Jack Russell Terrier Adopts and Nurses Six Abandoned Kittens

Nevena Nacic
by Nevena Nacic
Steve Mann/Shutterstock

People grow up believing that cats and dogs are mortal enemies. Phrases like “fight like cats and dogs" just reinforce that belief.

But, is this really true? Is there no way for felines and canines to get along? As it turns out, dogs and cats can be more than friends.

A Jack Russell terrier, named Teasel, has become a surrogate mom to six abandoned kittens. 

Sue Stubley, who lives in the Suffolk town of Newmarket, was contacted after a feral cat abandoned her litter. Ms Stubley, who runs Suffolk Hedgehog Hospital in Newmarket, primarily rescues hedgehogs but has agreed to take the abandoned kittens for the night and take them to the cat rescue center the next morning. 

However, Ms Stubley’s two-year-old Jack Russell had other plans. 

According to Ms Stubley, Teasel began lactating the same evening and the hungry kittens latched on to feed. 

My dog decided that she was going to look after them. She’s lactating, she’s feeding them, she cleans them, she does everything. So it’s actually been quite easy for me,” said Ms Stubley.

At first, Teasel wasn’t making enough milk, and Ms Stubley had to supplement the kitten’s feedings. However, the new mom managed to produce a lot of milk the following morning, and the more she nurses, the more she produces. 

Apparently, Teasel's maternal instinct kicked in quickly. “If anyone comes in that she doesn’t know and picks one of the kittens up, she’ll march over and go and pick them up and bring them to her back again. She’s adopted proper mum behavior.”

Ms Stubley was initially worried about how Teasel might react and thought that she might go after one of the kittens. But that never happened.

“By the time they were ready for their second feed, they were sat with her and cuddled up with her. Generally, she is a very gentle dog that loves and adores everyone. She loves children, she’s a great little dog. And apparently, her mum was very similar and was very nurturing so it’s obviously something that’s in her nature.”

According to BBC, Dr Rachel Grant, a biologist at London South Bank University, explained that such interspecies adoptions are most likely the result of fixed action patterns in which the adopted animal is reacting to a certain trigger from the adoptee. 

This sets off a cascade in the brain that elicits the pattern of behavior,” said Dr Grant. 

The closer the species are to one another, the higher the chances for cross-species adoption to happen. This means that it’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever hear about an alligator nursing a puppy.

In baby mammals, there will be certain features that mammals share with other mammals,” said Dr Grant. “Cats and dogs, for example, are both mammals and the cues that are driving maternal behavior are very similar. They will be responding to certain cues.”

When it comes to baby mammals, they will act on an instinct too. In Teasel’s case, the kittens are instinctively “rooting” - like human babies or puppies - for a nipple to feed on. 

These things aren’t under conscious control,” Dr Grant explained. 

The strong maternal instincts exhibited by Teasel show that she’ll be a wonderful mother to her puppies, in case she one day gives birth to a litter of her own. 

Ms Stubley has already found loving homes for the kittens to go to when they are old enough, but she says she’ll miss them terribly.

“As for Teasel, I don’t know how she’ll feel when they’re gone but I think she’s their surrogate mum for life now.”

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Nevena Nacic
Nevena Nacic

Nevena is a freelance writer and a proud mom of Teo, a 17-year-old poodle, and Bob, a rescued grey tabby cat. Since childhood, she had a habit of picking up strays and bringing them home (luckily, her parents didn't know how to say NO). When she's not writing for her fellow pet parents, Nevena can be found watching Teo sleep. To her defense, that's not as creepy as it sounds!

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