Whiskas the cat is expected to make a full recovery after a jaw reconstruction that was "like putting Lego back together".
Whiskas was shot by a .22 on September 29 before making it back to his home on Norfolk Rd, Waingawa.
Vetcare veterinary director Heidi Ward-McGrath operated on him yesterday morning, and said she had not seen anything like it in her 20 years as a vet.
"They shot off the inside of his jaw and face. They shot off his canine tooth so I got the pellet out this morning and it had splintered the bone like a piece of kindling, snapping it sideways.
"The cat came home looking like that so the owners got a big fright when they saw him. They're very lucky he came home at all."
The nature of his injuries made the operation unique, she said.
"I've never had a cat with its jaw shot off.
"Often jaw injuries in cats are caused by cars where they just split in the middle and you can bring the two pieces together, but there is a whole side that is unstable so it's like putting Lego back together.
"I managed to get the leftover parts of the bullet out - the police have been in and asked me to keep that.
"They have a line of enquiry that they're looking at."
People with weapons on their property need to be aware of their location, she said.
"It doesn't matter if it's an air rifle or slug gun - you need to know what's happening at all times."
She remained optimistic Whiskas would make a full recovery.
"He'll probably be home in a week - we just have to make sure that he's comfortable eating.
"He had a large haematoma which was pushing his tongue into the roof of his mouth and he couldn't eat properly, but even compared to yesterday he's 50 per cent better.
"We expect that he'll be fine."
Fundraising was underway at Vetcare to help Whiskas and other abused animals, she said.
"Without the SPCA here we are now having to raise the funds within our community to try to treat these abused animals.
"We got $75 overnight so that's a good start.
"The owners have been really grateful - they were devastated. He's such a young, friendly cat. He's hopefully got a long, healthy life ahead of him."