BRANDON -- Bloody and motionless, Rikki Smith’s grey and white tabby cat was lying on her deck under the morning sun.
One-year-old Le Neige, a feline that was saved from an animal shelter just six months ago, was shot right through her stomach under the cover of darkness early Saturday morning near Smith’s Bison Way home on Brandon’s North Hill.
The cat survived, though when her owner found her, she was agitated, growling and frightened.
Smith let the cat out just before midnight last Friday, something she said was unusual as Le Neige rarely goes outside after it gets dark.
"But that evening, she ran out the door and I tried for a little bit to find her, but she’s a cat, I thought she’d come home," she said. "When I opened the patio door in the morning, she was sitting there. She was all bloody on her stomach. I originally thought she got into a catfight, so I washed her up."
It wasn’t until Tuesday following the Canada Day long weekend that Smith took the cat to a veterinarian, who told her Le Neige had suffered a serious gunshot wound.
Smith doesn’t believe authorities will ever find out who pulled the trigger and it’s unclear what type of gun was used, but she said she believes it was something bigger than a BB gun.
Const. Kirby Sararas of the Brandon Police Service said it will be very difficult to get traction in the case since the cat likely ventured far from home when she was shot.
"We would have to know who did it, and unfortunately with cats, because often owners will let them out at night, it’s very hard to know," Sararas said.
Sararas said the offence could lead to charges of animal injury and careless use of firearms, which, according to the Canadian Legal Information Institute, carries a maximum of five years and two years in jail, respectively.
"It depends on where the investigation leads," Sararas said.
Tracy Munn, shelter manager at the Brandon Humane Society, didn’t mince words when she found out about the incident.
"If you’re running around with a gun, you can get yourself shot (by police), not that I have a problem with that ... I don’t care if they get shot," she said.
Munn said domestic animals getting shot is almost unheard of in Brandon, but slightly more common in rural areas, where many farmers use guns to protect livestock from coyotes and other wild animals.
"But you can’t just pop something off because it wanders by," she said. "You can’t just have a gun in the city and shoot it."
Meanwhile, Smith said her cat is still recovering and isn’t out of the woods quite yet.
"She’s lucky to be alive. The thing that saved her is that she’s kind of chubby; they said that was the only thing that kind of saved her.
"I don’t know if this was just an accident or if it’s something that someone is actively doing, so I want to make sure other pet owners keep their animals safe."
Le Neige remains skittish and on guard, Smith said, with her eight remaining lives intact.