A MAN who strangled a kitten during a boozy row with his partner was spared jail after a court heard his actions were “out of character”.

Gary Pitcher killed the animal, called Baby, at an address in Basildon on June 16, after downing three glasses of wine.

Basildon Magistrates’ Court heard the 46-year-old was found “covered in blood” when police arrived and told them: “I have killed the kitten.”

Pitcher, of Langdon Hills, Basildon, admitted causing unnecessary suffering to an animal and assaulting his partner by pushing her head with his open palm.

Philip Pearson, prosecuting, said: “Police were called to an address in Basildon with reports that a man had killed a kitten.

“He was covered in blood, his clothes were seized by police for evidence.”

Mr Pearson said police initially raced to the scene fearing an even more grim incident had taken place because the woman who dialled 999 said: “He’s killed Baby.”

Mr Pearson said: “The defendant described a red mist and said ‘things just happened’.

“Having been in the relationship for 18 months this development has occurred.

“He had been drinking some glasses of wine, about three glasses. This was a very distressing incident for the parties involved.”

The court heard the victim has a number of other cats and Mr Pearson said the pair could rekindle the relationship, meaning an animal banning order should be made.

Matthew Bone, mitigating, said: “This is a 46-year-old man with no previous convictions and this is wholly out-of-character.

“He admitted the offences in police interview. Both parties called police and it was Mr Pitcher who told officers he had pushed his partner.

“The killing of the kitten was grotesque and extraordinary. It was an aberration. He is still shocked and horrified by his actions.”

Mr Bone added that it would be “ridiculous” to ask the court not to make an animal banning order.

Pitcher appeared in court via videolink from prison, where he has been held since the incident. Mr Bone said: “He’s lost his job as a result of being inside. He’s going to have to come out and look for work.”

Paul Brandis, chairman of the bench, said Pitcher’s actions were “distasteful” but accepted he has shown “remorse”.

He said: “It caused suffering to the kitten. This is aggravated by the fact that this was a domestic argument.

“The killing of the kitten was used as a control mechanism against your partner.”

Pitcher was handed a 12 week prison sentence, suspended for 18 months. He was ordered to take part in a relationships course and pay £250 compensation.

Magistrates also made an order banning Pitcher from keeping or being in control of any animal in any way for the next two years.