THESE two kittens were dumped just hours after they were born.
Left for dead, the newborns still had their umbilical cords attached when a dog walker came across them in Foxcover Lane, Middle Herrington.
It is believed the kittens - a black and white male and a tortoiseshell female - had been left overnight in a cardboard microwave box to fend for themselves.
They were freezing cold, wet and still had their eyes closed.
The dog walker who discovered them phoned the RSPCA, who rushed to the rescue of the youngsters.
Trainee RSPCA inspector Aislinn Balderston said: “The kittens were making pitiful cries of distress, having been taken from their mother at such an early age.
“It is lucky that the dog walker happened upon them or they would almost certainly have died.
“Whoever dumped the kittens gave no thought whatsoever to whether they would survive and we need to find out who they are.”
The kittens are currently being nursed back to health and are being hand-reared at a centre in Middlesbrough, where their condition is said to be improving.
Insp Balderston said: “We don’t know if the mother has been dumped with them and has ran away or not but somewhere out there, there will be a very distressed mum.
“It’s quite common that we come across this with kittens unfortunately, which is why it’s so important to get cats neutered.
“If anyone is struggling with cats or kittens then call for help, don’t just dump them, and the worst thing you can do is leave a cat without her kittens.
“This is really irresponsible behaviour and it’s lucky the kittens are still alive.
“It’s still early days but we have hope for them.”
The kittens were found at about 10am on Tuesday.
The RSPCA is trying to trace who left them.