A cat killer is alleged to have been targeting pets in a Devon town, with five found “mutilated” on the same street over 18 months.
Four cats have died following apparent attacks in Roundham Round, Paignton, since summer 2017. A fifth was left badly injured.
The RSPCA has launched an investigation into the “really distressing incidents,” which it said “would've caused these poor cats to suffer”.
One of the cats, named Taiyou, appeared to have had his genitals burned with a cigarette lighter in attack in November, reported Devon Live. He died last month of complications from the injuries, which police believe were inflicted in a "deliberate act".
"I first noticed when the owners brought them in that he had burnt, singed whiskers," said vet Chris Bamford, who examined Taiyou.
He told the BBC: "That's quite a common abusive injury that we see in cats and from that I then did a full examination and then once I lifted up the tail it was pretty nasty."
Taiyou’s owners, Yvonne and Phil Harrison, said their other cat Ziggy was also attacked in summer 2017 and again in March 2018, when he died of his injuries.
Ms Harrison said it was “heatbreaking” to see her pets “mutilated”.
“Somebody would have used their love of people and being so sociable to be able to capture them and do something that horrific to them,” she added.
Another cat which lived in Roundham Round suffered crushed vertebra, which a vet said could not have been caused by a car, early last year. A fourth suffered devastating internal injuries just before Christmas.
An RSPCA spokeswoman told The Independent: “These are really distressing incidents which are deeply upsetting for the owners and would've caused these poor cats to suffer.
“We are concerned about these reports and would urge anyone with information to get in contact with us on our inspectorate appeal line on 0300 123 8018."
The suspected attacks have also been reported to Devon and Cornwall Police.
Feline Network, a Paignton-based cat rescue charity, has launched an online appeal to fund a reward. More than £1,250 has been raised so far to pay for information which leads to a conviction.
In September, the Metropolitan Police closed a three-year investigation into hundreds of reported cat killings after determining the culprit was likely to have been foxes.
The force launched the probe in 2015 in response to fears about the so-called Croydon cat killer, who was said to have been targeting pets in the south London borough and beyond.
The hunt made headlines around the world before Scotland Yard concluded the animals had probably been run over by vehicles and mutilated by scavenging foxes.
But South Norwood Animal Rescue and Liberty, a shelter which had been involved in the police probe, disputed the Met’s findings and vowed to continue investigating cat deaths.