Pets die in blaze at Staffordshire cattery
Up to 15 cats are feared to have died in a fire at a cattery in Staffordshire.
About 30 firefighters were called to Pinetrees Cattery in Huntington, north of Cannock, at about 05:30 GMT.
Fire chiefs said they believed 20 cats had been housed there and that the fire was accidental, blaming an electrical fault in one of the pens.
They believe two or three cats may have fled into nearby woods, although they cannot be sure at this stage.
No cattery staff members were injured.'I'm devastated'
The owner of the cattery, Lynn Durnell, said her own four cats were among the casualties.
Mrs Durnell said: "We've contacted those involved. It's very hard.
"Four of the cats that died belonged to us. I'm devastated."
Mrs Durnell's father Patrick Johnson said everyone was in shock.
"We woke up to the flames coming out of the skylight," said Mr Johnson.
"On behalf of my daughter, who runs the cattery, I'd like to say how sorry we are, because we all love our animals."
Dermot Hogan, from Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: "The cattery owners stated that there had been over 20 cats in the cattery, however some are believed to have escaped from the building after the fire broke out.
"The building has been destroyed as it was predominately a wooden structure and we've been unable to confirm so far how many cats have died in the fire."
A further two cats have been taken to a vet suffering from the effects of smoke inhalation.
Earlier the A34 was partially blocked in both directions but has since reopened.
"The cattery owners will be contacting the animals' owners in due course," a fire service spokesman added.'Sad loss'
Phil McFarlane, from Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service, said the blaze had initially "engulfed" the building and added that tackling the fire had been difficult because of the number of cats being looked after at the site.
He said he believed some cats may have escaped and "bolted" into nearby Cannock Chase.
Mr McFarlane added: "We're right on the edge of Cannock Chase, which is quite a rural, wooded area.
"From my 30 years' experience, when any animal that is trapped by fire manages to escape, they tend to do so with immense vigour and tend to leave the scene.
"Owners are starting to return and there is devastation around trying to [work out] which cats have survived."
A number of people have posted messages on the cattery's website.
John R Jones wrote: "I cannot express in words my feelings towards all cat owners and their families, as well as the owners of the cattery.
"The news brought tears to my eyes at the sad loss of life to all these innocent cats."
Another person to post, Alison, said: "Those poor, poor cats.
"Cats have shared our family life for decades and it made me cry to think of their fear and pain. So very awful."