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17 July 2014, 16:02 | Updated: 30 March 2016, 13:50
The RSPCA's investigating after 3 cats belonging to a Hampshire family died from suspected poisoning along with a neighbour's cat.
it happened in a matter of weeks in the Dean Road area of Fair Oak in Hampshire.
A fourth cat became very ill but managed to survive after being rushed to the vets.
The first cat, tabby Poppy, was found on 7 June lying dead in the road. She had no injuries and was just lying as if asleep. Her owner thinks she may have been sheltering beneath a car which then drove away.
On the same weekend, another of the owner's cats, a tabby grey named Smoky, also went missing. Sadly, Smoky was found days later under a hedge in his owner's front garden. He too looked as if he had fallen asleep.
Just two weeks later, in mid-June, black cat Billy came home and was frothing at the mouth. His owner rushed him to a vet who suspected poisoning.
The National Poisons Information Service was contacted and believed the symptoms to be consistent with poisoning caused by a chemical found in patio cleaner and weed killer.
Luckily Billy responded to treatment and has now recovered. In the latest incident on 5 July, the same owner found their oldest cat named Pumpkin dead in their garage. He was hunched over in the same way that Billy was found but tragically it was too late for him. The owner, who does not wish to be named, said:
"You expect accidents to happen to cats, such as on the road, but never anything like this.
"Billy is now staying inside most of the time and I panic every time any of my other cats go outside, although they rarely stray from my garden.
"I just hope that no one is doing this deliberately and that it's just accidental - maybe it will make people think about the chemicals they are using in their gardens."
RSPCA animal welfare officer Sue Brooks said:
"This has been so distressing for the cats' owner as they were all well-loved family pets.
"We'd ask people to be very careful when using poisonous substances in their gardens or nearby as animals may be able to access them. Even if you don't have pets yourself please remember that others do and those animals are part of their families.
"If of course this turns out to be deliberate poisoning then we need to stress that it is illegal to cause an animal to suffer in this way and anyone found guilty could face a maximum sentence of up to six months in prison."
On the same weekend, a neighbour's tabby cat was also found lying dead in their garden.
Anyone with information about suspicious activity in the area should contact the RSPCA in confidence on the appeals line - 0300 123 8018.