FOUR cats were rescued after being found dumped in a box on the canalside.

And six orphan kittens were ‘hours from death’ when they were rescued from a mill three days earlier.

It comes as cat rescue organisations told of a huge rise in the number of cats and kittens in need of new homes.

Burnley and Pendle Cats Protection said the charity had already rehomed 114 cats this year, compared to 98 for the whole of last year.

Meanwhile Blackburn Cat Rescue said 2013 had been ‘the worst year’ they could remember for people handing over cats.

The two-year-old canal cats were found in Burnley on Monday, apparently abandoned, while the two-week-old kittens were discovered behind Buoyant Upholstery in Nelson. Their mother is believed to have been knocked down and killed nearby.

Leanne Laycock, of Burnley and Pendle Cats Protection, said: “We are busier than we’ve ever been in the four years we’ve been open.

“We are being asked to rehome 10 to 15 cats per week and our phones are ringing all day, every day.

“The bedroom tax has forced people to relocate to smaller properties that they feel are not big enough to house their pets.

“There’s also a lot of misinformation about pets out there.

“We get phone calls from people who are pregnant who have been advised by their midwives to get rid of their cats when there’s really no need.

“Pets should be taken in to become part of the family. Animals are not disposable and you can’t just throw them away when they aren’t cute little kittens anymore.”

Eunice Faulkner from Blackburn Cat Rescue said she had also noticed an increase in the number of calls.

She said: “I’ve done this for 20 years and I’d say this has been the worst year for people wanting rid of their cats. More and more people are living in rented accommodation and sometimes have to leave very quickly. I get a lot of calls about cats that have been left behind in rented properties.”

Mrs Faulkner, based in Brownhill, said many owners were not neutering their cats, resulting in large numbers of unwanted litters.

If you can provide a home for an abandoned cat or can volunteer, call Burnley and Pendle Cat Protection on 01282 693400 or Blackburn Cat Rescue on 01254 245119.