In other cases, both pigs and dogs have been known to adopt each others orphans. In one case, a mother tiger has even taken piglets as her own. In the mountain village of Peretina, Greece, a mother pig added four abandoned puppies to her own litter, feeding and caring for them as though they were her own. In Chongqing, China, a mother dog, despondent after losing her whole litter of pups to stillbirth, disappeared from home one day, only to return with a piglet, which she took to caring for as her own. A Papillon in Seattle, Washington insisted on including an injured and orphaned squirrel to her newborn litter, and a Chihuahua in Lake City, Florida adopted and nursed an entire litter of four newborn squirrels that had survived a downed tree branch.
Some dog breeds, going against type, will prove their altruistic natures. Pit Bulls, one named Ramona in Boston, Massachusetts, and Gabi in Kalikino, Russia were reported to be new mothers to orphaned kittens. Cats, too, will veer out of type. Proving that they are not always the snooty self absorbed creatures they are portrayed to be, a homeless mother cat in Savannah, Georgia adopted an abandoned newborn Labrador Retriever, of her own volition, when it was brought to the Humane Society for veterinary nursing care.
Behaviorists are hard-pressed to explain why some animals will exhibit seemingly altruistic behavior towards members of different species. We know that humans can see the wider view; that in taking care of other species we are contributing to the health of the planet, and to our own health, as it has been shown that good deeds improve one's outlook, leading to more cheer and a healthier immune system in response.
Perhaps animals cannot consider the long term effects of their good deeds, nor whether they will receive a direct reward for their affection and sacrifice, but there may be a deeper primitive instinct that tells all creatures that giving of ourselves to those that are in need will bring us contentment and health. Even if "we" don't know these things because a scientist has told us it is so, we know these things because we feel them. And that, when it comes down to it, is what the mothering instinct is all about.
Image: Katie Brady / via Flickr
The term for an animal’s young
A stem that comes out from a larger stem.