Happy Mother’s Day to These Animal Moms Who Adopted Outside of Their Species

Editor’s note: This post is a Care2 favorite, back by popular demand. It was originally published on May 9, 2015. Enjoy!

With Mother’s Day here, now is the perfect time to share some of the videos I’ve stumbled across over time of animals that “adopt” other animals.

Chances are, most of you have seen at least one story online about an animal mom adopting a baby animal (or animals) of another species. It’s time to revel in some of those stories. Enjoy!

Daschund nurses piglets

“Tink” is a dachshund who adopted a piglet named “Pink,” because the tiny pig was too small to make it with its siblings. There’s actually a book about Pink and Tink called The Pink Puppy: A True Story of a Mother’s Love. Here’s the nursing in action.

Sow adopts puppies

Apparently it works both ways. In the Greek village of Vritta, a generous sow does the nursing after adopting four puppies who were abandoned by their mom.

Horses and deer

Imagine driving down the road, and your kid yells out, “Look, horseys! And one deer.” Calling the following pairing ”adoption” is admittedly a stretch. In this case a baby deer latches on to one doe in particular, and she seems content with the situation. It made the cut out of sheer cuteness.

Credit: CBCtelevision

Pig nurses puppy in Laos

There’s not much to tell here — just a tourist stumbling on cuteness during a trip to Laos, but the perfectly executed soundtrack alone makes this worth the watch.

Mama dog with sweet kittens 

Pashoshit the pincher was abandoned in the streets of Israel with her two young puppies, Chooch and Choocha. The Girgurim Sanctuary took them in, and about a week after they were rescued, orphaned kittens started arriving at the sanctuary, and mom jumped at the chance to clean, cuddle and suckle them.

Cat and baby squirrel

Ah, this one, featuring possibly the cleanest baby squirrel you’ll ever come across. This mama cat takes cleanliness to a whole other level.

Dog and lion cub

In Bejing, staff at Badaling Safari were in search of a new mom for one of its lion cubs, after its real mom couldn’t feed him. So a local family volunteered their dog, who had three pups of her own, for mommy duty.

Cat and ducklings

This last one brings us all the way to Ireland, where a young couple on a farm watched as an unusual bond formed between a mama cat and three ducklings. What makes this story extra remarkable is that in normal circumstances, the cat would eat the small birds, but that’s not the case here.

How does interspecies adoption happen?

It’s especially puzzling when the baby species in question is normally treated as dinner, not offspring.

If you watched the duckling video you know that one possibility comes down to timing and lucky coincidence. In that case, presumably mothering hormones caused the cat to love and nurture the ducklings just as she did her own offspring.

Here’s my theory: all animals share the universal need to love and be loved, whether there’s blood relation or not. But I’m no expert.

Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist Dr. Jill Goldman has a theory about why animals adopt, including outside of their species:

In many of the cases of inter-species adoption, I believe that oxytocin has a huge influence. Giving birth and having sex both produce a surge in the love bonding potion. If the timing and circumstances are right, a mom will not balk at sharing her resources with another needy mouth. In some cases, the mother may have lost her baby or litter, and is in prime state to nurse, nurture, and bond. In the short run it looks altruistic, sacrificng [sic] resources, but in the long run the developing young may help the survival of the family, or at the very least, provide social companionship.

On what motivates animals to “adopt” others, including different species, applied animal behaviorist and National Geographic contributing writer Jenny Holland said, ”I wish I could crawl into these animals’ minds and ask! But we can make some educated guesses based on what we know about animal brains—and our own.”

Holland ventured some guesses in National Geographic:

“Instinctively animals take care of young to help them survive and therefore pass on the family DNA,” Holland said. “So I think there’s some hard wiring in there that leads them to offer care to another animal in need. If it isn’t a relative, there maybe some wires crossed, but I think the behavior comes from the same place.”

Mutual benefit is also a motivator, noted Jill Goldman, an applied animal behaviorist based in southern California.

“In order for the relationship to be sustained, I believe both parties will need to benefit in some way,” said Goldman, who has studied wolf behavior.

“How we define benefit is another matter. Social companionship in some cases may actually be enough of a benefit so long as it is not outweighed by competition [or] threat.”

The BBC chimed in with its own observation about why animals inter-species adopt: “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.”

Dr. Gordon says, “Without cohort companionship, a social animal’s life is lonely.  Life is better in many cases when its shared. Just think about why we adopt “companion animals.”

Good point, Dr. Gordon. When you put it that way, many of us pet owners have adopted outside of our species. We may not be suckling, but we’re loving and cleaning and cuddling and showering our babies with as much love as humanely possible.

More videos of animals adopting other animals

If you’re hankering for more clips of adopting animals, this video montage is worth watching, as long as you’re cool with elevator music and unnecessary captions on each frame. (We get it, it’s a cat and puppies.) And whether you’ve seen it before or not, you’ll want to check out this Care2 favorite, 5 Mama Animals Adopt Babies of Different Species.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

494 comments

Elisa F
Elisa Fabout a year ago

Super Sweet :) thanks for sharing!

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Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla2 years ago

Awwwww

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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federico bortoletto

Meraviglioso.

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Monica R.
Monica R2 years ago

Amazing!

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Chris Ringgold
Chris Ringgold2 years ago

Awesome. All of God's creatures coming together and showing love to their fellow animal.

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William C.
William C2 years ago

Thanks.

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S Gardner
sandy Gardner2 years ago

They are all delightful!

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Georgia a.
Georgia a2 years ago

I never knew ducks nursed and I'm an old lady! I guess that's a great example of live and learn. Extremely precious.....all of them.

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Karen N.
Karen N2 years ago

Referring to my previous comments, the following is a recent email newsletter from Hillside Animal Sanctuary . . . 'Pickles the piglet was found newly-born on a main road in Norfolk with her umbilical cord just freshly detached. As there wasn't a pig farm nearby, this was the probable result of a pregnant sow giving birth on a lorry on the way to the slaughterhouse and the piglets falling through the slats onto the road. An abattoir worker has confirmed to us that sows often arrive at the slaughterhouse having given birth during transport with their tiny piglets lying all over the floor. Pickles has been receiving lots of love and attention from the staff at Hillside who are feeding her every two hours including through the night. She is pictured here today doing well at four days old. When she is big enough, she will live with some of our other 200 rescued pigs who already have a home in the Sanctuary.'

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