Two newborn kittens have been saved by “eagle-eyed” workers at a recycling centre as they were moments from being crushed in the machinery.
The male tabby kittens, which are only a few days old and still have their eyes closed and cords attached, were spotted by staff on the rubbish-sorting conveyor belt at J&B Recycling in Hartlepool, the RSPCA said.
The workers managed to grab hold of them and pull them to safety.
Now they have been nicknamed Jesse and Bobby – or J&B, after the plant.
RSPCA officer Shane Lynn, who was called out to the incident, said: “These kittens were incredibly lucky to have been spotted by the eagle-eyed workers.
“If it wasn’t for their quick actions they could have been killed by the machinery at the plant.
“Staff believe they may have come from a recycling bin that one of the lorries picked up earlier in the day and were then tipped on to the conveyor belt along with the rubbish.
“They’re very young so are extremely vulnerable, especially away from their mum.”
Following the incident on December 22, he took them to Stanhope Park Veterinary Hospital where the out-of-hours team warmed them up and they are now being hand-reared by a veterinary nurse.
Mr Lynn said: “They were extremely cold and quite weak but, thankfully, don’t seem seriously affected by their ordeal so hopefully they should pull through and, eventually, we’ll be able to find them loving new homes.”
He believes the kittens may have been born stray to a feral cat in the area before somehow ending up in the bin that was emptied into the lorry.
“Feral cats can be extremely resourceful and thrive in the wild,” said Mr Lynn.
“But sometimes, mother cats can choose rather unusual places to give birth to kittens and it may be that this pair’s mum chose a bin for shelter before being separated from her babies when the bin was emptied.”
The RSPCA said it does not have the resources to respond to calls about healthy strays but will help any injured or sick stray cats or those in immediate danger.