PET owners have been warned to be extra-vigilant after a spate of reports of cats being poisoned by antifreeze.

Staff at Basildon-based Cherrydown Vets, say they are unsure if someone is deliberately poisoning the pets, or if it is happening by accident.

Practice owner Jonathan Nurse said five poisoned cats had been brought in in just six weeks and it had only been possible to save one of them.

He said: “It’s not unusual to have antifreeze poisoning cases in cats, but we’ve never before seen a cluster of them together in the summer.

“We don’t know whether it is significant or just an accident.

They have all been from Basildon, but not from one particular area.”

Vets across the borough usually see more poisoned cats in the winter because more drivers use antifreeze at that time of year and have it sitting around.

However, it is unusual for them to see any cases during the summer.

Mr Nurse said the surgery did consider reporting the incidents to the police, but decided not to, as it had no proof the posioning was deliberate.

He added: “The toxic compound in the antifreeze is also in screenwash for cars. It could be someone has spilled some and not cleaned it up.

“Cats really do only need to drink a very small amount to be affected and they do seem attracted to it. By the time the symptoms show, it’s often too late to do anything about it, unfortunately.”

The surgery is appealing to drivers to make sure they clear up any spillages of antifreeze and screen wash, no matter how small.

Mr Nurse said he would be keeping an eye out for any more cases to see if a pattern was emerging.

He added: “If you do clean it up then it will make a difference.”