A cat charity has said it’s “shocked, angry and vulnerable” after kittens were stolen from its rescue centre.
The two young cats were taken from Lothian Cat Rescue in Bonnyrigg, Midlothian, on Saturday.
A group of seven people were being shown around by staff when two of them snuck away.
The pair went into the kitten pen and stole the young cats which were reserved for rehoming.
Following an appeal, the cats were later found in a house and were returned to the shelter.
A police investigation is now under way into the circumstances surrounding the incident.
Senior warden at the rescue centre, Nicola Zelent, said the incident left the centre feeling “disgusted”.
She said: “The police are coming out on Tuesday so we can give statements and we have the CCTV.
“It’s disgusting – It’s crazy.
“We did some investigation work in the area and found the place where they were. We have been up all night trying to figure out how we could track down the cats.
“We went into the pubs and shops in the area and we were told where they were. We then went to the street and got them. One of the kittens was hiding under kitchen cupboards.
“They are nice and safe now. It will cost us a lot of money for security and we will have to change our policies.
“It’s terrible. In 25 years we have never had anything like this.”
In a post on social media, the rescue centre described the theft as “despicable”.
It said: “A group of seven people came asking to see our cats. A member of staff dealt with the party and showed them around.
“We were busy and all other staff and volunteers were showing other people around.
“Whilst they were being shown around, two of the party headed back towards our reception, entered our kitten pen and stole two of our kittens.
“This is the first time since our shelter opened its doors in 1993 that animals have been stolen from us, and we are left feeling feeling shocked, angry and vulnerable.
“The welfare and safety of the animals in our care is of paramount importance to us, and we will be reviewing our safety and security procedures to minimise the chances of a situation like this happening again.”
The charity added: “It is beyond comprehension that one would intentionally steal from another.
“Stealing vulnerable, living creatures from a charity is despicable.”
A Police Scotland spokesman said: “We are aware of the theft and investigations are being carried out.”