More than 1500 complaints of cat cruelty were reported to the RSPCA in the South West last year, according to new figures released by the charity.Between January 2022 and December 2022, there were 1767 reports of cat cruelty in the South West - which is around 5 a day.
Dr Sam Gaines, head of the RSPCA’s companion animal department said: “It is heartbreaking to think that five cats every day are suffering at the hands of humans - it really is appalling - but sadly the RSPCA knows all too well that this cruelty is carried out on a regular basis.
Devon was the worst-performing county in the region, with 394 cat cruelty complaints reported to the RSPCA last year.
“We see hundreds of felines come through our doors every year who have been subjected to unimaginable cruelty - being beaten, burned, thrown around, had bones broken, been shot at, poisoned and drowned," he added.
“In many cases, these pets have been injured deliberately by their owners - the very people who should protect them. But cats are also more vulnerable as they tend to be out and about on their own which can leave them vulnerable to airgun attacks and other forms of cruelty by complete strangers.”
Last year, a man from Cheltenham was caught viciously killing a cat in a school car park in an unprovoked attack.
Millie, a 12-year-old cat, was outside Cheltenham’s Cleeve School on 17 March 2022 when she was attacked by Tomasz Zimny.
He ran after Millie before picking her up by her back legs or tail and swinging her up over his shoulder and slamming her onto the ground.
Nationally, in 2022, there were almost 18,000 cat cruelty complaints reported to the RSPCA. Of those reports, 1,726 were intentional harm incidents, which marks a 25% increase from 2021.
Cruelty complaints are defined as abandonment, neglect, and intentional harm left unattended while intentional harm is defined as attempted killing, poisonings, beatings or improper killing.
It is thought the cost of living crisis is contributing to an increase in deliberate harm towards animals.
At a time when the cost of rescuing animals is at an all-time high, and the RSPCA’s vital services are stretched to the limit, the cost-of-living crisis and the pandemic are being blamed for creating an “animal welfare crisis”.
Richard Abbott, RSPCA chief inspector for Devon, said: “Right now, animal cruelty is happening in England and Wales on a massive scale and rising. It is heartbreaking that we are seeing such sad figures which show animal cruelty is, very sadly, on the rise.
“While we don’t know for certain why there has been an increase, the cost of living crisis and the post-pandemic world we live in has created an animal welfare crisis."
The charity has released the figures as part of its Cancel Out Cruelty campaign, raising money for frontline rescue teams to help save animals from cruelty and abuse.
It is the only charity in England and Wales rescuing animals and investigating cruelty with a team of frontline rescue officers, specialist vet teams and a network of animal care centres.