An Embsay family fears for the safety of its beloved cats.

Parish councillor Mark Wilson, wife Joanne Lloyd and children Christi, 18, and Thomas, 14, were left reeling after their pet cat, Otto, was shot by a mystery gunman.

And, while Otto survived, three of the family’s other cats, Ziggy, Casper and Tigger, have disappeared without trace in the past 18 months.

“We have some kittens and we are frightened about letting them out as we don’t know whether they will come back,” said 43-year-old Mark, who is a lecturer in Leeds.

“I initially put the disappearances down to a fox, but now I think that they may have been shot and dumped in someone’s bin. It is a horrible feeling – to think that someone living nearby is shooting cats.”

Otto was shot with an air rifle during the day on Wednesday, November 24.

“The cat was alright when I went to work in the morning, but by 5pm, it was lying in bed. It had blood in its fur and was unable to put its leg down.”

A subsequent trip to the vet revealed that an air pellet had travelled through Otto’s body and had become lodged under the skin behind its knee cap. It was lucky to survive.

“We have spent £600 on vets’ bills and it may be that Otto will have a permanent limp,” said Mark.

“It is very upsetting and I would ask people to be vigilant and report anything suspicious to the police.”

The shooting is being investigating by PC Andrew Stoyles, of Skipton Police.

He said: “There is a possibility that other similar incidents may have occurred in the area. It is of great concern that someone is injuring defenceless animals and we will do everything in our power to catch the offender.

“I am asking anyone who may have any information to contact me at Skipton Police Station on 101.”