A CAT had to endure life-saving surgery after being shot by cruel thugs in Darlington recently.

The devastated owner of Coco the cat is warning other pet owners following an ordeal that could have killed the much loved moggy.

Darlington woman Melanie Gordon thought her six-year-old cat had cancer when she found a hard lump in her stomach.

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It was only when vets operated on Coco that they discovered she had been shot while wandering the streets in the Springfield area of the town.

Ms Gordon, 46, said: “The thought that someone could hurt her on purpose is absolutely traumatic and I’m still in shock over how anyone could be so cruel.

“I thought it was cancer when we found that lump and the vet said they could only find out what it was by operating.

“The last thing on my mind was that she might have been shot but when they opened her up, they found the bullet that we think came from a rifle.

“How it didn’t kill her, I’ll never know - I think she used the last of her nine lives and she was in a lot of pain.

“There are a lot of cats in our area and I’m worried that there is someone out there with a firearm trying to hurt them.

“I want to make people aware of what’s happened and the potential of it happening again.

“Coco’s very friendly and I’m worried someone could call her over and potentially kill her if I let her out again.”

Following the £400 operation, Coco is now recovering well at home.

In light of the incident, staff at Darlington Vet Clinic are urging people to support their campaign to get animal welfare taught in schools.

Practice manager Louise Craggs said the number of incidents such as the one involving Coco could be reduced by educating children in how to look after animals from an early age.

Ms Craggs said: “I’m not sure we can ever completely stop anything like this but teaching animal welfare would definitely help.

“They do it in New Zealand and it’s had great results there – it’s all about raising awareness of how to treat animals and of their needs. School children are at the perfect age to learn, it’s difficult to teach adults.”

To sign the petition, visit petition.parliament.uk/petitions/170481