HOUSEHOLDERS are being warned against using a banned nerve poison to exterminate vermin.

Gateshead Council has received reports of a number of family pets being poisoned by eating what is believed to be strychnine, a nerve poison banned in the UK.

In one case, a resident spent £500 in vet’s bills trying to save her cat’s life. In another, a cat died having eaten the poisoned bait.

The council is urging people not to tackle rodent problems themselves, but rather seek professional advice.

Colin Huntington, the council’s service director for waste services and grounds maintenance, said: “Trying to tackle a rat problem yourself is a totally false economy.

“Rats are extremely clever and naturally suspicious of new objects such as traps or poisons, so unless you know exactly what you are doing when you are putting bait out you can spend a fortune on rat poison and achieve precisely nothing.

“It’s particularly worrying that people are getting hold of poisons that are banned in the UK. We don’t know if people are getting hold of these over the internet, but if they are then they are risking prosecution. Once again, we urge people to please leave it to the professionals.”