Cats are generally known for being fickle and self-absorbed, but their body language is actually quite subtle and difficult to interpret by those of us without whiskers. This mommy cat, which decided to bring up some very unusual babies, shows just how loving and accepting felines can be.
There are few things in the world cuter than kittens; they’re tiny, fluffy and they make adorable little meow noises as they innocently totter around, exploring their world for the first time. In their early days kittens rely heavily on mommy; their first sensations being of her loving care.
Temporarily deafblind from birth, kittens depend on their moms for everything from nutrition to warmth. And while humans don’t necessarily perceive cats as generous, they’re probably among the world’s most maternal mammals.
Take this amazing parent, for example. Her name’s Della and she’s a farm cat from County Offaly, Ireland. Despite having her own litter of kittens she felt compelled to take on some additional – and extra special – babies.
This was only possible because of her hormone-fueled maternal instincts; had these other babies arrived at a different time she may not have been interested. What was really remarkable, though, was what these orphaned babies looked like.
The animal kingdom is filled with examples of just how deep love can run and how affection can transcend different species. It’s something that perhaps we humans can learn from – especially in the case of this maternal moggie.
Emma and Ronan Lally – Della’s owners – were expecting some baby ducklings on their smallholding. But when they found the remains of hatched eggs minus the tiny ducks, they were concerned that Della’s hunting instincts had gotten the better of her.
When they tracked down the ducklings the amateur farmers were shocked at what they saw. Della had not only found the newly hatched babies within hours of giving birth herself; she had taken them under her proverbial wing.
That in itself is unusual, but the way Della treated the ducklings is just the sweetest thing. She didn’t only let them climb among her other kittens; she even allowed them to suckle from her.
“The minute the cat lay down the three ducklings ran underneath her,” Ronan explained to the Irish Independent. “She stared to purr.” This is especially amazing because ducks, unlike cats, do not feed their babies milk.
When Ronan lifted Della up, he told the newspaper, he noticed that two ducklings were “latched onto” the farm cat. “The cat has all the maternal instinct; she has her paw around them and it is just extraordinary.”
Ducklings grow up relatively quickly and, since cats are predators of birds, Ronan thought it best to separate the fluffy ducklings before Della’s hunter instincts took hold. But he needn’t have worried.
Emma disagreed with Ronan – she thought it would be better to keep Della and the ducklings together. Seeing as she’s a midwife by trade she probably knew best, so her partner was duly persuaded.
Ducklings are naturally good at forming attachments – a trait known as imprinting. These bonds are normally with their natural parents, but attachments can still be forged when mom and dad sadly aren’t around.
Della was the first thing the ducklings saw after hatching; as far as they’re concerned the cat is their mom. And while they essentially acted like kittens in their first days and weeks, the baby ducks later began behaving like they’re supposed to.
Although they get on great with their feline siblings, the adorable little duckies started leaving their box a little more. Della, to her credit, wanted to make sure her birdy babies were okay, and so worked hard to keep them alongside her actual kittens.
The mommy cat would even pick up the ducklings in her mouth and drop them back into their box whenever they felt adventurous and left. Della, it seems, is quite the disciplinarian.
When they were still little Ronan thought Della may suspect something was different about her adopted babies. “The cat thinks they are all kittens,” he said during his Independent interview. “The cat might notice when the yellow kittens get very big.”
It didn’t really matter to the maternal cat that the new additions weren’t exactly like her biological brood, though. She treated them just the same as her kittens and the ducklings were apparently happy to be part of Della’s furry family.
Even now the ducklings have grown Della’s family is still strong. Despite the obvious physical differences between them the ducks continue to follow the cat around the smallholding like they would their natural mom. If Della did notice the difference she didn’t care – and that’s a beautiful message we should all embrace.