Queensland cat owner Francis Bakvis made the stomach-churning discovery after launching a search for his 16-year-old feline companion Tiger, who had been missing from his Clifton Beach home for several days.

After noticing a bad smell in his yard Mr Bakvis discovered the bloated body of a 3.5m-long scrub python. When he went to move the deceased reptile the body broke open – revealing that the snake had swallowed poor Tiger but had seemingly bitten off more than it could chew.

“I pulled the dead snake on to the lawn, and a bit of its skin was already decomposing,” said Mr Bakvis, as reported in the Cairns Post. “I could see – there was my cat.”

Mr Bakvis said that black-and-grey striped Tiger usually slept outdoors on the veranda. “It was pretty miserable to see him go that way,” he said. “He was getting old and not 100 per cent clear in his little brain sometimes. But he’d still be OK, never been sick or anything, and all of a sudden he’s no longer there. To find him in the stomach of a snake is not pretty.”

Pythons are constrictors – they are not poisonous, but coil themselves around their prey to squeeze them to death. They also have hinged jaws, which enable them to swallow prey far bigger than themselves. Scrub pythons can grow to more than 8m in length, and have been known to eat kangaroos.

Cairns snake catcher and vet Dr Jack Shield said scrub pythons were also renowned locally for consuming dogs and cats. He added that snakes could sometimes end up being poisoned by cats’ flea collars – although it is not thought that Tiger had anything round his neck.

“They’ve got an insecticide built into them and it’s meant to kill lice and fleas and so on, but it is toxic, and if an animal eats it, it’s enough to kill them,” said Dr Shield, who urged pet owners to keep their animal indoors at night. “You need to protect your cats first, but also to protect any other animals that might want to eat your cat,” he told the newspaper.