A cat died of horrific injuries after he was gunned down by a modified high-powered air rifle fitted with a laser light.
Valerie and Keith Edmondson's pet cat, Duchy, was targeted near their home in Heswall, Merseyside, in a "deliberate and brutal act of cruelty", the RSPCA said.
A neighbour in Sandham Grove reported hearing a gunshot at about 10.30pm on Friday and when she looked out of her window she saw a red laser coming from a nearby field.
When she went to investigate she saw Duchy writhing in pain after struggling to climb a fence.
Duchy was rushed to the vet's by Mrs Edmondson but he did not survive.
An X-ray revealed a bullet entered just behind his front leg and fragmented the bone before it shattered into tiny pieces and caused shrapnel-type wounds near the entry wound and into the chest.
Mrs Edmondson said: "He was my son's cat but I inherited him five years ago and can't tell you how much pleasure he brought me. He was gorgeous and loved to follow me around the house but would also enjoy going in the garden and exploring nearby.
"He was in terrible pain from his injuries. He was wailing, it was awful to see him suffer so much.
"I just hope someone can help the RSPCA find the person responsible so no-one else has to go through what we have. I also worry that a person could have been shot as the gun was aimed towards houses."
RSPCA inspector Anthony Joynes, who is investigating the incident, said: "Based on these injuries and the laser light the neighbour saw, it is believed the gun used was a probably an air rifle which had been modified to be high-powered.
"It is obviously really concerning that someone was in that area with this type of weapon and used it to shoot towards some residential properties."
Anyone with information should contact the RSPCA appeals line on 0300 123 8018.
The RSPCA said it receives almost 1,000 calls every year to investigate cases and help hundreds of animals that are victims of air gun attacks.
Inspector Joynes added: "It is very distressing to think that people take pleasure in causing such horrific injuries to defenceless animals. These are deliberate and brutal acts of cruelty.
"We are supporting Cats Protection's call for tighter controls on air weapons. This along with better education and explanation of the law when buying an air gun, and requirements that everyone must receive basic safety training before being allowed to walk out of the shop could help relieve the problem.
"These weapons cause horrific pain and suffering and it is illegal. Anyone caught deliberately using an air gun to injure an animal can be up to six months in prison and/or an unlimited fine if found guilty under the Animal Welfare Act."