Weird Animal Story Follow-up

The myth that dogs and cats don’t get a long has been busted wide open at the home of Jennifer McArthur in South Kitsap. Her little dog Pappi not only plays with the family’s cat, but has played wet nurse to “Skinny” ever since she and her litter mates were orphaned last summer.
The six kittens were four weeks old when their mother disappeared out doors. The kittens snuggled up to Pappi looking for milk, and Pappi delivered, even though she herself has never been pregnant.
“She’s very, very friendly,” said McArthur. “She’d play with the kittens, then lay right down and start nursing them. She had hardly any nipple, and somehow, they nursed on her just enough to produce milk. And now she has four nipples.”
McArthur, during a recent interview, demonstrated Pappi’s uncanny talent with a gentle squeeze on one nipple, producing a shiny bead of white liquid.
“I’ve heard of such things before,” said Katrina Dunning of La Leche League of Central Kitsap. “I’ve heard of a horse nursing a goat.”
As for Pappi’s never having been pregnant, that was old news to Dunning, who said suckling alone can stimulate the mammary glands of any animal, including humans, to produce milk.

Jack Newman, a Toronto physician who works with breast-feeding mothers, also wasn’t surprised by Pappi’s gift. His practice includes a number of patients seeking to nurse adopted infants. At his clinic, the regimen to induce lactation in women who have not given birth to their children involves the use of drugs and stimulation of the nipple. Some women have reported milk production with suckling alone. Even men can produce milk (usually in relation to medications they might be taking), Newman said.
“I would imagine there is no reason animals couldn’t lactate even if never pregnant,” said Newman, speculating on Pappi’s case. “Not surprising that a couple of the kittens might want to continue. Breast-feeding is much more than milk, and these kittens did lose their mother. The kittens probably see this dog as their mother and want to keep the bond and security that they lost when the mother cat left.”
Nursing a littler of kittens doesn’t seem to have harmed Pappi, who is a bright-eyed bundle of exuberance. When the kittens were little, McArthur gave Pappi vitamins and all the food she wanted, and little dog remained healthy even as the kittens got bigger than her. The family decided to keep Skinny, who was the runt of the litter, and the dog and cat have remained close … really close.
Pappi and Skinny’s bond has long since outgrown the issue of nutrition, and McArthur has tried to discourage their little sessions, but to no avail.
“We catch them at it,” McArthur said. “If they hear us coming, they’ll stop.”
Skinny’s interest in her surrogate mother is evident. As McArthur held the little dog in her lap, the lanky cat pawed possessively at her feathery tail.
Besides her canine mama, Skinny has a pit bull auntie. Four-year-old Kirra, who is spayed, can’t give her quite what Pappi does, but she still showers her, quite literally, with maternal affection.
“I have really really good pets,” said McArthur. “When mama gave birth to the babies in my closet, Kirra was in there cleaning them with the mama.”
The instance of cross-species nurturing is nothing new. Koko, the famous gorilla who learned sign language, gave tender care to her pet kitten, Ball. Then there was the case of the baby hippopotamus, orphaned in the 2004 tsunami, who was “mothered” by a 100-year-old male tortoise at a wildlife park in Nairobi.
“The hippo follows the tortoise exactly the way it follows its mother,” said ecologist Paula Kahumbu of Lafarge Park, Nairobi, in an article Aug. 19, 2005, in the Agence France-Presse. “If somebody approaches the tortoise, the hippo becomes aggressive, as if protecting its biological mother.”
The two swim, eat and sleep together she said.
The idea of a dog nursing a cat shouldn’t seem so strange, said Dunning.
“Really it’s no odder than us drinking cow’s milk. Talk about cross species!” she said. “It’s a case of nature knows best. I just think a mother’s love has no bounds.”

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