A man ended up in hospital with third-degree burns after tending to a cat left injured after getting covered in acid.
Police are investigating, but it is not known whether the cat came into contact with the acid accidentally, by bumping into a bottle or other container in a skip or garden shed, for instance, or whether it was deliberately targeted.
The cat, a three-year-old ginger and white tom called Ralph, was found to be suffering injuries to its fur and skin caused by an unknown substance when it returned to owner Karen Sanderson’s home in Blyth’s Osprey Drive after being let out last month.
Karen’s partner, Rob Davidson, was then injured too after coming into contact with the acid while picking up Ralph to see what was wrong.
A vet has confirmed that Ralph’s injuries were caused by some kind of industrial acid but could not be any more specific.
Rob, 41, a facilities attendant, was transferred to Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary for treatment to third-degree burns to his left arm after getting his injuries checked out at the casualty department at Ashington’s Wansbeck General Hospital.
Ralph also had to undergo extensive reconstructive surgery.
Sergeant Garry Neill, of Blyth’s neighbourhood policing team, said: “What’s concerning about this incident is exactly where and how the cat got these injuries.
“It could have been that it has got into a shed and rubbed up against a container with a chemical in it and that has caused the injuries – or it could be something more concerning, like a deliberate attempt to harm the animal.
“Either way, we would like to identify how and where this cat has suffered its injuries to ensure that whatever caused this damage can’t harm anyone else.
“The cat lives around the Osprey Drive area and doesn’t explore that far away from its home, so I’d appeal for anyone who lives in the area and may have any information to contact police.”
Rob said: “At first, my arm was stinging, but I didn’t think much of it. I was more worried about the cat.
“It has basically just burned a hole in my arm. I could feel it burning pretty much straight away, but I just washed it off.
“It was a purple-coloured liquid that smelled strongly of sulphur, and it turned black when it was on my arm.”
Karen, also 41, a care assistant and mum of two, added: “It’s just unbelievable that Rob is so badly injured just from picking up a cat.
“I’m absolutely disgusted that anyone could do this. I have done nothing but cry since it happened.”
Anyone able to help pinpoint the cause of Ralph and Rob’s injuries is asked to call police on 03456 043043 ext 69191.