A STARTFORTH man is warning cat owners to keep their animals indoors after three of his beloved pets went missing.

The man, who does not want to be named, said the cats have disappeared from his home in the past four years – the most recent incident just three weeks ago.

He believes that “human intervention” is to blame.

The pet owner said: “There’s something around here that the cats can’t defend themselves against – whether that’s lurcher dogs or getting caught in snares or being shot.

“I’ve heard guns going off around here and I know that some people don’t like cats and see them as pests, but they become part of the family.”

The father-of-two first had cats when his daughter moved in with him, bringing her two Bengal cats – Hendrix and Dylan – with her.

He said: “They were bred in America for apartment living, so apparently wouldn’t want to go out but trying to keep them in was like pushing water up a hill, so we opened up the old cat flap and let them out.

“They’d been here for two years but one day, Hendrix just never came back home.

“We put an ad in the Mercury, checked the roads, phoned up the council to see if they’d been called out to pick up any dead cats, but nothing. We haven’t seen him to this day.”

Just as the family got accustomed to Hendrix not being around, his brother, Dylan, started to pine, so they bought an Egyptian mau cat, named Kosey.

They liked the breed so much, they bought another one.

When they arrived home with the latest arrival, Otis, they realised Kosey was missing.

“We went out knocking on doors, looking round the streets but nothing. He’d just vanished and never even got to meet the new cat – his brother from another litter. It was so strange.”

That was two years ago and the family hoped the spate of bad luck was over. But last month, Dylan had to be put to sleep due to an ongoing heart condition.

And when they returned from the vets, they realised Otis was not around.

“On the way home from the vets I said to my daughter, ‘At least we still have Otis at home’ but when we got there he was nowhere to be seen.”

The Startforth man said he believes humans are to blame for his cats going missing.

He said: “We did think they might have been stolen but they’ve been neutered so they would be worthless to a breeder, or to anyone showing cats.

“And if they had been knocked down there would have been a body. But we have no bodies – the worst thing is not knowing what’s happened to them.”

A neighbour has said their cat once came home with a snare attached to it. When it recovered, she let it outside again but it never came back.

“My take home message to other people with cats is to keep them indoors. You see posters up all the time about cats going missing – there’s definitely something going on around here but I can’t say for sure what.”

The family have now arranged to adopt another cat from the Ark on The Edge Animal Sanctuary in the village of Woodland – but they have closed the cat flap and plan to keep her indoors.

Have you seen anything unusual or do you know what happened to the family cats? Has your cat gone missing? If so, please get in touch with Kaye Jemmeson at the Teesdale Mercury on 0833 633609.