While walking her dog in a remote part of the English countryside, a woman spotted a suitcase on an abandoned train track. At this point, she perhaps suspected that someone had been out fly-tipping. But when she heard cries coming from within the case, she knew something was desperately wrong.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – better known as the RSPCA – is a British animal welfare charity. It was founded in 1824, which makes it the oldest organization of its kind in the world; and over its near 200-year history, it has become the biggest as well.
As part of its work, the RSPCA raises awareness of animal welfare issues. It also investigates and prosecutes animal abuse cases and rescues creatures in need. And once the organization has taken an animal into its care, it will rehabilitate and rehome the creature at one of its nationwide centers.
The RSPCA’s good work is prolific. In the year of 2012 alone, the charity investigated more than 150,000 animal cruelty allegations. And on the back of such work and its long history, it is surely the most well-known animal welfare organization in the United Kingdom.
It’s little wonder, then, that when the dog walker stumbled upon this alarming scene, the RSPCA was her first port of call. Things had started innocuously enough, mind you. The lady had been enjoying a stroll between the villages of Great Yeldham and Castle Hedingham in the county of Essex. However, events then took a twist.
The woman had been walking alongside some disused railway tracks when her dog was drawn to something on the tracks. The item in question was an old suitcase, and for some reason, her pet couldn’t resist sniffing it.
The dog walker decided to indulge her pet’s impulses, so she paused while the dog sniffed away. And that’s when she heard a strange sound coming from the suitcase.
Issuing from inside the trunk, the stranger could hear what she thought were faint meows. So she opened the suitcase to peer inside, and what she found shocked her.
Enclosed within the suitcase were a mother cat and eight tiny kittens, and just by looking at them, the lady could see that they were in a bad way. All of them were extremely skinny, and the adult seemed severely dehydrated.
As a result, the mommy cat was taken to a nearby veterinary clinic for treatment. Meanwhile, her kittens went to an RSPCA center. Then, when the adult cat was well enough, she was reunited with her babies.
“She was kept at the vets as she was so dehydrated and needed a drip,” the RSPCA’s Amy De-Keyzer explained to animal interest website The Dodo. “[She] has since been moved to the cattery to be with her litter and is doing much better.”
Experts estimated that the adult was five years old, while the kittens were thought to be just five weeks old, and once they had arrived at the RSPCA, the fluffy family members were named by staff. The momma cat was given the name Tarini, while a Disney film provided the inspiration for the eight babies’ names.
The kittens’ carers chose to name the five males and three females after some of the characters from the 1970 movie The Aristocats. Consequently, they became known as Eve, Marie, Duchess, Alli, Berloiz, Scat Cat, Tiny Tim and Toulouse. And they were utterly adorable.
However, their lovable demeanor belied the trauma that the young family had been through, and the RSPCA was determined to get to the bottom of what had happened to them. Understandably, the organization was concerned that the cats’ abuser was still at large.
“It was pure chance that this woman happened to find these little kittens and their mom,” RSPCA spokesperson Donna Smith said in a statement. “Who knows how long they had been there? It must have been terrifying for them.”
That said, those at the organization were of course immensely grateful that the creatures had been found alive. “It would not have ended well had this kindly woman not come to their rescue,” Smith added. “I have no doubt they would have suffered for days.”
Given the circumstances the cats were found in, the RSPCA began campaigning for people to come forward. After all, if the public could offer any explanation as to how the animals had come to be abandoned, perhaps the organization could prevent the same thing from happening in the future.
Meanwhile, the eight kittens and their mom were recovering back at the RSPCA’s Essex center. Tarini was still being treated for dehydration, while the kittens were regaining their strength, too. At the time, they were also still relying on their mother’s milk.
“The kittens are still too young to be rehomed,” De-Keyzer explained to The Dodo. “We need to make sure the mum is healthy enough before being rehomed.” However, it wouldn’t be too long before they were all ready to go up for adoption.
It’s chilling to think that if it wasn’t for one woman choosing to walk her dog where she did – and that dog’s keen sense of smell and curiosity – these cats may have starved to death. Fortunately, though, they have been given a second chance at life. And hopefully, when they are ready, all nine cats will find their perfect forever homes.