'Cruelty of attack on cat has left my little girls traumatised'
A cat that was cruelly set on fire was injured much more severely than first thought and will now need months of treatment to survive. Tiger, a 19-month-old tabby cat, was set alight in the Kernaghan park area of Hillsborough on March 9, causing outrage in the local community.
His owner, Diana Stephens, told the Belfast Telegraph Tiger was in constant pain and that the ordeal had been deeply upsetting for her two young daughters.
"It will probably take six to eight months for him to heal," she explained. "The vet says he's discovered third-degree burns on his stomach as well as the burns on his legs, his bum, his tail and over his back. When the scabs come off, he is going to have raw skin on 50-60% of his body, and when the wounds open they could get infected and do him a world of harm." Diana said that the fire had caused debilitating internal damage as well, with Tiger's bowel and part of his stomach dried out in the flames.
"He's unable to go to the toilet," she added. "He's in constant pain trying to go. He gets his antibiotic, he gets his pain killer and he gets antibiotic cream put on him every day."
When Diana first found her pet near death on her doorstep, she was horrified and initially did not know what to tell her daughters, aged nine and 10.
"I told my daughters that he'd fallen into a fire that a farmer was burning rubbish in," she said. "My youngest daughter believed me, but my oldest didn't so I had to tell her the truth.
"She's obviously very upset that someone could do this to her pet.
"I think she has a mistrust in the world at the moment. I asked her, 'Are you okay, pet?' She said: 'I'll be alright if Tiger makes it'."
With uncertainty over how Tiger's injuries will heal, Diana is worried about paying for any surgery Tiger may need. The family have set up a fundraising page to pay for treatment.
"My daughter's worried if I can afford this," Diana said.
"She's too old for her years. She's worried that at some stage we might not be able to afford to get him better. I keep telling her it's fine, we'll do whatever it takes to get him well."
The USPCA have said they were "appalled by the callous attack on a defenceless creature" and have offered a £500 reward for information about the attack which may lead to a conviction.