Cat named after Keith Chegwin has leg amputated after being shot by air rifle in Suffolk

Generous animal lovers have stepped in to help a cat owner who was forced to choose between a vet bill she could not afford or putting him down after he was shot.

Earlier this month, Chegwin - named after Big Breakfast and It's a Knockout presenter Keith - returned home yowling in pain.

Vets found he had been shot in the back right leg by what is thought to have been an air rifle.

He was in agony, struggling to walk, and had to be sedated so they could properly investigate. The pellet was still in his leg and they decided it would need to be amputated.

"I was a mess. I was shaking," said owner Christine Rudge, who lives in Halesworth, Suffolk. "It was so upsetting to see him like that. He needed pain relief - or some release from all of that."

Chegwin the cat with owner Christine Rudge. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Surgery to amputate the cat's leg would cost nearly £3,000 and Christine knew she did not have the money.

But, faced with the choice of putting him down or finding the cash from somewhere, she was able to temporarily borrow the funds from two friends who knew how much her pet meant to her.

"He's my world. I'm one of those old women now - cat women - I think. It's just me and him. I'm his rock and he's mine," said Christine.

Once home, Chegwin - described by his family as both an adventurer and a wimp - began adapting to life with just the three legs remarkably well.

Meanwhile his owner had the task of working out where she would find the money to pay back her friends.

Her daughter Danielle Rudge decided to set up a fundraising webpage to see if other animal lovers could help out - and they were amazed by the response.

Eleven days after Chegwin was shot, strangers have already given more than £1,800 towards the vet bill with donations ranging from £5 to £100.

Grandmother Christine said: "There are no words that show how it makes me feel. It's overwhelming, heartwarming - so many things. Without that I would be in a terrible muddle."

"My mum and I, we have shed a few years," said daughter Danielle. "It's just amazing. The community spirit in this town and kindness and generosity have been completely overwhelming."

Suffolk Police are investigating the shooting - which took place around 2pm on Friday 7 January in the Kennedy Avenue area of Halesworth, and appealing for witnesses.

"There are feelings of anger there too - that someone is evil enough to shoot a domesticated pet," said Danielle. "I don't know what drives someone to do that, I don't understand it at all."