Cross-Nursing in the Animal Kingdom


sidebox-kitten-thinks-rI just finished a book about the evolution of “cooperative reproduction” among humans.  It seems that humans are among a minority of species in which biological mothers allow their offspring to be cared for by others–and in which those others are willing and able to step up to the plate.  The book argues that this willingness to share care of our young has been both necessary to our survival as a species and a unique marker of human-ness.  And yet, the book also looks at examples in the (non-human) animal kingdom in which mothers share care of young with other members of their groups.

This recent video from YouTube struck me as a particularly charming example of an impulse we humans share with other mammals (and according to the book, some birds and fish) however rarely it may be seen in other species.

It would be one thing for a recently post-partum mother cat to take on an extra kitten or two from another mother’s litter, but this feline mama has adopted puppies:

If cats and dogs can help each other out like this, surely human adoption and shared childcare is the most natural thing in the world.