ANIMAL welfare officers admit they do not know if seven cats that have died in one Highland community were deliberately or accidently poisoned by anti-freeze.

Seven cats have been poisoned in and around Culloden, but how or why is not clear, according to the Scottish SPCA. In the latest incident, the charity was alerted after a four-year-old cat, named Biffy, returned to his home on Walker Crescent on May 1 with symptoms consistent with being poisoned. His condition was so severe vets had no option but to put him to sleep.

It follows the deaths of three cats from Walker Crescent in March 2012 and three cats from nearby Hazel Avenue between April 2013 and January this year, all from anti-freeze poisoning.

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The fluid, which protects vehicles in the winter, can prove dangerously tasty to animals with an estimated 10,000 dogs and cats poisoned annually in the UK from just a few licks, often leading to a very painful death.

An e-petition, signed by 4,000 people was lodged with the UK Government this month calling for ministers to act to insist a bittering agent is added to anti-freeze in the future.

The Scottish SPCA has issued a fresh warning to pet owners in Culloden, on the eastern periphery of Inverness after the latest cat died.

Senior Inspector Andy Brown said anifreeze "causes tremendous suffering if ingested ".