A feud over ownership of a lost-and-found family moggy could leave two pet lovers having a catfight in court.

Lauren Terry, 18, of Sutton, is considering taking legal action to reclaim her cat Podge, which was rehomed by the RSPCA after being picked up as a stray after going missing from near her family home.

Her two-year-old tom has been renamed as Mr Darcy, and is living with a new owner, who has refused to give him back.

It has left the two cat lovers on a collision course for county court, if they cannot agree who should look after him.

Miss Terry, who is hoping to study law at university this September, states under English Law that a cat is property, and only ceases to be if you give the rights away.

But the new owner can claim the RSPCA takes on the ownership once a cat is ruled as stray, and passes on that ownership when the cat is rehomed.

The new owner has made it clear to the animal charity they do not want to give up the pet, after it made a strong bond with their other cat.

A RSPCA spokesman said: "Both can claim a legal right to the cat and if they cannot settle it between them, it will be a matter for the courts."

Miss Terry said: "I did everything I could to look for Podge when he went missing.

"To be told I can't not have him back is awful."

"We want to make a public appeal to whoever him to please return him to his loving, family home where he is sorely missed."

Podge went missing around mid-march. Miss Terry, a former student put up posters around her local area.

She also followed the advice on the RSPCA's website, reporting the animal missing, checking their lost pet register; putting up posters and contacting local animal welfare centres and vets in nearby and surrounding areas.

But her search turned up nothing. It was only checking the RSPCA website for rehomed strays that she found a photo of Podge.

An RSPCA spokesman said: "Clearly, the local branch rehomed the cat in good faith but if Lauren can prove ownership of the cat then we can go back to the adopters and again ask them to return the cat to the original owner.

"This is a very sad situation, but the RSPCA does find loving new homes for more than 34,000 animals a year and situations like this are thankfully extremely rare."