A LITTER of five kittens is recovering at an animal sanctuary after being found dumped in a cardboard box in freezing weather conditions.

The kittens – four males and a female – are now safely being looked after at the Ark on the Edge animal rescue centre, in Teesdale, where the search has begun to find a good home for them.

Pat Kingsnorth, who runs the centre, said it had been a “despicable act” to abandon the kittens in the snow and cold weather.

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They were found behind a row of terraced houses in Darlington.

“I would say someone's cat has had kittens and they have then tried to rehome them, found that they couldn't and done this,” she said.

“To dump them in weather like this is just not on. They were cold, hungry and thirsty, however, they have been looked after.

“You can pick them up – they are very cuddly.”

Ms Kingsnorth said the centre was currently being inundated with requests from people to take in unwanted animals.

“The call about the five kittens which had been dumped was the fourth of five I received that day.

“The lady who found them rang me. She already has her own cats and said they were not going to accept the kittens, so could I take them.

“I was going to say no but felt so guilty and said I would. At least they are safe. ”

She said the centre was struggling to cope financially with the number of animals it was being asked to care for.

“This has been the worst year for all charities – especially any to do with animals. Intake has gone up and donations have gone down,” she added.

Currently on the books at the Ark are 30 families of cats and kittens – totalling about 70 animals altogether.

“We don't keep dogs here – we don't have kennels – but I have a database with details of dogs needing a new home.

“We have rabbits, goats and recently took in two injured tawny owls. One has been released but the other will have to stay with us because it has lost an eye.”

Anyone interested in supporting the Ark on the Edge or providing a home for any of its animals can contact Ms Kingsnorth on 01833-630505.

Full details about the Ark on the Edge's work are available at www.arkontheedge.org.uk