FIVE kittens were dumped in an alleyway just hours before a torrential downpour.

The black and white cats were a month old when they were found by an RSPCA inspector in the alleyway behind Gernons, in Basildon.

The charity said they thought it likely they had been part of an unwanted litter.

Marie Hammerton, who found the kittens, said: “If they had not been found they would have had to endure a horrific storm all alone in a cardboard box.

“They were all very scared and nervous when first taken in, but are doing well now they are in a safe environment.

“How someone could do that to them is just unbelievable.

“They are such sweet, gorgeous little things and will make brilliant pets.”

The kittens were taken to Crofters Rescue, based in Rayleigh, Essex, and are now being looked after by fosterers.

Mrs Hammerton added: “Sadly, this is something we are seeing more and more of.

“Our centres are fit to bursting point with cats and at this time of year we see some who have been abandoned through being left behind when owners go on holiday or move house.

“As it is also kitten season, this can mean we have uncontrollable levels of cats being brought in.”

So far this year the RSPCA has already rescued 3,306 abandoned cats, which is 14 per cent more than last year.

It has also helped 7,914 sick or injured cats, up from 6,389 last year.

Over the summer the RSPCA expects to take in more young cats as this is the time when they breed.

However, this year has seen more than ever with 32 per cent more than in 2013.

Overall, the RSPCA has 1,720 cats in 16 national centres and private boarding as of August 1, compared with 1,397 on July 1.

This figure does not take into account the RSPCA’s 164 branches.

Last year inspectors helped a total of 33,293 cats, up from 31,556 in 2012, and the figures for this year are expected to be even higher with 20,099 having already been rescued