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tinyfaery's avatar

What do you think of one species of animal nursing the young of another species?

Asked by tinyfaery (43479points) July 19th, 2008

The wording of the question is strange, but I didn’t know how to phrase it. If you look anywhere on the internet, there are stories of animals nursing the orphaned young of other species of animals:dogs nursing cats, cats nursing rabbits, rabbits nursing skunks, etc.

I think animals are more sentient and intelligent than us humans believe. Is this just some sort of instinct, do the animals know the difference, is it a result of domestication—the instinct to hunt and kill being suppressed due to the availability of food and protection, or what? What do ya’ll think. I’d really be interested in some feed back from the science people in the collective.

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3 Answers

marinelife's avatar

My sister just sent me a cute video of a cat that adopted an orphan bunny. I think it just a recognition of an infant creature.

I had a cat that had just had kittens when someone left a very young kitten on our doorstep. I was able to get the mother cat to adopt the strange kitten for a critical week, and then we switched him to food.

syz's avatar

It’s just a nurturing instinct. A strong mothering instinct is necessary to insure the survival of the next generation, especially for predatory species. Mothers that eat their babies don’t contribute their baby-eating traits to the gene pool.

I suspect you see it in more cats and dogs because we have warped or eliminated many of the natural survival instincts that would normally preclude cross species interactions. Indeed, some cats and dogs take it to such a extreme degree that they will have pseudo pregnancies, or nest with and attempt to nurse inanimate objects (stuffed toys, for example).

There are some individual examples of more surprising combinations (like the so widely circulated tiger with piglets). That’s an artificially constructed situation (by the zoo keepers) that would be highly unlikely to occur in the wild.

I don’t think that animals have any recognition of “doing a good deed” or “helping out”. If you watch the animals raising fosters, you notice that they treat them exactly the same way as their own offspring and don’t seem to have any recognition that anything unusual is going on.

JackAdams's avatar

I think such supplies possible PROOF that there just might BE a Gawd, after all.

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