Four tiny kittens were found dumped in a cardboard box in Ashdown Forest.
The four-week-old kittens were discovered by a dog walker last weekend, Cats Protection said, just a couple of days before heavy rain lashed the area.
They were found to have deformed stumpy tails and one had an abnormally formed leg which will now need to be amputated.
Despite being dehydrated and hungry, the kittens – now named Karen, Kieran, Katelin and Kiri – all survived the ordeal and are now being cared for by staff at the Cats Protection centre in Lewes Road, Chelwood Gate.
Tania Marsh, deputy manager of Cats Protection’s National Cat Adoption Centre, said: “It was incredibly fortunate the kittens were found when they were, as they would not have survived much longer in the forest.
“They all seem healthy, but all have stumpy tails. We can’t tell how this has happened – there may have been in an injury, but it is more likely this is a congenital abnormality and the kittens were actually born this way.
“Karen has a stumpy leg and tail, caused by an abnormality with the growth of the bone. She doesn’t use the leg, or tail, and is likely to sustain injuries if they are left.
“To improve her welfare and keep her pain-free it is most likely both will need to be amputated, as she’ll cope much better on three legs rather than having one which she can’t use.
“It’s desperately sad that these kittens were simply dumped, as they had no way to fend for themselves and would have certainly died if they hadn’t been found.
“It is likely they were an unplanned litter, which is the result of a cat not being neutered.
“Cats are prolific breeders, and can have up to three litters a year, so it’s vitally important that all cats are neutered to prevent unwanted kittens being born.
“Like all kittens, they are absolutely adorable and a great deal of fun. There are always many people who would like to adopt a kitten, but it can make it very hard for us to find homes for all the older cats we have in our care.”
The National Cat Adoption Centre is open every day from 10am until 4pm.
The centre is situated in Chelwood Gate, on the A275 between Wych Cross and Danehill.
To find it using a sat nav, please use the postcode RH17 7DE, or for a map and directions please visit www.cats.org.uk/find-us/find-the-ncc.
To find out more about offering a home to any of the cats currently available for rehoming at the centre, please call 01825 741331 or email email@example.com.
Or, to find out about cats available for rehoming at the volunteer-run branches throughout Sussex, please visit www.cats.org.uk/find-a-cat.
Staff at the National Cat Adoption Centre will soon be taking part in a firewalk to raise cash to care for cats and kittens at the centre.
To sponsor, please visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ncac-firewalk.