AN animal rights campaigner has reacted with horror after she was sold a toy for her cat made of real cat hair, which is illegal in this country.

Pauline Burgess, aged 53, of Cotswold Road, Malvern, was disgusted to discover that toy mice she bought for her pet cat were made of real cat hair.

Miss Burgess bought the toy – three spring-mounted mice attached to a board – from PetMad in Bridge Street, Evesham, for her 15-year-old rescue cat Mimi.

But the texture of the fur on the product made her suspect that it was real cat hair and she sent it to Worcestershire County Council trading standards and then to campaigning organisation Respect for Animals, which analysed it.

She said: “I am horrified. Some of these cats and dogs are skinned alive in countries like China. I would never knowingly buy any sort of real fur.

“I was assured when I bought it that it was fake fur and I am concerned other people may be buying items like this for Christmas.”

Miss Burgess was also angry as she felt that trading standards had taken a long time to deal with her enquiry.

She wrote to them about her suspicions in June. A trading standards officer wrote to her the same month and told her an experienced senior officer had said the toys were not, in his opinion, real fur and that the matter would not be taken further.

But Respect for Animals examined the toys in detail and found the toys were made of artificial materials and real animal fur.

The organisation then alerted her of its findings so she could challenge trading standards over the decision not to pursue the matter.

Trading standards had an independent analysis conducted, which also showed it was cat hair.

In a letter to Miss Burgess earlier this month, Mark Strain, principal trading standards officer for the county council, wrote: “Examination of the fibres by light microscopy showed the fibres to be consistent with fine cat hairs.

“Regulations were introduced in December last year that introduced a criminal sanction banning the commercial import, export and sale of cat and dog fur.

“The results have been discussed with the retailer and I am assured no other products are in stock for sale.

“Enquiries as to the supplier of this pet toy have been traced through the distribution chain. The supplier has been identified by this service but originates outside the county boundary.”

He said it was not known where the product had originated from, only that it had been imported.

He said no further action would be taken unless evidence could be found that the product was more than a one-off.

Jill Strickland, manager at PetMad, said: “The product was bought in good faith from one of our suppliers.

“We were obviously horrified to find out that real animal fur had been used in the toy and we will not be ordering anything else from that supplier again.”