Northern Ireland family tell of devastation as three pet cats killed by poisoning in just four days
A Co Antrim family has been left devastated after their three cats were all fatally poisoned within just days of each other.
Mischa, Lillie and Oscar had all been adopted into the Carmichael family and should have enjoyed long and happy lives in their loving home.
But tragedy struck when, shortly after moving to Ballyclare, all three of the precious pets fell ill and had to be put down within four days.
Mischa was put to sleep last Wednesday, then Lillie on Friday and Oscar on Saturday.
The loss of the three cats left the family's three children, Taylor (9), Joshua (8) and two-year-old Jorja, "inconsolable".
Owner Cherith Carmichael said: "I just don't understand why anyone would do this.
"When we adopted the cats we thought we were giving them a better life. We never expected anything like this would ever happen. I am disgusted with whoever has done this. They were our family pets and we loved them so much. They didn't need to die in this slow and painful way - it's just so cruel.
"Mischa was the friendliest of all of them, never clawed or bit anyone and was so nurturing and affectionate.
"Lillie treated everyone as if they had leprosy and would never let anyone come near her, so when she just let me pet her I thought she was grieving.
"What we didn't realise at the time was that she was actually dying. We realised something was wrong when Mischa wasn't eating and then was sick in the garage, but when she got to the vet it was too late.
"With all three of them, their heads were just hanging like they didn't have the strength to lift them up.
"Even when I brought them tuna they weren't interested."
The vet who treated the cats said it did not seem the deaths were caused by rat poison or anti-freeze, which cats can mistakenly digest.
Instead, it seemed as though someone may have been targeting the family pets.
The deaths follow reports of a cat killer who is thought to be responsible for the abductions and deaths of hundreds of cats across Ireland. More than 324 missing pets have been logged into a database by Emma O'Hare from Pet Connection in an attempt to understand why the animals are disappearing.
However, it is not yet known if Mischa, Lillie and Oscar's deaths are related to this.
More than 100 of the deaths were reported in Co Down, mainly around Newry.
Emma said: "Eighty percent of the cats that are going missing are neutered so there's no reason someone would want to steal them.
"It always seems to be the same pattern - they are family cats who never stray or leave home and they just disappear."
Emma's map shows a distinct pattern of disappearances along the M1 between Belfast and Dublin. She urged urging cat owners living in the hotspots to keep their pets indoors.
In the last month, approximately 19 cats per week have either gone missing or been found dead in Ireland, with four to five going missing at one time.
It has sparked concerns that someone may be imitating the 'M25 Cat Killer' in England.
The mystery culprit started the killing spree in south London. They were initially dubbed the 'Croydon Cat Killer', but then given the new nickname after dead animals were discovered as far north as Manchester.