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Ema Rush, from Canterbury, speaks of horror at finding missing cat was put down and kept in vet's freezer

Grief-stricken owners of a missing cat have told of their horror at hearing it had been put down and was in a vet’s freezer.

Ema Rush and daughter Isabella raced to the Barton Veterinary Hospital following a tip-off that their adored pet, Tom, had been safely handed in.

But flustered staff broke the news that Tom had been put down days earlier, and produced his frozen body from cold storage.

Isabella cuddles Tom the cat
Isabella cuddles Tom the cat

Ms Rush is furious that the decision to end their pet’s life, taken by the Vets Now out-of-hours service which operates at the site, was made without her knowledge.

She claims she had already rung round the city’s vets, including the Barton clinic, and had been assured no cats had been handed in.

“Tom was an adored pet who was nearly 20 years old,” she told our sister paper, the Kentish Gazette.

“He was thin, as older cats often are, but he was in fine health when he went missing,”

Ms Rush's daughter Isabella with Tom
Ms Rush's daughter Isabella with Tom

Tom disappeared after venturing from the family home in Albion Place, off Northgate in Canterbury.

Students found the animal wandering in the area and had initially fed him before handing him into the vets in New Dover Road for care.

Days later the students spotted a ‘missing cat’ poster in the neighbourhood and called the Rush family with the news that Tom was safe and well.

“We were over the moon, though we thought it odd as Barton Vets had previously told us no cats had been handed in,” said Ms Rush.

"It was awful. He was curled up. A frozen cat" - Ema Rush

“I went straight over to pick him up. My daughter came along as she couldn’t wait to see him.

“The staff seemed really embarrassed, the girls were just looking round nervously. They called us into this room, then one said ‘I’m afraid he’s dead. We have his body next door’.

“It was awful. He was curled up. A frozen cat.”

Barton vets have investigated the incident, which happened in April.

The decision to euthanise, they say, was taken by emergency animal specialists Vets Now, a separate company which operates the out-of-hours clinic at the surgery.

Vets Now says it had no choice but to put Tom down.

In a letter to the family from Vets Now, client care consultant Kirsty Purvis states that the cat had no microchip or collar.

Ema Rush, whose cat was put down without her knowing
Ema Rush, whose cat was put down without her knowing

She writes: “It was noted that he [Tom] was in poor body condition, which is to say he was very thin.

“He was admitted and provided with nursing support overnight, he drank a lot of water, but ate very little.”

She goes on to write that Tom received “supportive overnight treatment” but that his breathing deteriorated the following day and that he appeared to be distressed. The duty veterinary surgeon “assessed Tom as benefiting from euthanasia”, says the letter.

Ms Rush, who runs a property restoration company, says she is appalled.

Isabella with Tom the cat
Isabella with Tom the cat

“We absolutely do not accept he had any breathing problems, dehydration, or lack of appetite at the time when he was left in their care, and find it surprising that all these problems developed over a matter of days,” she said.

“The students confirm that he had a great appetite, and was fine – they only took him to the vet because they did not know what to do with him and they assumed he would be safest there.”

The clinic has been approached directly for a response.

A spokesman for Barton Veterinary Hospital said: “We do not hold any records of this case because at no time was the cat in our care.”

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