A PET-loving family claim an RSPCA inspector ordered them to put down their beloved cat when it was only suffering from fleas.
Pensioners Angelina and Sydney Levy say they were told 19-year-old tabby, Sooty-Twinkle was half starved, blind and had suffered liver failure during a visit from animal welfare worker Ian Smith.
But when they took him to the vet to have him put down, they were told the cat was suffering from the "Vampire Effect" because of blood sucking fleas which had left him anaemic.
Now they are demanding an apology from the RSPCA and warning other pet owners to get a second opinion before they put their animals down.
The couple's son Silvano, a senior lecturer in French at Keele University in Staffordshire, told today how he drove on a five-hour mercy dash home to Jesmond, after a frantic call from his father Sydney, 77.
The published author, who has written a book on animal expert Desmond Morris, said: "Before I drove to Newcastle I spoke to the inspector on the phone and pleaded with him not to take the cat because I wanted to hold him and be with him if he had to be put down.
"I don't blame the RSPCA for calling. They should check out all reports of neglect. They had received a call from a passer by who had seen Sooty- Twinkle, who does look thin.
"But it was the whole manner of the inspector which upset my parents.
"He got the diagnosis wrong and was telling them they could face six months in prison
"It was a horrible experience for them because the cat is deeply loved and receives 24 hour care.
"We have had him since he was four inches long and mother bathes him every day, so it was distressing to be told he was neglected.
"I would just like to urge people not to have blind faith in the RSPCA just because they expect what they say to be true.
"Our pet would be dead now if we had let him go with the inspector."
Dr Levy took the cat to vet Tim Pearson, of Orchard Terrace, Hexham, and paid £80 for him to be thoroughly checked.
The vet's report revealed the cat had fleas but was otherwise in good health for his age and had a good heart, lungs and liver
Dr Levy added: "I am supposed to be teaching now but I just dropped everything to be with the family."
A spokesman for the RSPCA said they always checked out calls they received about neglect.
He said that they were awaiting a complaint from the couple.