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Thursday, 8 June, 2000, 20:50 GMT 21:50 UK
Interpol appeal for kidnapped kitty

Euro cat breeders could be to blame for the theft
Ports and airports are on the lookout for a stolen cat worth an estimated 250,000.

Even Interpol have been alerted in the hunt for Toni, the long-haired Turkish Angora, believed to be the only thoroughbred male of its type in Britain.

Catnappers bundled the precious puss into a bag during a well planned raid on the Lowestoft home of his owners Peter and Joy Collins.


Toni represents the future for the breed

Cat owner Peter Collins

Mr Collins, 43, almost foiled the thieves when he disturbed a hooded woman hiding in the garden by Toni's locked cat run.

"The woman had him in a cat carrier inside a holdall but when I challenged her she sprinted off," he said.

"I chased her and saw her getting into an estate car with foreign plates that had its engine running. She jumped in and the car roared off before I reached it."

Ancient breed

Police fear Euro cat breeders may be behind the theft as it follows attempts by an unscrupulous dealer in Germany to buy the cat.

Toni is not only worth a King's ransom but he is also the only survival hope for the future of the breed that was once the favourite of European Royalty.

Only a handful of the ancient breed are left on the Continent and the Collins are taking part in a 40-year breeding programme based at Ankara Zoo in a bid to save the species.

The couple bought the silky-haired tortoiseshell - real name Antonio B Pinardin - for 1,500 before he was born.

A devastating outbreak of an AIDS-like cat disease in Turkey means that Toni could be the last male in the programme capable of breeding.

Thoroughbred

Mr Collins said Toni's worth as a stud cat could exceed 250,000 as breeders struggle to keep the bloodline going - and prices soar.

"Turkish Angoras are among the most prized cats in the world," he said.

Turkish Angora cats:
Popular with royalty
Possibly the oldest longhair breed
Colours include black, blue, red, cream and silver
Angora wool is made from rabbits, not cats

"Toni represents the future for the breed and so his value is priceless. He is a thoroughbred just like racehorses are thoroughbreds."

Mr Collins said cat breeding could be a multi-million-pound business but some people were prepared to go to any lengths to get what they wanted.

"I am worried that whoever has taken him will drug or sedate him in order to smuggle him out of the country," he said.

"They are sedate creatures and don't like disturbance."

A spokeswoman for Suffolk police said they were concerned the suspects may try to take the cat overseas.

"We have issued an all ports warning and Interpol have been contacted," she said.

"Anyone who has any information should contact PC Michelle Deal on 01986 835131."

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