A FAMILY has been left distraught after their pet cat was shot with an air rifle – seven months after a similar shooting.

John and Pat Burtenshaw returned to their Hail Weston home to be greeted by three-year-old Masala limping and bleeding. The pedigree Ragdoll, which the couple are minding for a year for their daughter, Helen, had been shot and could have her front, right leg amputated if the injury fails to heal.

Mrs Burtenshaw, 67, of The High Street, told The Hunts Post: "We have no guarantee the leg will recover. If it does, it will be shorter than before, and if it doesn't it will mean amputation.

"At the moment she has to be kept in a cage - possibly for up to three months - and we have to give her physiotherapy on the leg and paw up to five times a day."

Last September Masala was shot in the neck and suffered an entry and exit wound that chipped her shoulder blade. After an emergency operation at Huntingdon's Cromwell vets the wounds eventually healed and she made a full recovery.

"The second shooting on April 5 was much more serious," Mrs Burtenshaw continued. "Her right foreleg suffered a bad compound fracture, which in turn damaged the main nerve of the leg. She had an emergency operation and now has a metal rod and pins holding the bones in place while they mend."

The couple, who have a cat of their own, said the first vet to examine Masala thought she had been shot with a licensed gun.

"The injury was so bad she had to be treated at Queen's Veterinary Hospital at Cambridge University," Mrs Burtenshaw said.

The Burtenshaws reported both incidents to the police but hold out little hope of catching the culprit.

"We just can't let her out any more. I have discovered that anyone who causes suffering to animals could face up to six months in prison and a fine of up to £20,000 under the 2006 Animal Welfare Act. But our problem is that it seems to be impossible to find out who inflicted suffering onto a beautiful cat."

The RSPCA received 201 reports of cats being shot in 2011.

A spokesman told The Hunts Post: "We believe this is just the tip of the iceberg as many attacks go unreported."

INFORMATION: Anyone with information should call 101 or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.