A woman in France was savaged by a pack of feral cats while she was walking her dog on the edge of woods in Belfort, northwest France.

But despite the unusual event, and the ferocity of it, an animal behaviourist has said it did not herald a deadly new threat in the wilds of France.

"Cats are not new zombies of the apocalypse," said veterinary specialist Valerie Dramard .

It is not known if the cats were rabid.

The 31-year-old victim was walking her poodle when six stray cats tore into her and knocked her over. She was suffered a gashed artery and bites to her arms and legs.

A vet said it was an unprecedented attack and that he had never seen one of its severity in the 20 years he had been practising.

Josette Galliot, the victim's mother, said the cats simply pounced unprovoked on her daughte.

"They scratched and bit my daughter and really went for her," she told Est Republicain.

"They jumped on her and managed to knock her over. The wild cats bit her on the leg and on her arms. They even pierced an artery.

"The vet told us that in his 20 years in the job he had never seen such a thing. He couldn't find a single explanation for the cats' abnormal behaviour.

Feral cats
Animal behaviourist says the feral cats were probably going for the dog and not the woman (wiki commons)

"We must get rid of this scourge. There are too many cats in the neighbourhood, many of which are strays. There are also lots of children here. We don't want it to happen again."

The woman was taken to hospital and given a rabies vaccine as a precaution. Her dog was taken to a vet. "My daughter thought it was a living nightmare. She's still traumatised and is bordering on depression."

Cats are normally solitary animals that do not attack humans unless provoked or threatened. According to The Local, some experts suggested that the recent heatwave may have caused the cats to become more aggressive.

Dramard, writing for Le Nouvel Observateur, said the woman's dog was probably the target of the attack and the woman just got in the way.

She said that while cats were not aggressive in nature, they were very territorial and would defend territory against strangers.

"They are just very territorial and unfriendly with unknown species," she said.