When South Carolina animal control officer Michelle Smith received a call about a yelping dog behind Home Depot, she found more than she was looking for. The officer climbed down a steep embankment to see a Shih-Tzu tangled in a briar patch. But she wasn’t alone – nestled in with the dog was a tiny, nursing kitten.
“I didn’t know what to think,” Smith said. “I was shocked and surprised and then of course, awww!”
Volunteers at the Anderson County Animal Shelter had the same reaction when the pair were brought in. They were awed by how well the five-year-old dog took care of the five-week kitten.
Shelter Director Jessica Cwynar says that maternal instinct is natural for mammals.
“It would be like one of us seeing a neglected or abandoned child and taking it under our wing,” she said.
The two eat and sleep together, and when they’re bored they just watch each other. If the kitten gets too close to the edge of their opened cage, mama scruffs her baby and carries her back to their cozy bed. They had their own private suite at the shelter, with no other animals in the room.
Cwynar said that when the dog came across the abandoned kitten, a surge of hormones flooded her body, allowing her to produce milk.
“She’s producing some, but not all that (the kitten) will need nutrition-wise,” she explained.
Shelter staff have supplemented her diet with kitten milk, which her adoptive mom also seems to enjoy. When the kit is done feeding, mom cleans her mouth and nudges her with her nose.
It is likely the dog belongs to someone; she was found wearing a striped collar.
“She is someone’s pet because she has been groomed and has been well taken care of,” Cwynar said.
It is hoped that the dog’s owner will come forward and also adopt the cat, because the pair do not take to being separated. Grooming and vet records can be used as proof of ownership. So far, no one has stepped forward.
With all the sad cases that Cwynar sees, it makes her job gratifying to see this pair.
“Good things happen all the time, but great happens seldom,” Smith said. “This is enough to keep me going the next six or eight months.”
The dog and cat are currently staying in a foster home together.