[Ed. Note: UPDATE June 23, 2011: Pennsylvania Court Affirms the Obvious: Piercing Kittens is Animal Cruelty.]
[Ed. Note: Holly Crawford was found guilty the day after this article was printed.]
Metal protrudes from their little bodies, pierced through their ears and necks with a 14-gauge needle - usually reserved for the thick skin of cattle.
And at least one of these 'maimed and disfigured' kittens also had an elastic band tied around its tail - an attempt to stem the blood flow so that the tail eventually falls off.
The woman accused of turning three helpless kittens into 'gothic cats' by piercing them up to 10 times went on trial in the U.S. yesterday, charged with animal cruelty.
Dog groomer Holly Crawford, 35, was allegedly selling the pathetic animals online for hundreds of dollars.
Yesterday a vet told the court that the kittens had been maimed and disfigured, and could have died.
Melinda Merck, an animal cruelty investigator and veterinarian, said the ear piercings altered the cats’ hearing.
The piercings at the back of their necks and base of tails hampered balance and jumping, local media quoted her as saying.
'They were maimed and disfigured,' she said, adding that if infections had become severe, the three-month-old kittens could have died.
Dr Merck said piercing the kittens' necks produced a feeling of submission
that would linger with the silver metal jewelry.
Mother cats pick up their young from the scruff of the neck, she said, because pressure on the sensitive nerves there leads to submissive action.
'No matter what they tried, they could not escape from this,' she said. 'It would make them feel as if they were constantly being bitten.'
A worker from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta), also testified how she was alerted by an anonymous caller.
Amanda Kyle said she pretended to be interested in buying a kitten. She took pictures, and asked how the procedure was done.
Ms Kyle told the court she was told the kittens were pierced with a 14-gauge needle, which veterinarians usually use for cattle because their skin is so thick.
She said she was also told a rubber band was used to dock the tail of one kitten, stemming the blood flow so the tail falls off.
Ms Kyle said Crawford told her one of the kittens had ripped out a piercing and Crawford was waiting for it to heal before she pierced it again.
She claimed Crawford said she had pierced the kittens because it was 'neat'.
Prosecutors are accusing Crawford of inflicting pain and suffering on the kittens in a cruel bid to make money.
Crawford's lawyers, however, are insisting that she was 'not acting maliciously'.
The woman's home outside the town of Wilkes-Barre in Pennsylvania was raided in December, 2008, after the Peta investigation.
Crawford has insisted that she used sterilized needles and made sure that the kittens were healing properly.
She said she wasn't trying to hurt them.
Humane officer Carol Morrison testified the cost to rehabilitate the kittens was upwards of $1,000.
In an interview with The Associated Press a year ago, Crawford said she didn’t think there was a difference between piercing a cat or a human.
Similar charges against Crawford’s boyfriend, William Blansett, 37, of Sweet Valley, were withdrawn in February.