WITHIN seconds, a clip of a woman stroking a cat to the beat of Queen classic Bohemian Rhapsody went from a touching moment to apparent abuse.
The individual, who The Sun has chosen not to name, aggressively slapped her cat on its face and body while the petrified pet bared its teeth and cowered in pain.
Two commenters wrote in response to the vile video, which has been liked 105,000 times, “l laughed so much” and “LMFAO snot flew, help!”.
But for animal charities, this is no laughing matter.
They claim clips like these, found through popular hashtags, are “normalising violence” against pets and encouraging abuse.
Millions around the nation were outraged after The Sun revealed footage of West Ham footballer Kurt Zouma, 27, kicking his cat.
Yet plenty of similar videos exist online — and the numbers are increasing by the day.
The Sun found countless clips, including one showing a distressed animal yelping after losing stability due to having slices of cheese put on to its paws which received six million likes.
Others showed the pets racing to their food bowls only to be sent flying after hitting an invisible barrier of sticky tape. In some videos owners wore giant cat masks to terrify their pets.
When approached by The Sun, TikTok told us there is “no place for this kind of behaviour” on the platform. Yet it took down just two out of 11 concerning clips we highlighted that showed varying degrees of animal violence.
Offenders in the UK can receive up to five years in prison and an unlimited fine — and Zouma, although he has not been charged, knows the consequences of his actions all too well.
The defender was fined £250,000 — two weeks’ wages — by his East London club, dropped from the team, lost his Adidas sponsorship deal and had his pets confiscated by the RSPCA.
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But while there has been a clear action against the player, other abusers’ abhorrent behaviour online goes largely unpunished.
Many clips are posted under the same three hashtags, which we have chosen not to reveal, which collectively attract more than 90BILLION views.
And in a world of social media influencers and 15 minutes of fame on the internet, it seems TikTok users are resorting to ever more extreme lengths to gain validation and followers.
Several videos involved forcing an elastic band over a cat’s head to force their ears upright to make them look like a rabbit.
The cruelty clearly upset many of the cats, which jolted their heads rapidly in different directions and hissed — a clear indication they were distressed.
These clips were accompanied by popular songs including 50 Cent’s Candy Shop, attracting even more views and likes as TikTok distributes videos to wider audiences if they have a tune that is popular on the platform.
In another, which received 20,000 likes, a woman throttled her cat, squeezed its jaw tightly and slapped it, while the pet tried to avoid the beating.
Others showed distressed pets having pancakes put on their faces, made to wear uncomfortable costumes and more — all for “entertainment”.
Madison Rodgers, of feline welfare charity Cats Protection, told The Sun: “This kind of content desensitises people to abuse and the signs of stress in cats.
This kind of content desensitises people to abuse and the signs of stress in cats.
Madison Rodgers, Cats Protection
“It’s widely available on TikTok and it concerns us because people could think this is OK and that will only normalise this kind of behaviour towards pets.
“It is not acceptable or funny — it’s animal cruelty. It’s stressful and traumatising for these pets. The line between candid moments and abuse is being blurred.”
It is feared that these videos, often part of challenges on TikTok which encourage users to copy other clips, could lead to more vicious attacks — including the worrying trend of “crush videos”.
Such footage, which features on twisted fetish and sadist sites, typically features a woman using her stiletto heel, bare foot or another body part to squash an animal.
Julia De Cadernet, founder of the movement NoToDogMeat, which targets countries that sell the flesh of dogs and cats as food, says she has been alerted to such vile videos on TikTok and other social media platforms.
She told The Sun: “I have seen groups using horrific clips they have found on the web to gain followers. Crush videos are often filmed by teenagers using women who look like they could be influencers or celebrity lookalikes.
“Children are often filmed butchering pets while adults look on and laugh, and we have rescued cats from arcade amusements that had been grabbed by metal claws.”
Victoria Featherstone Pearce, co-founder of dog rescue charity K9 Angels, has noticed a worrying spike in animal abuse clips too.
She said: “There are so, so many cases where absolutely nothing gets done. Vile clips are being aired for likes and laughs.
Children are often filmed butchering pets while adults look on and laugh, and we have rescued cats from arcade amusements that had been grabbed by metal claws.
Julia De Cadernet, founder of the charity NoToDogMeat
“It is too easy to upload clips of defenceless, innocent animals that are being punched and kicked — even sexually abused.”
All of the charities The Sun spoke to called on TikTok and other social media sites to be more proactive by searching for abuse and removing clips quicker.
Animal rights group PETA argued that “platforms are profiting from animal abuse” if they do not ban people sharing this type of content.
It said: “Users often post cruelty for its shock value, counting on people to share the content, which directs more visitors to the platform and ultimately boosts advertising income.”
Madison Rogers, of Cats Protection, added that TikTok needs to find ways to “encourage users not to engage” with such content, especially because it is “self-regulated”.
She added: “They should invest in staff to look for animal abuse videos and, where relevant, report it to authorities.”
Four Paws UK was “disgusted” by the amount of animal abuse on social media and urged TikTok to crack down to avoid “becoming synonymous with such violence”.
A spokesman for the animal welfare organisation added: “If we are to be the nation of animal lovers we claim, we mustn’t stand by and let it go unpunished.”
A global report from welfare network the Asia For Animals Coalition found more than 5,480 links to animal cruelty content across TikTok, YouTube and Facebook between July 2020 and August 2021.
TikTok said it asks all users to adhere to its guidelines, which state that animal cruelty should not be posted or shared.
A spokesperson told The Sun: “Animal abuse is horrific and there is no place for this kind of behaviour on TikTok.
“It is against our community guidelines and we do not hesitate to take action when people violate these rules — up to and including permanently banning them from the platform.”