By Caroline Fleming
Residents of The Lakes suburb in Tauranga have been left frightened and distraught after a handful of cats in the area were shot with a slug gun.
Amanda Crowther, a resident on Crater Close in The Lakes suburb, noticed her cat Chewie limping on Saturday morning, with an extremely swollen joint.
After a visit to the vet, an x-ray found a slug from a slug gun lodged in the cat's leg.
Chewie had to have surgery and a splint put on, and the vet bills are piling up for Crowther.
Whoever was doing this was "targeting" cats, she said.
A police spokesperson confirmed they received a report of a cat being shot in the leg with a slug gun at Crater Close, Pyes Pa, about midday on Tuesday.
They also had unconfirmed reports of two more cats being shot in the same area.
The incidents all occurred on neighbouring streets in The Lakes area.
Mike Mercer, another resident in The Lakes area, said he found his cat Millie had been shot in the leg at the end of December.
"She came home and hid under the bed, then once she came out I could see a hole in her back leg."
A regular hunter, Mercer could immediately tell the wound had come from a slug gun pellet.
Luckily, the pellet had gone in and out of the cat, so she did not require surgery.
Millie recovered after a few weeks and surprisingly had become even more affectionate since the incident, Mercer said.
However, as they consider the cat part of the family, it has been hard on his two young children, who had been "stressed out" about the safety of their cat since, he said.
In his view, Mercer was convinced the offender must be someone who lived nearby as Millie had always been a "home cat" and "doesn't go far".
A resident from neighbouring Hastings Rd said her family's beloved cat, Levi, died in strange circumstances in January.
She said she could not be certain he was shot, but at the time she thought his injuries seemed strange for being hit by a car.
Seeing Facebook posts on the community page about other cats being shot in her street a few days later furthered her suspicions, but she had no way to be sure what happened.
She said the situation was "heartbreaking" and if someone was deliberately trying to hurt pets, they needed to be stopped.
Kushla Hodgson, who recently moved to The Lakes area, said the incidents had made her reluctant to let her two "fur babies" outside.
Economist Gareth Morgan, previously known for his strong cat views, criticised anybody who did anything unlawful to cats or any other animal.
"It's just totally against what is acceptable to our society. The issue with a wandering companion cat is an issue that needs to be addressed with the owner, not the cat itself."
An SPCA spokesperson said if the SPCA was able to gather sufficient evidence to prove a particular person was shooting cats, they would be looking at an "ill-treatment", "reckless ill-treatment", or "wilful ill-treatment" charge, depending on the intent of the person shooting, and the outcome for the cat.
The Lakes incidents follow a similar spate in the Mamaku Area, just out of Rotorua.
There were two shootings with a high-powered slug gun in November. One cat died from extensive internal injuries. Two weeks ago another cat was shot in the face.
More recently, two men were caught on camera shooting five endangered black-billed gulls in Rotorua.
The SPCA recommends owners in the area keep their cats inside where possible, make sure cats keep to their routine and are at home for mealtimes.
Owners are advised to check their cat regularly for injuries.
Be aware that in slug gun injuries all that can often be seen is a small hole that could be confused with a dog or cat bite.
The Tauranga City Council says on its website cat owners are responsible for ensuring their cat does not cause any problems.
Neither the council or SPCA will respond to calls about roaming cats causing nuisance, as it is not an offence.