Last month the story emerged of a dangerous ‘cat ripper’ who was killing and mutilating cats in the Croydon area. Now, a hundred miles up the M4, in the rolling hills of the Cotswolds, there’s a less violent, but altogether weirder, kind of cat crime going on.
A mystery assailant has been grabbing cats when they are out on their nightly walks, and partly shaving them.
The attacker has been operating mainly around the Gloucestershire town of Stroud. Some cats in the region have been victims more than once.
The most recent attack involved Lysetta Bray’s cat Tippi, who has been shaved twice in the past few weeks, and four times since November.
Lysetta said: "The first incident was before Christmas - she came home with a patch shaved from her belly to her leg.
"Then it happened again a week later. On Thursday she was missing in the morning and when she came in she acted as though she was sore.
"Her collar was stretched too - it may have been that someone tried to grab her, although it could be that she got it caught on something.
"I haven't a clue why it's happening and neither has the vet."
Five miles away in Minchinhampton, neighbours Mandy Felton and John Kerry have had their pet cats Beau and Treacle targeted eight times in total.
John, whose ginger tabby Beau has been shaved four times, said: "It's ridiculous, who would go around doing this kind of thing?
"I'm sure it's taking a real toll on the cat now, the poor thing must be traumatised. I'm surprised she still wants to go outside."
Mandy, who lives around the corner, said her three-year-old black and white cat, Treacle, has been shaved three times in four months, leaving her with painful patches.
She said: "I'm just mystified as to why someone would do this, it's sick. We think it must be the same person doing it.
"Now it's happened to a cat owned by an old woman just around the corner. It's getting worse and worse."
Mandy added that “timid" Treacle was also shaved last year, and said the cat now seems traumatised and scared to leave the house.
Beth Skillings, a clinical veterinary officer for national charity Cats Protection, said: "It's very disturbing to hear of the plight of these cats.
"Clipping a cat's hair is occasionally necessary for medical reasons, but it is hard to fathom why anyone would do this if it wasn't necessary."
She added that the noise and sensation of restraint required for clipping can be highly stressful for cats.
"It is sad to think that it will take these cats two to four months for their coat and whiskers to grow back while they are having to adjust to a new environment."
Both Gloucestershire Police and the RSPCA have issued warnings about the cat shaver.
Stroud District Council Animal Welfare Service said: "We have received a report from a member of public in France Lynch that their cat has returned home with a shaved patch on its side.
"They say that this isn't the first time it has happened as the cat returned home in November, December and three weeks ago with similar shaved patches.
"Whilst this isn't in itself harmful to the cat, it is of concern and I would urge any other cat owners in that area to be vigilant."