A family whose cat was shot by someone using an air gun have made the difficult decision to have their beloved pet put down.

After Hunter went missing from his home in Fairfax Road, near Eaton Park in Norwich, on March 30 his owner desperately searched the area and put out an appeal to find him.

He was found four days later hiding in a shed at a home in the same road and taken to the vets.

X-rays revealed that Hunter had been shot in his spine and due to the severity of his injuries, he had to be put to sleep.

Norwich Evening News: Hunter was one-and-a-half years oldHunter was one-and-a-half years old (Image: RSPCA)

The cat's owner has been left shocked and devastated by what happened to Hunter, who was just one and a half years old. 

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The owner has also been left with a large vet bill due to someone targeting her cat.

RSPCA animal rescue officer David Allen said: “It is devastating to hear what happened to poor Hunter and our hearts go out to his owner.

Norwich Evening News: An x-ray showing the bullet lodged in Hunter's spineAn x-ray showing the bullet lodged in Hunter's spine (Image: RSPCA)

"Why someone would seemingly target an innocent animal like this is unfathomable - it is just cruel and so unnecessary.

"It leaves a family heartbroken and I am horrified by what has happened to poor Hunter.

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"This incident will also cause worry in the local community to other loving pet owners."

Norwich Evening News: The pellet that was removed from Hunter's spineThe pellet that was removed from Hunter's spine (Image: RSPCA)

“We are investigating this and would urge anyone with information to call our inspectorate appeal line on 0300 123 8018 in confidence quoting incident 01245204, or to call the police quoting reference  36/24844/24.”

According to the RSPCA, these types of incidents are not uncommon and the charity receives hundreds of calls to investigate air gun shootings every year, with cats and wildlife being the animals most often affected.

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 carries a maximum punishment of a five-year prison sentence for offenders.