EVEN for animals reputed to have nine lives, vets had little belief that they could save a cat aptly named 'Hope'.
Yesterday they described X-ray images showing 30 shotgun pellets embedded inside the injured pet as "horrific".
Five-year-old Hope was found by her owner earlier this month near the village of Great Walsingham in Norfolk, England.
At first they thought she had been mauled by a dog because she had suffered wounds all over her body.
But when Hope was transferred to the All Creatures Healthcare centre in Norwich, pellets were found peppered across her body.
Vets managed to remove about 10 pellets, but some had to be left because of fears it could cause more damage if surgeons tried to take them out.
Hope is also suffering from a fractured toe as a result of the shooting.
Danah Fadhel, animal care supervisor at the nearby RSPCA PAWS centre where Hope is recovering, said: "Hope is a lovely cat and it is just sad that someone has deliberately shot at her, it is just horrific.
"She is getting a lot of love and attention at the centre, and we hope that once she has made a full recovery we will be able to find her the loving new home that she deserves."
The branch will look after Hope until she is well enough to be rehomed, and she will require further vet checks for several weeks.
RSPCA inspector Amy Collingsworth, who is investigating the incident, said: "Hope is a really friendly and lovely cat, and it is hard to understand why someone would want to shoot an innocent animal.
"She is lucky to have survived. The RSPCA is investigating this incident and we would appeal to anyone who has any information regarding this shooting to contact us."