A FORMER city student who broke his kitten’s jaw and caused what are believed to be burns to her head, has avoided prison – and was described as an “animal lover” by his solicitor.

Joe Purvis took his Maine Coon cat, named Indico, to a vet in November last year and she was found to have three fractures to her head.

The 12-week-old pet, bought for £50 several months earlier on Facebook, also had an open wound on the top of her head, and lost a leg while in Purvis' care.

Purvis, 25, admitted to giving the animal a “back-hander” after it had bitten him, but did not accept that the marks were caused by a burn. The court heard that he claimed the cat hit her head on a tap while he was trying to wash her.

The former student at Heart of Worcestershire College had already accepted a charge of causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal when he appeared before magistrates yesterday.

Sara Pratt, prosecuting, said the defendant had taken the kitten to vets the previous September and she had such severe injuries to her leg that they had no choice but to amputate it.

On November 9, Purvis then took her again to Coldicott & Kingsway Veterinary Clinic in Tewkesbury and was described by staff as smelling “overwhelmingly of cannabis”.

Mrs Pratt said he told vets he believed the cat had suffered a broken jaw due to him giving her a “back-hander the night before” after she’d defecated on his bed and bit him.

He also told them the open sore on her head was caused by her hitting her head while he washed faeces off her.

Purvis said to vets he “couldn’t cope with such a demanding animal” and that she was the “first and last” pet he would ever own.

Mrs Pratt said the defendant had been unable to sleep the night of the incident and had toyed with the idea of taking her somewhere to “let her go as a stray” but decided to take her to Coldicott clinic instead.

The vets told him Indico needed an x-ray, but he said he didn’t have any money and “did not want the cat” before becoming “verbally aggressive”.

When veterinary staff wouldn’t agree to take the kitten off him, he told them there was “no proof” he owned her anyway.

He added that if he was forced to take her home he would “let her go” and described the vets as “money grabbing” despite them offering to give some treatment for free.

The court heard Purvis then agreed to sign over the cat to the practice and started to fill out a document but then “screwed it up” and exited.

The cat was left at the vets where she was examined, and it was determined she had fractures to the eye and jaw.

While the wound to the head appeared to be a burn rather than a graze, as Purvis described it.

Mrs Pratt said vets said there was a “crunching of the bones” on the right-hand jaw bone.

The kitten’s general demeanour was said to be “nervous” in contrast to most young cats who are usually “bold and active” when going to the vets.

A representative from the RSPCA went to Purvis’ home later the same day and he agreed to sign over the cat to them and he was later interviewed at Malvern Police Station.

Mrs Pratt said “there was significant intervention in terms of operations to put right the injuries” which had proved costly to the vets as Purvis hadn’t paid any money.

Judith Kenny, defending, said her client did not accept that the secondary head injuries were caused by burns.

At a previous hearing, magistrates had accepted that this was immaterial to the charge as the fractures put the offence at the top of its category anyway.

Ms Kenny said she had seen pictures of the cat while she was living with Purvis and it was “happy and contented”.

She said her client had bought the pet a climbing structure and noticed she couldn’t climb properly so took her to vets on September 13 last year.

A cat owner herself, Ms Kenny said it is often the case that once a young cat goes through such trauma as a major operation and re-adjustment to life, they are “never the same”.

“The reality is, then she couldn’t defecate properly in her litter tray anymore,” she explained, and went on to say she believes Purvis was not properly told how to look after her after the amputation and “struggled with her”.

Referring to the day in November in which he struck the cat, Ms Kenny said: “Only he knows the truth of the matter.”

“Why would he take the kitten to the vets and admit what he had done if he didn’t have some compassion towards her?”

She said he became agitated at the vets because he “couldn’t afford to pay anymore” fees and had a hospital appointment later that morning.

She said he is often “impulsive” and “that’s part of his difficulties”.

At the last hearing in February, Ms Kenny had said her client suffers from mental health problems and magistrates had ordered a probation report, including details of medication, to be compiled.

Ms Kenny said: “He wants me to ensure that you are aware that he did the right thing. He took the cat to the vets. He didn’t do the right thing in hitting her and breaking her jaw.”

The solicitor went on to criticise the coverage of the previous hearing in the Worcester News and the subsequent comments on Facebook.

“There has been absolute vilification of him in the press. When I read some of the comments, I just couldn’t believe some individuals can’t see that there’s two sides to a story.”

“He is an animal lover,” she continued. “He accepts what he did on that day was not right and if he could put the clock back, he would.”

Charles Townsend, chair of the bench, said: “The injuries are horrific and because of that there’s no doubt in both of our minds that you have crossed the custody threshold. There’s high culpability and greater harm.”

Purvis was given 14 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months.

Mr Townsend said he had taken into account the fact that the defendant had taken the cat to the vets and had signed her over to the RSPCA.

Purvis, of William Tennant Way, Upton-upon-Severn, was ordered to pay court costs of £400 and a £115 victim surcharge.

He was banned from owning any animals for 10 years.

The court heard the cat has now been rehomed.