The ordeal for Richard and Samantha Byrnes began when a neighbour complained that 16-year-old Claude’s hair was too tangled and he was subsequently seized by inspectors.

Metro reported the family’s request to delay the procedure for a few hours to allow their children, Eloise and Dominic, to say ‘goodbye to a much-loved family member’ was also refused.

After the couple reluctantly agreed to put the cat to sleep, the RSPCA charged them with animal cruelty.

The issue only ended on Friday, some £5,000 later, when prosecutors dropped the case as it was ‘not in the public interest’ to pursue the charges.

Mr Byrnes, of Tring, Hertfordshire, told the Sunday Times that the Turkish van cat hated being groomed and would only have his coat trimmed under a vet’s anesthetic.

‘We had him before we had the children. His fur was so fine it would float on the air,’ he said.

‘The matting never bothered him, it was the de-matting he couldn’t stand.

‘I assumed the RSPCA was a nice cuddly charity that looked after animals but what they did to us was completely shocking.’

An RSPCA spokeswoman said the cat was destroyed on vets’ advice – even though a surgeon could not be certain that Claude was suffering. Paw-don me?

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