A garbage collector was shocked and dismayed to find three tiny abandoned kittens nestled among the rubbish in the back of his truck.
Terence Taylor shared harrowing footage of the discovery on TikTok in a video that amassed more than 11.5 million views and comments expressing concern over how the young cats ended up there.
“It makes me want to cry,” kaerae2120 said with laurenshell asking, “How could someone do that to an animal?”
Elsewhere, the calistartist was one of hundreds of people praising Terence’s efforts, writing, “Thank you for saving them.”
The kittens appear alarmed and disoriented by their surroundings, while one of the felines spots wet, matted fur in the heartbreaking footage. Terence’s video, which some might find distressing, can be viewed here.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates that approximately 3.4 million cats enter animal shelters in the United States each year.
However, this figure does not take into account the alarming number of young felines cruelly abandoned far from the safety of these refuges with little concern for their survival.
Previous horror stories have detailed examples of kittens being left in the middle of busy highways. In one case, 15 cats and kittens were discovered abandoned in an overcrowded crate.
The three kittens discovered in the back of Terence’s garbage truck have their rescuer’s excellent hearing to thank for their rescue.
In a follow-up to the original viral video, Terence recalled how he was on the phone when he heard a “high-pitched, muffled sound” which he likened to the sound of an “underwater smoke detector”.
Looking inside the truck, he then spotted a “moving bag”. Picking it up, he spotted a small orange kitten. “I couldn’t believe it,” he said.
After placing the first kitten in the front of his truck, he went back to see if there were more. It was then that he found another female feline. At this point, he said he went into “high gear” to look for more.
“I just started emptying all the bins in the back of the truck, sorting through everything. And that’s where I found kid number three.”
Noticing the disturbance, he said a local resident had come to find out what was going on. When they discovered the kittens, they rushed inside their home and returned with a cardboard box and blankets.
Terence said he was nearing the end of his shift so decided to take the three kittens home where he cleaned them up before putting them in a small playpen in his house.
Wanting to allay some of the concerns expressed by people in the comments section of the video, Terence posted an update showing that the trio looked warm, mellow and much more relaxed. It can be viewed here.
Depressingly, he admitted that this sort of thing “happens quite frequently” in his work. “Sometimes it’s on purpose. Sometimes it’s an accident,” he said.
Terence estimates they picked up trash from anywhere between 25 and 30 houses along their route, making it very difficult to know who abandoned the cats.
He took the kittens to an animal shelter the next day, where they were checked out. Luckily all three were healthy and healthy, with staff estimating they were around 3 weeks old.
Despite the rocky start, he also revealed that the thriving trio, whom he and his fiancée named Ginger, Cinnamon and Clover, have already moved into a new foster home.
“They’re doing great,” he told his followers. “Apparently the foster family has a mother cat who has kittens about the same age as the ones I found. Luckily she took our kittens under her wing and feeds them and does what a mother cat should do.”
Newsweek contacted Terence for comment.