PET owners are being urged to be vigilant after a spate of suspected cat poisonings in Darlington.

At least four cats have died of suspected poisoning in recent weeks in the Westmoreland Street area of town and residents are concerned that somebody is laying down anti-freeze in a bid to kill stray cats in the neighbourhood.

Lyn Ford has lived in the area for 32-years and is among several residents who put food out for the strays.

She said it was “heartbreaking” to see them die in agony.

“My daughter looked out the living room window and says ‘mum, you shouldn’t look’,” said Mrs Ford.

“This big ginger tom that had been right as rain and perfectly healthy the night before was crawling on its tummy in the back yard with its two back legs straight out behind it.

“By the time I went out it was dead.

“I am not a cat lover to be honest, but you don’t like to see them suffer like that; it was heartbreaking, it was crying in pain.”

Mrs Ford described seeing blackened saliva around the cat’s mouth and she is one of several residents to have noticed an increase in deaths and disappearances in the North Road cat community.

Her neighbour, Linda Hardy, reported the matter to the Darlington and Wear Valley Cats Protection League who have posted online warnings to pet owners.

Mrs Hardy said: “We definitely think people are doing it on purpose, it can’t be any other thing.

“A vet has said they are almost certain it is antifreeze because of the way it shuts their organs down so they can’t move even though they are still alive.

“It is absolutely terrible.

“There are a lot of feral cats around here; we try and help the Cats Protection catch as many as they can so they can be neutered and spayed.

“But you can only do so much and it is such a shame what is happening to them.”

Cats Protection take in and neuters as many strays as it can but at the moment its fostering network for the Darlington and Wear Valley branch is stretched to capacity.

Anybody who can help the charity deal with strays in the Darlington area can contact Cats Protection on 0845-313-4749.

Anyone who knows who is responsible for the suspected poisonings should contact the RSPCA on 07972-368602.