BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A cat was burned to death in a city alley Monday night.

Meghan McCorkell reports it’s part of an alarming trend.

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This is the fourth cat set on fire in the city of Baltimore just this year. Advocates say if the culprits aren’t caught, the violence could escalate.

Investigators say it happened in an alley off South Fulton Avenue.

“It’s sickening. It’s not right,” said one person.

“It was running for its life, probably panicking. I mean, I feel for it,” said a neighbor.

That neighbor was sitting in his backyard when he saw the cat.

“A fireball came running up the alley,” he said. “It looked like a meteorite, it really did.”

Gas cans were found near the animal, which had to be put down. Advocates say it’s vital to catch who did it.

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“When a person can do this to an animal, a lot of times they go on to do it to people,” said Debra Rahls, BARCS.

The number of cruelty cases spiked in the past four weeks.

“There are cases of cats that have been drowned, animals that have come in with embedded collars and now this cat that was set on fire,” said Caroline Griffin, Anti-Animal Abuse Commission.

In August, 20-year-old Ethan Weibman was arrested after investigators say he adopted at least five cats, then mutilated and killed them.

Animal advocates recently started a campaign to try and stop crimes like this. Billboards featuring athletes are now up across the city.

“We’re trying to break that mindset that it’s a way to show your manhood,” said Griffin. “That it’s a tough or cool thing to do to hurt a dog or hurt a cat.”

Now they want to find out who killed this cat before they strike again or do something even worse.

Baltimore is the only city in the country to have an anti-animal abuse advisory commission.

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The latest cat that was killed appeared to be a house pet. Officials are now warning people not to let their pets out by themselves.