The life of a 5-week-old kitten hangs in the balance, after it was found having been dumped in a council rubbish bin.

The female kitten was one of more than 100 cats and kittens that came into the Napier SPCA branch last week, making it its busiest on record.

But it could have been a different story without the eagle-eyed Napier resident who spotted her.

Ben Simmons was walking his dog on the Westshore esplanade last Thursday when he heard "meowing" and a little tabby face staring at him from the bin.

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"I went to put my arm to fish it out and it got frightened and wriggled its way through the rubbish because it was about half full and ended up somewhere down the bottom."

'Westy' the kitten was found dumped in a council rubbish bin in Westshore, Napier. Photo/ Supplied
'Westy' the kitten was found dumped in a council rubbish bin in Westshore, Napier. Photo/ Supplied

Unable to reach her, he called the SPCA's after-hours number.

"Somebody definitely put it in there, there's no way it could have gotten in there on its own," Simmons said. "It's pretty horrifying. It's an insane act and it worries me a bit about what else these people are capable of."

Animal welfare inspector Pip Lamb said the domestic short-haired tabby, named "Westy", had bad cat-flu, runny eyes and was quite skinny.

"She was very friendly, smoochy and affectionate when I got her out. She just clearly wanted somebody to look after her."

Lamb said it was still "touch and go" due to her young age. "We are pretty hopeful at this stage. She is still really bright and alert."

It is the latest in a number of cases of cruelty to cats over the past couple of months.

Not only is it taking a toll on the animals, but staff are under pressure from the overwhelming influx of cats that threatens to exhaust their resources.

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SPCA New Zealand central manager Bruce Wills said with a "long way" to go in the season, they were doing whatever they could to get the animals up to adoption standards.

"We are hoping it is a blip, because we certainly won't be able to cope with it on an ongoing basis."

He said their desexing programme had helped to decrease numbers.

"We try to stay positive and think that we are actually getting on top of all the unwanted cats.

"It's certainly ramped up because we are still dealing with the first litters and then cats start having their second litters, so it just builds up over time."

Wills said during this time of year, adoptions were strong and there was a lot of demand, but over the course of the summer, while numbers were still strong coming in, demand tapered off.