Why isn't anyone catching the phantom cat shaver of Chatham?

As beloved pets are abducted and then returned to distraught owners without large patches of fur, MARK EDMONDS asks, why isn’t anyone catching the phantom cat shaver of Chatham?

  • Cats in Chatham, Kent targeted by ‘phantom shaver’ has left locals worried
  • READ MORE: ‘Phantom Cat Shaver’ believed to have targeted nearly 100 pets

Monday afternoon and spring sunshine is creeping into Ansell Avenue, a quiet, suburban street in Chatham, the Medway town once home to Charles Dickens.

This is a pleasant place to live, with its carefully mown grass verges, blossoming trees and neat semi-detached homes.

Two well-groomed cats are lazing in the sun on a terracotta doorstep. All seems well but, ominously, their owner — a lady who prefers not to be named for fear of reprisals — tells the Mail that, in recent weeks, Florence and Boofy have been showing signs of anxiety. And with good cause, it seems.

When the Mail visited, the residents of this tranquil street were enjoying the first day of the Easter bank holiday weekend.

Night-time tells a different story, however. From dusk onwards, Ansell Avenue and its immediate environs is being terrorised by a crime wave that is proving as inexplicable as it is unsolvable.

Natasha McPhee, CEO of the rescue group Animals Lost and Found, with her cat Lola who has been taken by the phantom cat shaver of Chatham and had her belly shaved

A cat that was taken and shaved earlier this year leaving it with nasty nicks across its back

The perpetrator — or, more likely, perpetrators — almost certainly lives in the local area, which makes the epidemic all the more chilling. The modus operandi of the serial criminal is horribly distinctive.

READ MORE: ‘Phantom Cat Shaver’ is believed to have targeted nearly 100 pets with hair clippers, sparking nationwide investigation



At least one animal rescue group has received dozens of reports of cats being abducted, shaved and then returned to their owners, sometimes missing patches of fur on their undersides.

In the most extreme cases, owners report that their cats have been shorn completely — to the extent that they resemble hairless Sphynx cats.

Similar cases have been reported to animal welfare charities and the police all over Britain in recent weeks. Incidents have occurred in Brighton and Birmingham, and even as far north as Aberdeen.

The epicentre of the outbreak is without doubt Ansell Avenue, where at least half a dozen cats have been shaved in the past few weeks. Here, cat owners — and, understandably, their cats — are living in fear, knowing it cannot be long before the electric clippers are wielded again.

Take Ozzy. He lives on the street and has been shaved no fewer than seven times in the past year.

His concerned owner, a young mother, Donnamarie Ellis, told the Mail: ‘It is incredibly creepy. At first, we thought he had been attacked by another cat. But it’s not just one patch. The fur has come off in chunks.

‘We try to keep Ozzy in the house, especially after dark, but he still manages to escape. Every time he gets out, he comes back with extra patches missing — it looks like someone’s got a beard trimmer and they shave him. There is something very weird about it.’

Donnamarie has reported the shaving episodes but has been told there is nothing Kent police can do, since no criminal offence has taken place.

Shaving a cat is not looked upon as a crime. But Donnamarie said: ‘It’s animal abuse and that is a crime. The RSPCA prosecute people all the time. The truth is that the police can’t be bothered and they just want to fob me off.’

Were these disturbing episodes a one-off, and Ozzy the only local feline to have fallen foul of the phantom shaver, the evidence might suggest that just one person is involved.

But reports of similar attacks — copycat assaults, perhaps — have poured into local welfare groups all over the country.

A cat that was shaved by the phantom cat shaver leaving a huge empty patch of fur on its back

A cat which had its belly shaved by the phantom cat saver

A cat which was taken and shaved earlier this year leaving it with bare patches of fur on its legs

Poor cat George, who was shaved by the phantom shaver in Kent

The elusive attacker is feared to be targeting pet cats with hair clippers and cruelly removing their fur

A report of the crime wave even ended up in the foreign news pages of the Washington Post last month.

Meanwhile, Natasha McPhee, CEO of the rescue group Animals Lost and Found in Kent, has methodically put together a map of all the UK’s cat-shaving incidents.

In Kent alone, she has discovered that the number of attacks runs to almost 100 over the past year or so.

One owner, fundraiser Linda Rollason, who now lives in the West Midlands, told the Mail that two of her cats have been shaved. One, Biscuit, was taken from her then home in Brighton — before the shaver struck again.

