SPCA staff believe a cat found drowned in Auckland's Waitemata Harbour on Sunday was lured into a lobster trap and left in the water to die.
The ginger and white cat was found floating in the trap beneath the Auckland Harbour Bridge by members of the Royal NZ Yacht Squadron, who were participating in the Harken Youth International Match Racing Championships.
The cat and the trap were fished from the water by RNZYS youth training programme coach Guy Pilkington, and Danielle Bowater, who contacted SPCA Auckland.
SPCA inspector Matt Dingle examined the body at Westhaven Marina.
"The cat was inside a cylindrical plastic trap about a metre or so long with a very small opening at one end. There was a blue food bowl inside the trap with the cat, which suggests to me that someone lured the cat inside and then disposed of it in the harbour," Mr Dingle said.
SPCA Auckland vet manager Shalsee Vigeant confirmed the cat, whose sex is yet to be determined, died by drowning.
"It is a very sad and inhumane way for any animal to die," Dr Vigeant said.
SPCA Auckland chief executive Christine Kalin described it as "an appalling act of animal cruelty".
"We need to find the culprit quickly and seek justice for this innocent animal," Ms Kalin said. "This cat may have been someone's beloved pet or it may have been a stray but either way the person who killed it has committed a crime.
"We are appealing to members of the public to call us with any information that might lead to the arrest of the offender. If you have seen someone throwing something that looked like this trap into the harbour, or have any other information, please call us on 09 256 7300."