Shock after airgun pellet found lodged in cat's head

A cat rescued from a life on the streets was discovered to have an airgun pellet lodged behind his nose after his carers noticed blood when he sneezed.

By David Sedgwick
Thursday, 2nd June 2022, 10:13 am
Leo is recovering after being found to have been shot by an air rifle.
Leo is recovering after being found to have been shot by an air rifle.

Six-year-old tabby Leo had been living as a stray in North Shields when he was admitted to Cats Protection’s Tyneside Adoption Centre.

He immediately endeared himself to his staff and volunteers with his friendly and playful nature.

After staff noticed him sneezing a lot, an x-ray was taken and staff were shocked to find the problem being caused by an airgun pellet, but with no visible entry wound, it was determined Leo must have been shot some time ago.

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Leo and the x-ray showing where the pellet was lodged.

Centre manager Beni Benstead said: “We booked Leo in to see the vet as there could have been any number of things causing the nasal problems but an airgun pellet was not one we’d considered.

“There is no way of knowing how Leo came to have the pellet lodged behind his nose and it doesn’t bare thinking about that it might have been deliberate.

“The x-rays were really quite shocking and an initial non-surgical attempt to remove it was unsuccessful as there was too much inflammation.

“Leo came back to us with a prescription to treat the inflammation and any infection, and a couple of weeks later he was admitted back to the hospital for more extensive surgery – this time involving two veterinary surgeons, in which they cut into his pallet and brought the pellet out that way.”

Fiona Brockbank, Cats Protection’s Field Vet, said: “Having the pellet lodged where it was would have been painful and was causing sneezing, heavy nose bleeds and chronic irritation and infection of the sensitive tissues in the area.

“This was a very intricate operation. Leo will enjoy a much better quality of life now it has been removed.”

In all, Leo had 10 vet appointments, including the two attempts to remove the pellet, costing the charity upwards of £1,600.

After a recovery period lasting several weeks, Leo has bounced back and has returned to being an affectionate and playful cat.

Beni added: “There were some kind people feeding Leo while he was on the streets and we are grateful they contacted us for help and we were able to bring him into care.

"Our volunteers and staff have loved having Leo at the centre but the next step is to find him a super home where he will be able to live out a stress-free life.”

Cats Protection is campaigning for the licensing of air guns, which already exists in Scotland and Northern Ireland, to be introduced in England and Wales.

Madison Rogers, Head of Advocacy & Government Relations at Cats Protection, said: “At Cats Protection we often hear terrible stories of cats like Leo who have suffered injuries as a result of an air gun attack.

“The misuse of air guns is also a concern for the wider community and the safety of everyone in local neighbourhoods.

"Prevention is always better than prosecution, and a modern sensible approach of air gun licensing is needed to deter the shootings of cats and other animals.”

Anyone interested in adopting Leo can contact the Tyneside Adoption Centre on 0191 6531052 or visit for more details.