Dog Nursing Kittens
by Elisa Black-Taylor
Darla and her 'baby'
My Maltese mix Darla is nursing a litter of six kittens! We've been feeding the mother outside for awhile and now have the mother inside with them. Which is good because in the beginning we thought something had happened to her. Mama's not the smartest cat in the world. Between showing little interest in her litter and trying to climb with them any time we turn our back on her, we've more than had our hands full.
So our dear Darla is showing her how to care for her litter.
I had a Maltese mix named Judy back in 1995 who nursed a litter of kittens, so this is nothing new to me. I've even jokingly teased that Darla is so much like Judy I believe she was Judy in her past life and if she ever nurses a litter of kittens that would prove Judy is back with us.
Darla is around seven years old now and was never spayed. She had one litter shortly after I rescued her back in 2006 and she was a good mother.
I Googled "dog nursing kittens" and found it's not that uncommon. The fact that Darla is now producing milk isn't so unusual either. Its a hormonal thing. Darla had just come out of a mild estrus cycle when the kittens were brought in. So her hormones were a bit fickled about that time.
Here's a cute video I made the day Darla "adopted" them.
Since the mother cat is nursing the kittens while we're there to supervise, the kittens are only receiving supplemental nourishment from their new cat mama. This is good because dog milk is different than cat milk. Sources say this shouldn't be a problem as long as the primary nourishment is from the mother cat.
Darla is mainly keeping the kittens content between feedings. She curls up with them and keeps them clean. We rarely hear any kitten meows, so we know they're content with the situation. I find myself wondering what they think of Darla.
If Darla does as our dog Judy did so many years ago, these are going to be some VERY confused kittens. Back then, Judy and the mama cat would lay in a bed with the kittens between them. One of them would always be caring for the litter.
I never photographed Judy with the litter and a lot of people didn't believe it when I told them my dog was nursing kittens. I'm glad to have the opportunity to photograph this event.
We're feeding the stray mama cat a lot of raw meat and she's putting on weight and the kittens are getting bigger and healthier by the day. Unfortunately raw meat doesn't fix a mama who doesn't know what she's doing, but hopefully the kittens will grow up healthy and we can eventually find good homes for them after they are neutered.
As for Darla and myself, one of us probably needs a therapist after this little adventure. I'm just not sure which one of us needs treatment.
I hope everyone will enjoy this story and the wonders of motherhood. Some animals are just meant to be moms. I doesn't matter what kind of animal they're being a mom to.
We could all learn a few things from the animals.