‘When I moved up here, one of Biscuit’s kittens, Spook — she’s all-white and looks like a ghost — was also abducted and shaved. It was horrible — and I was furious,’ said Linda.

Natasha McPhee first became aware of this extraordinary phenomenon about five years ago when one of her cats, Lola, returned home freshly shaved and clearly traumatised.

‘Afterwards, Lola was having trouble urinating,’ said Natasha, who looks after a menagerie of rescue dogs and cats with her partner, Dee Potter.

‘We took her to the vet, who told us that, in cats, this is an obvious sign of distress — leaving aside the marks made by the person who shaved her.

‘Even now, you can still see it — the patch that was shaved grew back with curly fur. We were obviously very unhappy with what happened.’

Since she started to map the attacks, Natasha has built up a picture of the shaver’s — or shavers’ — methods. She is convinced that they are using a hand-held. battery-powered, cordless trimmer.

‘A mobile generator would be too noisy,’ she said.

Most of the attacks seem to take place at night. Natasha has considered several motives: ‘We have thought it might be a TikTok craze and that kids are shaving the cats in their area for a laugh.

‘But the thing is that TikTok crazes invariably involve some degree of narcissism — it is only fun if your face is featured.

‘And nobody would want to be filmed shaving a cat, as they’d end up being identified. More likely, I’m convinced that some of these people have a sinister hatred of cats.

‘Sometimes, when I have posted details on social media about the latest attacks, I have seen brash, horrible, anonymous comments. Things like: “I hate cats because they kill birds”; “I hate cats because they poo in my garden”; “I hate cats because they rip up my flowers”.

‘Yes, they might, but maybe these people should spend more time in their gardens and the cats would stay away. Unlike dogs, cats tend to keep to themselves.’

A map showing where the phantom cat shaver has struck in Kent and London in the south east

Traumatised: Ansell Avenue in Kent — where some of these felines were taken from and shaved

Some people on Ansell Avenue are still treating the epidemic as a joke, asking our reporter and photographer if it was a late April Fools’ Day prank.

One resident, with a smirk on his face, said: ‘We all know that it’s very important to have a hobby. Each to their own, I say.’

Natasha, understandably, fails to see the funny side. She has met many of the devastated cat-owners whose pets have been returned, not just with shaved fur, but sometimes with injuries, too.

And Samantha Watson, a cat behaviour expert for the RSPCA, told the Mail: ‘They’re going to find the process of being held down and shaved very distressing, especially because it’s done by a stranger.’

Natasha fears that cat-shaving may turn out to be what criminologists and law enforcement experts call a ‘gateway’ crime that can lead to far more serious offences.

While animal charities such as the RSPCA and Cats Protection are taking the attacks seriously, so far no one in Kent or anywhere else in the UK has been taken to court.

As for the police, a spokesperson suggested it was for the RSPCA to deal with, because it is the ‘lead agency’ in prosecuting cases of cruelty and animal welfare.

But the RSPCA pointed out that the charity receives millions of calls every year from people concerned about animal cruelty, adding: ‘We have to prioritise the emergencies.’ Needless to say, this is far from the first cat-related crime spree this country has seen over the years.

In 2021, Brighton security guard Steven Bouquet was jailed for five years for stabbing to death nine cats and maiming seven more over several months.

He was eventually caught on CCTV injuring a cat with a knife and leaving a trail of blood. Known as the Brighton Cat Killer, he died of cancer last year. Another series of gruesome attacks — initially thought to be the work of a human killer operating in Croydon, South London, and in which hundreds of cats were maimed or killed — was eventually attributed to foxes. The police spent more than £130,000 on the three-year investigation.

Natasha is convinced that these shaving attacks have the potential to turn into something far more serious. ‘Who knows whether or not cat shaving is some kind of sexual fetish?’ she said.

‘It wouldn’t surprise me if there are cat-shaving groups lurking in secret on the dark web. They aren’t going to call themselves “cat shavers”. They will have a much more innocuous name such as, say, Feline Enthusiasts.

‘They are far cleverer than that — but they really need to be brought to book.’

For the residents and cats of Ansell Avenue — and elsewhere in Britain — the day when the perpetrators are caught cannot come too soon.

For the moment, however, the cats and their owners look as though they will be facing the spring and summer months locked inside their homes, cowering in the shadow of a ruthless set of battery-powered clippers.

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