Animal Photos
143. Newborn kitten receives puppy love

142. Tiger Cubs Play with Chicks
144. Donkey and Dog

By Jordan Bartel, Times Staff Writer

Monday, June 04, 2007

Call it a case of puppy love -- or maybe kitten love is more appropriate.

Sprinkle, a 1-year-old white Chihuahua owned by Westminster resident Teresa Coale, considers the newest addition to the household her new puppy.

Her new "puppy" is actually a 2-week-old black kitten.

Sprinkle regularly grooms the kitten, licking its face and body. She protects the kitten from people reaching in to pick her up. Even though she's not producing milk, the dog tries to nurse the kitten. The unlikely pair also sleep together, curled up with the kitten's head resting on Sprinkle's body.

Teresa Coale's Chihuahua Sprinkle grooms Bindi, a kitten two weeks old,
that Coale rescued from a farm in Taneytown.

Yes, they spoon.

"I couldn't tell you why it's happening," Coale said. "Sprinkle's just very nurturing. It's like she senses the kitten needs to relax and needs love. She's like a pacifier for the kitten. She's her security blanket."

Coale took in the kitten - the family calls her Bindi - from a family friend last week. When Coale got her, the kitten was weak. Now Bindi is thriving, partly due to hand feeding she gets every two hours and partly because of the constant care and attention from Sprinkle, Coale said.

The kitten will cry unless Sprinkle is around to comfort her. Coale's other Chihuahua, Shuggy, enjoys the company of Bindi as well, but isn't nearly as interested in her welfare as Sprinkle. After a feeding, Sprinkle will patiently watch and then groom Bindi when she is out of Coale's hands.

"I think, after I saw them interacting, I knew the kitten would make it," Coale said. "I can feed it, but there's something about the grooming. They've bonded. She doesn't let [Bindi] out of her sight."

Sprinkle might just be a natural mother. Shuggy gave birth recently via Caesarean section, therefore eliminating the chance for bonding that mothers have with their puppies by natural birth, Coale said. Shuggy wasn't the most attentive mother, but Sprinkle stepped up by helping to take care of the puppies. Now it seems she has a puppy all her own.

The pair has such a bond that when Coale went to the beach this past weekend, she brought the kitten, as she needed to feed her every few hours. She also brought along Sprinkle because she's the only one who can keep the kitten quiet.

After a midday feeding, the kitten was put to bed with the two dogs. Sprinkle instantly settled into a dog bed and the kitten began to nurse. After a while, both started to fall asleep, but not before they nuzzled each other with their noses a couple of times. After the kitten played with Sprinkle's nose with her tiny claws, she rested softly on the dog's belly, her head rising and falling with Sprinkle's breaths.

"My kids always ask, "Do you think the cat will grow up and think it's a dog?'" Coale said. "And, really, I'm not sure."

Reach staff writer Jordan Bartel at 410-857-7862 or [email protected].

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