Police called in after more than 70 cats go missing around Newry
Police are investigating a spate of mysterious cat disappearances following a dramatic rise in reported incidents. The number of missing moggies stands at more than 70, mostly around the Newry area.
Emma O'Hare, from Pet Connections, in Newry, has been plotting each disappearance on a map. She described the situation as "extremely worrying".
"If it's one person then they are covering quite extensive ground. There are cases of multiple cats being targeted in the same area within a few days of each other," she told the Belfast Telegraph. "Every day we are adding more cats to the map and every day we are getting closer to finding connections and figuring out what is going on."
A PSNI spokesperson confirmed enquiries are ongoing.
The bizarre abductions were initially believed to have been concentrated in the Newry area but disappearances have been reported as far away as Dublin, Enniskillen and Ballymena, with the most recent case reported in Holywood.
More than 16 cats have vanished this month alone.
"They fit the same general pattern and owners are telling the same stories but I can't know for sure if they are linked," Emma said.
"There's something very strange going on and it's extremely worrying."
The animal welfare worker said she is aware of one "heartwrenching" situation which has left a Tandragee man caring for six helpless little kittens.
"The gentleman is in the process of building a new house and has been feeding stray cats," she explained.
"One of them gave birth to a litter-of-six but the mother has since vanished and he is now bottle-feeding the kittens - it's really sad."
Many of the missing felines were among the 500 stricken animals annually re-homed by Pet Connections, meaning that Emma has a strong bond with many of the cats who were once in her care.
"I'm as heartbroken as their owners are," she said. "I have been out every night looking but not one has turned up.
"If a cat is hit by a car it might run off somewhere to die, which might be hard to find in the country but not in bigger towns - yet they have completely disappeared."
Emma, who has been tirelessly gathering and poring over the evidence for the past three weeks, has handed a database over to the PSNI who have confirmed they are investigating the peculiar incidents.
Ms O'Hare has already expressed concern that someone might be imitating the 'Croydon Cat Killer', who was later dubbed the 'M25 Cat Killer'.
The twisted culprit, who is believed to be behind the death and mutilation of more than 250 cats - as well as dozens of foxes and rabbits since 2015 - had to be given a new nickname after more animals were found dead as far north as Manchester.
The spike in cases has heightened Emma's fears.
"This map shows very clearly that this is happening in towns and cities situated along an extensive stretch of motorway, which is exactly what has been happening in England," Emma added.
"Now cats are disappearing in the same way here and my fear that this could be something similar has only gotten worse."
Despite more than 1,000 hours of Metropolitan Police time dedicated to solving the chilling case since 'Operation Takahe' was officially launched in 2015, officers have turned up nothing.
But that hasn't deterred Emma from calling on anyone who believes their pet has fallen victim to the mystery cat prowler to contact police.
She added: "We are incredibly worried about the safety of these cats - I understand the police are busy and have limited resources, but causing harm or suffering to a cat is a criminal offence."
Emma urged pet owners to have their cats neutered and to keep them indoors.