Ordinarily, when a cat sees a smaller animal, their relationship is decidedly unfriendly: predator versus prey, no questions asked. Under those circumstances, a baby squirrel is nothing more than a tasty morsel. But apparently motherhood has a way of changing everyone, which is how you wind up with fascinating mixed families like this.
Other unlikely pairings between moms and adoptive babies have included cats and bunnies, dogs and owls, and even… a tiger mom with a litter of piglets??? So when, today, I saw the photoshoot of a mama cat who adopted a litter of baby hedgehogs (that’s the pic at the top), I wondered, what is it about motherhood that overrides an animal’s other instincts?
Jennifer Holland, author of “Unlikely Friendships: 47 Remarkable Stories from the Animal Kingdom,” told National Geographic that according to animal behaviorists,
“Animals in captivity, when put together, tend to bond. That’s perhaps not terribly surprising. Sometimes, the loss of a parent or baby may have spurred one animal to offer affection to another. And some [relationships] aren’t easily explained, so I think they are just about enjoying companionship, similar to the way humans do.”
Holland explains further in another interview that animals will tend to instinctively adopt members of their own species, and that this instinct can lead them to respond naturally to another animal in need as well. Animal behaviorist Jill Goldman also theorizes in the same article that the higher level of oxytocin, the bonding hormone, might make animal moms more inclined to bond with all babies, not just their own.
BBC writer Jason Goldman adds that since new mothers are “behaviorally and physiologically prepared” to care for newborn babies, “the motivation towards maternal care may be so great that they redirect their attention” onto any helpless creature in need of care. As Goldman points out at the end of the article,
“It seems as if the drive to care for helpless infants is fairly universal among species that care for their own young – and even between different animals. What else could explain our own species’ obsession with puppies, kittens and other baby animals?”
With that said: let’s get to the fun part! Here are some of my favorite adorable pics of mixed animal families. Enjoy!
Bessi the dachshund and her tiger baby:
A domesticated cat and bobcat kittens:
Valentine the peacock and her baby goose:
This sweet little dog and her red panda babies:
This lioness and her baby antelope:
Zoe the Dalmatian and her (spotted!!!!) lamb: