These three kittens are adorable, bright-eyed balls of fluff – and were abandoned by the side of the road at three weeks old.
At that age, they can barely walk, let alone clean themselves or eat solid food.
“Dumping them in a cardboard box is a death sentence,” RSPCA member Melody van Nistelrooy, of Ben Lomond, said. She is looking after the animals.
“They are not old enough to fend for themselves.”
“They are very sweet,” Melody said. “How can someone just dump them, knowing that they wouldn’t survive the night?”
But it’s an all-too-common story.
Melody is foster-mother for 19 cats: five adults and 14 kittens, from nine to three weeks old.
Six were born at the tip; one was found under the wheel of a ranger’s car; and two were dumped at the railway station.
These are the lucky ones.
A shopkeeper Melody knows found a bag of kittens thrown behind her retail shop on a weekend. They had fought, and three were dead.
"It's not an uncommon occurrence," fellow RSPCA member Brigitte Burridge said.
"What is uncommon is that we actually end up getting them before they die.
“But there's no reason for death, and there's no reason for abandonment.”
If you have animals on your hands you want to get rid of, bring them to the RSPCA.
Every year, RSPCA NSW cares for around 16,000 cats in kitten season (spring and summer). 500 kittens a week come through their doors – many of them surrendered from homes they are born into.
“We don’t mind how they come us, so long as they don’t get dumped,” Melody said. “We don’t judge; we don't ask questions; we're just thankful you've given them to us.”
The RSPCA can nearly always find a home for unwanted animals. Even those that are too timid or wild to be suitable domestic pets can find new positions as barn cats.
And, Melody urges, "If you find a cat on the side of the road, for goodness' sake, please pick it up and bring it to us; take it to the vet; take it to the rangers or the pound. They will bring it to us.”
Desex your pets!
While dumping unwanted animals is cruel, those that survive turn feral, causing more damage.
In the last hundred years, feral cats and wild dogs have caused the extinction of 22 species of native mammals.
A stitch in time saves nine – and the best way of solving both the problems of abandoned kittens and feral cats is to desex your animals.
Cats can have three or four litters a year of up to 10 kittens – and start as young as six or seven months.
That means a single cat can produce forty kittens a year, and each of those can produce another ten.
"If you desex your animals," Brigitte said, "we won't be facing unwanted pregnancies, unwanted pups, unwanted kittens, and the dumping."
Desexed cats, the RSPCA say, are also healthier, live longer, and have reduced behavioural problems.
Above all, get your tomcats desexed, and keep the females inside while they’re in heat.
Do you want to look after an animal?
The RSPCA is also looking for animal carers, both for cats and dogs.
At the moment, there are four dog carers, but Melody is the main cat carer.
“You don’t have to be a member of the RSPCA, and there’s no long-term commitment,” Brigitte said.
That makes it ideal for people who can’t be available all the time, or who want the company of an animal without the financial burden.
Someone who travels, for instance, could look after an animal for three months a year – and in that time, it would be old enough to adopt.
All you need, Melody said, is “patience, tolerance, and a love of the animal” – and somewhere warm, dry, and safe to keep them.
It’s also ideal if you can socialise the animal with your family and other animals.
Melody and Brigitte’s cats mingle and sleep with dogs, including a giant but gentle Irish wolfhound, herself a rescue dog.
People who want pets should also consider the RSPCA first before pet shops, they say.
"There are so many kittens you can buy from the RSPCA with everything done - vaccinated, desexed," Melody said.
And not just moggies, either. Special breeds like Abyssinians and ragdoll cats are available from the RSPCA.
If you are interested in becoming a carer, or in adopting an animal, call Melody on 0432 406 966 or Brigitte on 0411 798 563