POLICE are hunting a callous thug who shot a pet cat dead with an air rifle.
Paolo managed to struggle back to his home in Edinburgh, wailing in pain, but had to be put down.
An X-ray showed an air rifle pellet lodged in the one-year-old’s chest.
Distraught Lesley Webster described the moment the stricken pet returned home. She said:”When he came into the house he was wailing, there was obviously something wrong with him.
“He was lying in a funny position and after he just fell over we took him to the vet.”
The 44-year-old added: “I was absolutely stunned, I was so upset. I just couldn’t believe someone would have the mentality to do something like that.”
Lesley was looking after her son Andrew’s cat, as the 24-year-old was away working in Aberdeen.
She has two cats of her own , Charlie and Corkie, who are also distraught at Paolo’s loss.
She said: “Poor Charlie is wandering around aimlessly, he doesn’t know where Paolo is. They were friends.”
Lesley fears the animal could have been deliberately lured by the shooter using food.
She said: “There’s a field behind our house. I had a look there’s a dead fox and some packets of food lying nearby.
“It seems like somebody’s been trying to tempt animals there.”
After appealing for information online and with friends, she said a neighbour had reported seeing damage from airgun pellets at a nearby pub.
She said: “A neighbour spotted four airgun pellet dents in the door of the pub. He reported it to the owner but nothing was done about it.
“I don’t know anyone who would have a gun like that.”
Police today appealed for information about the shooting in the Saughtonhall area of the city on Wednesday afternoon.
A Lothian and Borders police spokeswoman said: “This incident has left the owner understandably distressed, and we are asking anyone who may know what happened to get in touch.
“We are also appealing for anyone who may have been in the area in or around Saughtonhall Avenue on Wednesday afternoon and who may have seen someone with an air weapon, to contact us on 0131 311 3131.”
Despite their best efforts vets could not save Paolo as the pellet had most likely caused internal bleeding from a nicked liver, Lesley Webster said.
Lesley’s son Andrew Webster gave Paolo to his girlfriend Rachel Walker, 21, as a birthday present in 2010.
The cat was being looked after by Lesley at her house in Edinburgh.
Lesley Webster, said: “Andrew and Rachel are absolutely devastated, he’s really upset and his girlfriend is pretty cut up as well.
“With hindsight it seems the pellet nicked his liver as it went in.
“Paolo probably died from internal bleeding, or his heart might have given out in shock.”
The death of a two-year old boy in 2005 led to a row over airgun laws north of the border.
Andrew Morton, 2, was killed when he was shot with a pellet gun by Mark Bonini near his home in Easterhouse, Glasgow.
Andrew’s mum Sharon McMillan campaigned for an Andrew’s Law calling for a ban on airguns in Scotland at the time.
The Scottish government has been given powers over airgun laws by the UK but ministers have said they do not want to ban the weapons but will focus on better regulation and licensing.