This abandoned duckling’s brain has been imprinted by a cat plush toy as its mother. For the duckling the toy is its mother because Ms Neill who found the duckling thought it needed something to cuddle so she put the duckling on a tea towel and ‘put the toy cat in and snuggled it in with the heat lamp on’. It thrived and it is still thriving.
Neill could see that the duckling was looking for its mum because it tried to go under the tea towel. She grabbed the first plush toy she could find in her daughter’s room and it was a cat.
The photos tell the story. The idea of imprinting is quite interesting. There are many examples of it. Sometimes cats have been imprinted with the firm conviction that their human guardian is their mother. This can happen when a person nurses a very young kitten at that very sensitive stage of their life and it lasts to adulthood.
These cats are very loving towards their human companion and perhaps quite clingy. I think there is quite a subtle difference between a cat being imprinted or being a friendly companion but there is a noticeable difference and it lasts throughout the cat’s life I believe. Once the relationship is fixed it does not normally fade if the relationship continues to be close as is normally the case. I believe that I am imprinted on my cat’s brain as his parent because I raised him from about 7 weeks of age which is a bit late perhaps for imprinting. However, his behavior is that of an imprinted cat, I believe.
It is known that the strong attachment formed because of imprinting can equally be with an non-living object as a living one.
I wonder if this duck can now be returned to the wild. If the duckling had been imprinted with the conviction that Ms Neill was its mother there’d little or no chance but as the mother is an inanimate object perhaps it can become independent in the wild.