Two police officers have saved the lives of a mother and her children this weekend - when they found a bucket of kittens abandoned in a garden.
PCs Roxy Garrett and Lewis Calboutin were on patrol in Benwell on Friday when they were called to a neighbourly dispute in Benwell.
They were speaking to the occupants of the address but became concerned after being told their cat had given birth to kittens but they didn’t know where they were.
The officers decided to have a search of the area to try and locate the babies and a short time later found a paint bucket which had been in the garden.
When the officers looked inside they were left shocked at the state of the six two-week-old kittens that were wrapped in a urine-soaked cardigan.
The litter were also covered in paint and were so young that they had barely even opened their eyes.
PCs Garrett and Calboutin decided to rescue the crying kittens before taking them to Westgate Ark Cat Homing Centre on the West Road.
They cleaned them, fed them and within hours the kittens were starting to look a lot more healthy.
But PCs Garrett and Calboutin did not stop there and decided to return to the address on Sunday after growing concerned about the kittens' mother.
They spoke to the occupants of the address and were able to locate the mother hiding under a bed.
Her owners told them they no longer wanted her so the officers decided to take her in and reunite her with her kittens.
Today (Monday) the family are recovering well at the shelter where staff are doing their best to nurse them back to full strength.
PC Garrett said that the happy tale was a welcome ray of sunshine during a busy weekend shift in the city.
She said: "When me and Lewis had a look at the bucket we were both shocked when we saw what was inside.
"The kittens were covered in paint, they had urinated inside the bucket and were clearly terrified.
"We knew about the cat shelter and so didn't think twice about putting the bucket in our patrol car and getting them some help.
"I am so glad that we went back and managed to find the mother too. She was really scared but now she's back with her children.
"To be able to reunite them again was really satisfying and it is not something that you expect when you pull on the uniform at the beginning of the shift.
"The staff at the shelter were very grateful and they have already done an amazing job to nurse them back to strength.
"They said that they would have died if we hadn't caught them sooner so that put a smile on both of our faces."
Alix Baty, of Westgate Ark Cat Homing Centre, said: “The kittens weren’t in that bad condition apart from being covered in paint but when we washed them they were a decent size so hadn’t been abandoned that long.
“They can’t toilet themselves though and that can just built up so if they had just been left there then they would have died. We were very grateful that the police brought them in.
“It could have been a much unhappier story if they weren’t found and the chances are the mum could have ended up having more kittens who would end up being abandoned as well.
“They are too young to be re-homed yet but we will keep them here with mum to build up some strength and then we will look to get a good home for all of them.”
Before locating their mother, Alix and fellow volunteers at the shelter had been taking turns to look after the kittens overnight as they needed to be fed around every three hours.
Now their mother has taken over milking duties and has been glued to the kittens side since being handed over to the shelter.
Westgate Ark Cat Homing Centre is based on the West Road and takes in cats who do not have a home or those who face being put down.
To find out more information about the shelter you can search for them on Facebook or visit their website at http://www.westgateark.org.uk/