A sick cat killer is feared to be on the loose after four cats which died in the same street were found to have been poisoned with antifreeze.
The RSPCA has launched an investigation after the pet cats all died in the space of a few days over the Christmas and New Year period.
Tests suggest four of the animals which lived in King Street, Alfreton, Derbys., had ingested the toxic substance.
The animal charity said a fifth cat which has gone missing is also presumed dead, sparking fears a cat killer has been striking in the neighbourhood.
One owner Luke Wright told how one of his cats two-year-old Poll was found dragging her kitten Patch, aged 11 months, up their driveway on December 23.
Patch, which belonged to a neighbour, was clearly seriously ill and convulsing so Luke and his girlfriend Shannon Yeomans alerted the owner.
The poorly puss was rushed to a vets where he sadly died.
Luke said Poll went missing the day after on Christmas Eve and has not been seen since. He suspects she too may have been poisoned and has died.
His other pet Harvey – a ginger cat aged 11 months – then came home looking ill on December 27.
They rushed him to the vets but it was too late and he also died from suspected antifreeze poisoning.
Devastated Luke said a letter was distributed on January 5 by a neighbour warning cat owners to be aware as two of her pets had also died of suspected poisoning.
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He said: "We were really upset and my girlfriend Shannon has taken it really badly – they are family members so to see them suffering was awful.
"Poll was really brave knowing Patch was ill and dragging him home – but it proved too late and she didn't seem herself afterwards.
"Patch was re-housed two doors up – but mother and son would still go roaming together.
"She went missing the day after and we know she will have been upset about Patch but we also wonder if she was poisoned but didn't make it home.
"Then Harvey came home and we saw him on the patio and he just looked drunk so we realised he too may have ingested antifreeze so we rushed him to the vet's but it was too late to save him.
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"For four cats to die in a similar way in the same street and for another to be missing is concerning so we reported the matter to the RSPCA and are hoping to raise awareness in the local area for people to be careful.
"It is too late for these cats but we hope a warning may save other lives.
"We have one cat left called Oscar and we are now having to keep him indoors – he is not happy about it – but we just want to protect him."
RSPCA inspector Rachel Leafe said: "We are very concerned that four cats in the same area have apparently died from antifreeze poisoning and another cat is missing.
"At the moment we would advise everyone in the area to keep an eye on their cats' well-being and if they are showing symptoms of poisoning get them veterinary treatment immediately.
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"At this stage we do not know if these were accidental incidents or deliberate but we would ask for everyone in the area to check where they keep their pesticides and chemicals including antifreeze and make sure it is secure and out of the way of cats.
"If you do use antifreeze in your car please make sure that there are no leaks and any spills are cleaned up properly.
"Making sure antifreeze lids are shut tightly or cleaning up any spillages may save an animal's life.
"Signs of poisoning can be seen anything from 30 minutes after ingestion to two or three days.
"This can include some, or all of the following symptoms: vomiting, seeming depressed or sleepy, appearing drunk or uncoordinated, seizures and difficulty breathing."
Deliberately poisoning a protected animal like a cat or a dog is an offence and carries a maximum sentence of six months in prison and/or an unlimited fine.
Anyone who has information about these incidents is asked to contact the RSPCA's appeal line on 0300 123 8018.
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