A furious vet has quit her job at the SPCA after a young cat was brought in to be de-sexed but was instead shot dead.

Amanda Vickers, vet and owner of a boutique cattery, did casual work at Horowhenua SPCA during the past year but walked out after hearing about the death of a 6-month-old, black-and-white stray moggy called Janie.

Two Foxton friends, Rhonda Findlay and Steph Palmer, rescued Janie from an abandoned property and took her to the SPCA in June to be de-sexed and vaccinated.

Findlay said Janie disappeared from her cage the next day and she sought answers from chief inspector Lloyd Warren about the cat's whereabouts.

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Findlay said she was told the cat had been put down because it was sick but later she was told there was a mix-up with cages and the cat had escaped.

"It was very emotional. One minute we thought she was dead, then we were told she was alive so we looked for her," Findlay said.

She realised the cat was dead when she saw a photo of what looked like Janie dumped over a rubbish bag in a pit filled with dead cats and dogs. "It was really upsetting to see the photo," Findlay said. "Once you see that image, it's hard to get it out of mind, especially when it's the only photo you have of her."

Vickers called for an investigation from Royal New Zealand SPCA.

SPCA chief executive Robyn Kippenberger told the Herald on Sunday an investigation revealed the cat was put down because it was a sick colony cat with runny eyes, ripped ears and the feline immunodeficiency virus.

She said Warren acted within his legal rights to shoot the cat with a captive bolt pistol.

Kippenberger said a bag of cats had been dumped by the local council before the photos were taken, and she was certain Janie was not among them.

Another cat had escaped from the animal centre, but it was not Janie.

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"This was a cat that was ill, we don't let them back out because they can infect other cat colonies."

Palmer said it was "a load of crap" because the cat was healthy, even if she was a bit chubby.

"The boys used to come out at Mitre 10 and give her sandwiches, she did need Jenny Craig but that was all ... she had no ulcers, there was nothing wrong with her," Palmer said.