A Vancouver Island father is heartbroken after a pitbull killed a beloved family cat that had grown up beside his teenage son.

Don Izon was cooking dinner in his Nanaimo kitchen Wednesday night when a neighbour's dog followed his son into the house. The pitbull spied 17-year-old Niki the cat sleeping in her favourite place, woke the feline and then clamped down on her ribs and started shaking.

"It was the craziest thing I've ever seen. It was terrifying. Just to be helpless -- I could not get him to release, no matter what I did. It was horrible," Izon said.

"I just started hitting him and hitting him and hitting him. For almost three minutes I hit him constantly, and then finally I saw her gasp and die."

The two-year-old pitbull then took off with the cat's lifeless body, running to his owner's house down the street. Izon called animal control, and officers arrived to take the dog away. Izon buried Niki in the back yard.

He said the death of the cat came as a crushing blow -- Niki had been with the family since his eldest son's birth in the first year of a marriage that recently ended.

"It's a huge loss for our family. I still have yet to tell my [younger] son," Izon said. "It's been tough, because she was pretty much the last we thing we had as a family union."

He said he's afraid of what the dog could do if it had decided to attack a person instead of a cat.

"If it had of been a child or anyone else, there's nothing anyone could have done, other than stabbing the dog," Izon said.

"It's so important, if you are going to have one of those animals, just to lock them up. People say they're friendly, but it's just unpredictable."

RCMP Const. Gary O'Brien said animal control officers are now trying to determine whether they will fine the owner or simply have the pitbull destroyed.

He believes the breed is inherently vicious.

"There's too many incidents where they've -- unprovoked -- attacked people or animals," he said. "I just don't like them. Their [jaws are] like an eagle's talons. If they clamp on, they're just not releasing the grip."

In Nanaimo, pitbulls must be leashed and muzzled at all times, unless they're kept in a yard with six-feet-tall fences.