The Animal Welfare League of Alexandria has arranged for $400 in veterinary care for a cat and her three kittens that survived what a Fairfax County animal warden called "one of the worst cases of animal cruelty in the county in the last 10 years."

The cat and its 10-week-old kittens were thrown from the Rte. 123 bridge into the Occoquan River 50 feet below. Witnesses said a man driving an Army truck was seen tossing the animals.

It was the efforts of Lynn Kindred, 26, a waitress at the Sea Sea & Co. restaurant in Occoquan, and others that saved them.

About 120 people were dining at the riverfront restaurant one afternoon in late August when a box and a black object were dumped off the bridge. Customers and staff suddenly realized that three kittens were in the box and that the black object was a mother cat. "I told my boss I just couldn't let them drown," Kindred said. "So I ran down to the dock and threw off my money pouch and my shoes and dove in."

By that time, according to Dan Finck, general manager of the restaurant, "everyone was just sitting there horrified . . . then literally everyone in the restaurant was cheering Lynn on."

Kindred was swimming to shore with two of the kittens when the weight of her pants started pulling her under. "I thought I was going to drown," she said.

Another waitress, Laura Colombell, 18, dived in and took the kittens from Kindred. At the same time, five teen-age boys in a powerboat rescued the mother cat and the third kitten as they frantically tried to climb a concrete pillar. Other restaurant staff members ran to the dock and threw in life preservers.

"This is the first report I've ever heard of someone throwing cats 50 feet off a bridge," said Miles Lee, a field supervisor and nine-year veteran of the Fairfax County Department of Animal Control.

Kindred filed an animal cruelty report with the county last week. In Fairfax County, anyone convicted of abandoning an animal must pay up to $100. For conviction of cruelty to animals, a person could serve up to a year in jail or pay a $1,000 fine.

The cats are now in good homes. One of the teen-agers in the boat took a kitten. Waitress Melanie Mann took another kitten. Another waitress, Marianne Wilburn, has the third kitten, which she named Lucky. And Sara Sittnick, manager of the restaurant, took the mother cat.

"This would never have happened if people would spay and neuter animals," said Howard Bontz, treasurer of the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria, a nonprofit group that offers services including emergency service to injured animals, humane education and animal adoptions for the Alexandria Animal Shelter.

Drs. Gary Knipling and Jerry Hinn, veterinarians at Ridge Lake Animal Hospital in Woodbridge, where the care will be provided, said the animal hospital will provide about $300 in surgical costs free of charge, and the league will pay about $100.