A CAT who used up many of his nine lives during the big freeze is looking forward to better times with a new owner.

Garfield was handed to cat-only vets SimplyCats at Fence Houses, near Chester-le-Street, by the owner of dogs who found him cowering in a bush during a walk.

The elderly cat had been living in the snow since before Christmas after the death of his owner.

His coat was matted, he had dirt caked around his eyes and nose, his right hind leg had been badly bitten by a dog and had broken and he sported several other wounds.

The team at SimplyCats were unable to obtain RSPCA funding, which would have meant Garfield being put down, but staff fell in love with the cat’s friendly and loving nature and the firm picked up the bill for treating him.

A spokeswoman said: "The team X-rayed him and discovered he had fractured his fibula (a bone in the hind leg), his wounds were clipped and cleaned and whilst he was anaesthetised his coat was brushed and de-matted as living outside had taken its toll on the old cat's fur and it was severely matted close to the skin.

"Garfield was given a warm, padded kennel over the weekend to recover and rest he also received antibiotics and painkillers for his broken leg and wounds.

"Thankfully the elderly gentleman who discovered Garfield has decided to provide a loving home for him as he fell in love with him and couldn't bear to see him go to a rescue shelter after his ordeal over the winter.’’