POLICE are hunting a thug who shot a cat in the stomach with an air rifle, leaving the pet fighting for its life.

Toby, the six-year-old tabby, was targeted in the Hillyfields area of Nursling, near Southampton.

Despite efforts to save him at a city veterinary clinic, Toby passed away this morning.

Officers believe it was a deliberate attack on the cat and are warning other cat owners to be aware of the dangers and check their pets for pellet wounds.

PCSOs are out patrolling the area, on the lookout for anyone targeting animals.

Toby was taken to the vets by his owners who were concerned he was acting strangely, but it wasn’t until he had been examined that they were told the true extent of his injuries.

A pellet, believed to be from an air rifle used at close range, was found in the right side of the cat’s stomach.

They also noticed other injuries which suggest that the cat was hit as well.

PC Paul Weston said: “We want cat owners to be aware that there could be someone out there doing this deliberately.

“The vet is continuing to investigate how the other injuries were sustained, but our PCSOs are out on patrol in the area, looking for anyone with a pellet gun.”

Anyone with any information about the shooting, which happened last weekend, should contact PC Claire Bates, at Romsey police station on 101.