A US woman has gone trial to face animal cruelty charges after three kittens were found in her home with multiple piercings.
Holly Crawford is accused of mutilating the animals with a 14-gauge needle — designed for the much thicker skins of cattle — and selling them online for hundreds of dollars, the Daily Mail reports.
Veterinarian and animal cruelty investigator Melinda Merck told the court in Pennsylvania that the kittens could have been killed by the piercings, which hampered their balance and physical perceptions.
"They were maimed and disfigured … no matter how they tried, they could not escape from this," she was quoted as saying.
Dr Merck said metal rings through the kittens' ears affected their hearing while studs at the back of their necks and the bases of their tails produced a permanent feeling of submission.
"It would make them feel as if they were constantly being bitten (by their mothers)," she added.
One kitten also had a tight band around its tail, placed with the intent of docking it.
PETA activist Amanda Kyle investigated Crawford in 2008 under the guise of wanting to buy one of the animals, which were advertised as "gothic kittens".
She said Crawford, 35, told her one of the animals had ripped out a piercing and that it would be replaced once the wound had healed.
She also claimed the accused had pierced the kittens because it was "neat".
Crawford's lawyers deny the prosecution claim that she "inflicted pain and suffering on the animals in a cruel bid to make money".
In an interview with Associated Press last year, Crawford said she didn't think there was a difference between piercing a cat or a human.
The trial is continuing.