The RSPCA is investigating the deaths of two cats feared to be among a series of poisonings in a village near York.
As many as 15 cats could have been targeted, villagers believe.
The latest potential victims are Narla and Cash. They were found dead in the back garden of their owner Natasha Hardman’s home in Wilberfoss within 24 hours of one another, on Monday, 27 June.
Neither cat was injured, but they were drooling saliva, a sign they may have been poisoned.
Just over two weeks later on 13 July, Natasha discovered the cats’ mother, LuLu, walking in front of her home with a piece of meat covered in a blue powder.
She managed to grab it from the cat’s mouth.
Fortunately, the cat did not eat the substance, which is suspected to be rat poison, and she was unharmed.
But another of her offspring, Lily, was found dead in January this year in suspicious circumstances.
Four years ago, Natasha had another cat, George, whose death was also suspicious.
Other residents have reported their cats being found dead in the same area of the village, around Hawthorne Drive, Ings Road and John Bell Court.
Spike in fatalities
RSPCA inspector Beth Boyd said: “These incidents appear to have been going on for a long time, but there seems to have been a spike in them at the moment.
“These are young, healthy cats who are turning up dead in their own gardens – it is horrendous.
“Narla and Cash were both seen on the day they died and they were absolutely fine. There were no signs of any injuries to either, although they both had saliva around their mouths.
“LuLu came home carrying what looked like a piece of meat from a Sunday dinner. It was laced with a bright blue powder (see picture), but thankfully her owner managed to get it out of her mouth before she ate any.”
A cause of death for Narla and Cash has not been established as both cats were buried soon after they were found, while the identity of the blue powder has not been confirmed.
But the RSPCA is advising pet owners in the village to be vigilant and know the signs of a suspected poisoning.
Natasha said: “I found Narla and Cash in my back garden. Luckily I was coming out of the house when LuLu had the meat in her mouth. I got her inside and fed her lots of tuna as I was worried about the blue powder.
“She was okay, but it was heart-breaking for my daughter and two nieces, who live with me, to learn that the other three cats had died – they all had their own favourites.
“In the 11 years I have lived here around 15 cats have dropped dead without explanation.”
Inspector Boyd says residents told her of many other incidents of apparently healthy cats being found dead across a number of years.
“One neighbour says she has lost three cats in the last two years, one was never found and the other two turned up dead in her garden,” said the inspector.
“Another neighbour told me over the space of 20 years six of her cats had turned up dead and she recalled around 12 cats dying suspiciously in a two-week period about four years ago.
“It does appear that someone is targeting cats in this area of the village. A large number of healthy cats have turned up dead in their own gardens with no visible injuries.”
The RSPCA says it can be difficult to determine if cases of poisoning are accidental or deliberate.
But it is a legal requirement when using substances such as rat poison to ensure that the specific species of rodent is targeted and that poisons are kept away from pets and wildlife by, for example, being placed in a bait box.
Poisoning an animal deliberately is a criminal offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
Signs of poisoning include vomiting, uncoordinated movements, seizures and breathing difficulties.
If you suspect your pet has been poisoned seek the help of a vet immediately and, if possible, take with you a sample of the suspected poison.
“We would remind people of the legalities of using poison and urge anyone with information about these incidents to come forward. We would also encourage people to try to keep their cats indoors and keep a close eye on them,” added the inspector.
Anyone with information is asked to call the RSPCA appeals line on 0300 123 8018.
To donate to the RSPCA visit the website or call the donation line on 0300 123 8181.