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Cat Defender

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Monday, July 17, 2006

Dachshund Named Emma Adopts Quintet of Feral Kittens That Her Mistress Cruelly Stole from Their Mother

It is common knowledge that cats and dogs as a rule do not like each other, but that is not always the case. For instance, a three-year-old dachshund named Emma (See photo above) from Rose Valley, Washington recently adopted five four-week-old feral kittens.

Since she had been recently in estrus although not pregnant, her body is now producing milk and as a result she is able to nurse the kittens. She also grooms them and herds them around with her nose and body.

She is additionally very protective of them. Whenever either of the two male dachshunds who share living quarters with her on Kari and Brad Pearson's farm come near the kittens she drives them away with her snarls. She even went so far as to rouse Kari from her slumber one night a while back when one of the kittens fell off the couch where it was sleeping. It was only after her mistress had returned it to its rightful place alongside its littermates that she relaxed.

"They're her puppies. It's hysterical," Pearson told The Daily News of nearby Longview on June 7th. (See "Dog Turns Out to Be Cat Lover, 'Adopts' Litter of Kittens.") "Now I know if anything needs a mom, she can take care of it. She can be the roving adoptive mother."

The kittens adopted by Emma belonged to a feral cat named Nowhere who had been living in the Pearsons' barn for a year. Knowing what was afoot, Nowhere tried to protect her babies as best she could by hiding them in, inter alia, a woodpile, tree stump, and a fifty-five gallon drum. It was all in vain, however, because Pearson eventually stole her kittens and gave them to Emma. Now, an understandably perturbed Nowhere growls at Pearson whenever she comes near.

Although Pearson was justifiably concerned about a population explosion and inbreeding, stealing Nowhere's kittens was cruel. Usually kittens need to remain with their mothers until they are at least eight to ten weeks old so that she can teach them how to hunt and to groom themselves. Pearson could have accordingly waited until then to have trapped and sterilized the kittens. Better still, if she did not want any more cats she should have trapped and desexed Nowhere before she had the opportunity to get pregnant in the first place.

Emma's overly active maternal instinct recalls to mind the story of Elsa, a nineteen-month-old Rottweiler who last year adopted a homeless kitten in Luton, England. Like Emma, Elsa would also keep her kitten warm, groom it, and instruct it in proper toilet etiquette. (See Cat Defender post of October 15, 2005 entitled "Elsa, a Rottweiler Feared in the 'Hood, Shows Her Soft Side by Adopting an Abandoned Kitten.")

There are no known detrimental side effects for kittens raised by dogs but this is too rare a phenomenon to know for sure. Absent the natural mother, a canine mom is certainly better than no mother at all.

At the White River Humane Society in Bedford, Indiana, a beautiful golden retriever named Rosie has adopted an unnamed domestic Shorthair kitten. She grooms him and returns him to the safety of his littermates whenever he wanders too far away. Unlike Emma, she transports him by the scruff of his neck (See photo on the left).

Since she is housebroken and gets along well with the other inmates, Rosie is allowed to roam the halls of the shelter as a de facto cop walking the beat. For some unknown reason she took a liking to this particular kitten and now watches over him just as if he belonged to her.

"She likes to clean him and carry him around," shelter manager Melissa Kusturin told Bedford's Times-Mail on June 6th. (See "Retriever, Kitten Comprise Odd Couple; Strays Develop Bond Inside Animal Shelter.") "He enjoys it for a little while, but after so much licking with Rosie's big tongue, he's soaked. He's ready to wander again."

Rosie's relationship with the kitten is nothing out of the ordinary for the shelter. "We have two adult cats -- Popeye and Mighty -- who basically run loose. Most of the dogs love them," Kusturin added.

Jim Waeltz of the Bedford Veterinary Medical Center told The Times-Mail in the article cited supra that "a dog and cat enjoying each other's company is not abnormal, but it is a learned behavior. And, it doesn't work for every animal."

Waeltz also stressed the special attributes of golden retrievers as a deciding factor in Rosie's behavior. "Golden retrievers have soft mouths and like to retrieve things. They can be very playful. While most herding breeds probably wouldn't hurt a kitten, some breeds would."

Photos: Roger Werth of The Daily News (Emma and kittens) and Pete Schreiner of The Times-Mail (Rosie and kitten).