The mother cat’s owner, Lauren, says on TikTok: “She brings her kittens to Toby when she needs a little break”. A colleague of mine is not quite so sure and thinks that the mother might be taking her kittens to the dog to show them to him. My guess is that this is an example of cooperative parenting with a twist. What I mean is this: when there are two mother cats in a colony or in a family home and they both have kittens, it is not uncommon for those parents to share the raising of their offspring. It makes sense. It is the kind of thing that happens with people. It makes parenting more efficient and practical.
My guess is that this female adult cat regards her dog companion, Toby, in the same light that she would regard another female cat who was parenting. She does this because there is no doubt in my mind that this dog and cat are close friends and have lived together for a considerable time. And if I am correct then she is indeed giving the kittens to Toby to look after them for a while.
There was a story, not long ago, in the online news media about two stray cats who gave birth within hours of each other. They were rescued while pregnant and so they gave birth in the rescue’s home. Their names are Florentine and Romana. Florentine had three kittens and Romana had four. They ended up with a foster carer organised by a local cat rescue organisation, The Mayhew.
The foster carer, Nicola, said that she loved to see Romana and Florentine interact in the care of their kittens. She said: “Seeing the two mums work together is an absolute joy, they co-parent and are just so close – they even sleep together”.
Linda P Case in her book The Cat, Its Behaviour, Nutrition and Health, states in respect of the mother-kitten relationship that “free-roaming females who live in social groups may engage in communal raising of kittens. In the latter case, growing kittens may be influenced by several adult females.”
My belief, as stated, is that this is an example of communal or cooperative parenting which has been distorted because one parent is a dog who was apparently not doing any parenting before the mother cat decided to engage their help. I am sure that readers have seen at least one example of a dog raising kittens and you will see many other examples of interspecies parenting. It really is that common.
Below are some more pages about parenting.