A young couple from Watford have been left shocked and fearing for the safety of their infant son after their cat was mauled to death by a fox as it slept in their garden.

Elzbieta Gottwald said she is scared to leave her garden doors open after her husband discovered the savaged remains of eight-year-old Sweetie on Friday (July 19).

The 37-year-old, who lives in Garfield Street, said she had spotted a large fox before in the lead up to the attack and even seen a rare black fox in the area.

Speaking to the Watford Observer she said: "This is a horrible experience for us. We had a cat that was like a family member for eight years. We have been crying for days.

"She was like another person. She was with us every step. Whenever we came back home she was running to us and greeting us. We used to joke the baby had a sister. There is an empty hole we are feeling."

On Friday the family had their garden door open due to the heat and Sweetie had spent most of the day outside.

Mrs Gottwald’s husband, Kristian, had gone out later that night to hang up some clothes and noticed the cat did not come to greet him as usual.

However, the 36-year-old, who works in IT, did not make the grisly discovery until the morning when he found Sweetie disembowelled and missing organs.

Mrs Gottwald said: "We took her to the vet and they said she was killed by a fox and it happened when she was asleep. We didn’t hear anything."

The couple had moved to Watford from Tuffnell Park in London in October as they wanted a property with a garden for their cat.

Mrs Gottwald said she had seen foxes around the house before but had not anticipated the danger posed to her pet.

She said: "I had seen a fox on the roof of the shed before but I was not alarmed as I know about foxes. It was quite a well-looking fox. Usually they have to struggle to keep themselves alive, but it was quite a large fox.

"I was also sitting by the window in our bedroom when I saw something black and it was looking like a fox."

The pair had contacted Watford Borough Council over the attack. The authority does not have a responsibility to deal with problem foxes but does offer advice. People who have fox problems in the borough are directed to contact charities such as the RSPCA and Fox Project.

Following the attack Mrs Gottwald said she was now afraid for the safety over her four-month-old, Julian.

She added: "The fact it was not afraid, it was not the middle of the night, we were here and the baby was sleeping. Now I am not feeling safe in my home. I keep the doors shut even when it’s hot."