A CAT may have suffered brain damage after a rat trap snapped shut around its head.

The black male cat, nicknamed Sooty, was rescued by the RSPCA after a passer-by saw him trapped by the neck.

RSPCA inspector Damian Woolliscroft, who rescued the animal, said: "He was barely able to lift his head from the ground because of the weight of the trap and the agony it was causing him."

The device, designed to kill a rodent by breaking its neck, trapped the cat on Tuesday night in a residential area of East Boldon, near Sunderland.

When a vet examined Sooty, he discovered his head and neck were severely swollen, and he had injured his paws by desperately trying to pull the heavy metal trap from around his head.

The vet believed he may have suffered spinal and brain damage, because he was unsteady on his feet and unable to blink his right eye.

It is unclear how Sooty became caught in the trap. In his panic he may have run some distance to try to shake it off.

Insp Woolliscroft said: "Snares were once common in rural areas to trap so-called pests like rabbits and voles, but are increasingly found in residential areas, where they pose a threat to people and pets."

l The RSPCA is encouraging micro-chipping of pets so they can be easily identified.

The Northern Echo started Animal Watch to highlight cruelty, and encourage better treatment of animals