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26 January 2011, 10:24 | Updated: 10 February 2011, 13:44
Last year the RSPCA saw the numbers of cats being shot, abandoned and attacked rise, challenging our reputation as an animal-loving country.
In incidents across the country, cats have been horrifically injured after being shot with air rifles. In one attack, a cat named Marley was found to have a staggering 21 pellets in his body. In another, a cat named Lightning narrowly escaped death after a pellet hit her side and grazed her liver. Then, at the end of the year, a cat named George was found collapsed in his garden, he had been shot through the heart and died soon after.
There's been a few incidents in Dorset too.
Springer, a one-year-old black cat was shot near his home in Ferndown in December 2010. The air rifle pellets had gone straight through his spleen and intestine, but he made a good recovery against the odds.
Springer’s owner, Anthony Thompson, said:
“It is awful that this has happened and is only down to luck that Springer is still alive. The vet said it’s one of the worst cases they have seen.”
In Bournemouth, Aslan, a 17-year-old tonkinese cat, was shot in the early hours of the morning of Monday 10 May 2010 near his home in Richmond Park Avenue.
When Aslan came home, he was dragging his back leg and his owner, Mrs Copland, took him to the vet. X-rays revealed that there were five airgun pellets in Aslan’s back and left hind leg. Four of the pellets had to be left inside the cat’s body as his age meant an operation to remove them would be too risky.
Mrs Copland said: “I’m not convinced Aslan will ever be right again, not at his age.
“It’s extremely disconcerting to think that somebody out there is shooting at animals especially when you just don’t know why they would do such a thing.”
The RSPCA received 205 reports of cats being shot in 2010. It is believed that this is just the tip of the iceberg as many attacks go unreported and some owners don't even realise that their pets have been shot.
In addition to shootings there has been a dramatic rise in the number of cats abandoned. In 2008, there were 7,609 abandonments reported to the RSPCA. In 2009, this number rose to 8,310 and by the end of 2010, the total reached an incredible 10,610. These include cats dumped in cat carriers in Chesterfield, 12 cats dropped out of a car in South Wales and three incidents of cats being left next to rubbish bins in Plymouth, including Smirnof.
Cats were also the victims of terrifying attacks including being set on by dogs, thrown from buildings and one young cat who was found with a shoelace tied so tightly around his neck that it ate into the flesh and became infected.
RSPCA chief veterinary officer, Alastair Macmillan, said:
"Year after year we see hundreds of cats with terrible injuries caused by air weapons or shot guns and the numbers certainly aren't decreasing. We also believe that those reported to the RSPCA represent only a fraction of the total number of attacks as many go undiscovered or unreported.
"The news of massive rises in abandonments and other attacks is alarming and shows a frightening trend in cat abuse and neglect.
"We don't know why we are seeing such increases and hope that people are not starting to see cats as worthless things which can be targeted with weapons or just dumped when people don't want to care for them anymore.
"The worst thing is that all of this is so unnecessary. If you have a cat which you don't want, there are animal welfare organisations that can help. We also urge people to get their cats neutered - if they don't, they may find themselves with litters of kittens for which they cannot find good homes.
"There are lots of organisations which offer discounts and vouchers towards the cost of neutering so there can be little excuse for failing to neuter a pet cat."
To find out more about cat neutering or about rehoming a cat from the RSPCA, please visit www.rspca.org.uk