A FAMILY had to have their cat put down after thugs shot it three times with a pellet gun.

The vet who treated Ray, a one-year-old black and white cat, said he had been held down and shot at close range.

He belonged to Sarah Bozman, who had only lived in Fleet for a week after moving from Leicester.

Miss Bozman and her boyfriend Trevor Williams, 37, of Burnsford Avenue, have appealed for anyone with information about the attackers to come forward.

Ray was shot on the morning of February 13 and had to be put down two days later at Ark Vets.

He had suffered massive internal damage and could not be saved.

Mr Williams said: "Ray would not have gone far because he was new to the area.

"My girlfriend had only just moved in - what a welcome to the area.

"She did not let him out in Leicester because we expected this sort of thing there, but not here in Fleet."

Mr Williams believes youngsters committed the crime: "I just cannot understand the mentality of these people - it is sick. We are distraught and devastated.

"We have two other cats and we are not letting them out at the moment."

Ray was taken to the vet because he became sick and at first it was thought he had been in a fight.

He was given antibiotics but the following day his owners returned for another consultation.

It was then that an X-ray revealed he had been shot three times.

The vet put Ray on a drip to rehydrate him and to try to build up his strength for exploratory surgery, but the damage was too severe and he had to be put down.

The RSPCA wants new laws on ownership of airguns.

A spokeswoman said: "There has been an alarming rise in the number of animals killed and injured by airgun users, and that includes both pets and wildlife. It is cruel and senseless.

"Anyone found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal can be fined £5,000 or sentenced to six months' imprisonment.

"We want more controls to be introduced and we fear that the reported shootings are just the tip of the iceberg, as many animals simply crawl away and die."

Anyone with information on the attack can call Mr Williams on 07889 647270 or Fleet police on 0845 0454545.