries about the crime wave, which left DeBie about as cheerful as Garfield on a Monday morning.

''I can't believe the amount of calls we're getting for a bunch of stupid toys,'' he said.

However, the mood was decidedly upbeat at Dakin's headquarters in Brisbane, Calif.

Since the stuffed animal was released about seven months ago, more than a million have been sold, according to Cathy Sotir, a Dakin spokeswoman.

''As a matter of fact, the item has proved to be so popular that we're coming up with other 'Stuck-on-You' items,'' Ms. Sotir said. The new lineup, includes a smaller version of the 6 1/2 -inch Garfield model, Garfield's pal, Odie the mutt, and a gorilla named Goro, who also sticks to windows.

But the success of Garfield has been obvious, and Roache said Dakin also plans to release new versions of Garfield Stuck on You for Valentine's Day and Easter. The Easter version, Roache said, consists of Garfield, dressed as an Easter bunny.

''It's obviously a popular item,'' Ms. Sotir said. ''I think the appeal of Garfield is the grin. We think that when people see those in cars they can really relate to the expression on his face.''