A stray cat found with a massive head wound in the Far North had social media audiences fired up about animal abuse, but all was not as it appeared.

The word on social media earlier this week was the cat, found at the southern end of the Awanui Straight near Kaitaia, had been set on fire.

Online comments included some who thought the wound looked like burns. "Has someone tried to burn it...?" asked one commenter.

Said another: "Did someone set him on fire he look very singed?"

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But not so, according to the SPCA.

"His major problem was a burst abscess. It must have just exploded," Heather Smith, who runs the SPCA animal centre in Kaitaia, said yesterday.

He was taken to Top Vets and medicated for pain, but had been going downhill because of the blood he had lost, and, being very frail in terms of his body condition, the kindest thing to do had been to put him to sleep.

"A sad outcome," Smith said.

An appeal on Facebook for the owner to claim the cat had not been responded to.

UPDATE: Due to tremendous blood loss from a blown abscess, plus being very frail in body condition the vets phoned to...

Posted by Kaitaia SPCA on Sunday, 14 October 2018

Smith said it appeared the cat had been left behind when its owners, who had been living near where it was found, moved away about two years ago.

The cat had been known in the area as a stray, but suspicions it had been attacked by a dog also appeared to be groundless.