172. Retriever Nurses Kitten
Mom, is that you?
By Teresa Dunham
Stephens City -- A local golden retriever's motherly instinct is going beyond her own species.
The dog named Honey hadn't given birth in 18 months -- but an orphaned kitten's cries made her start producing milk.
"Two or three days later, she started lactating," said Honey's owner, Jimmy Martin. "She's like a mother to this kitten."
Martin's wife, Kathy Martin, said her jaw dropped the first time she saw the kitten suckling from Honey.
"This is another species all together, not even a cat," said Kathy. "I've heard of animals having litters and taking two, but never lactating because something new came in."
A bold move brought the stray kitten into the Martins' lives about six weeks ago.
"She ran in front of me in my concrete truck," said Jimmy, who drives for Crider & Shockey Inc.
When he saw the little gray-striped blur rush past, Jimmy jumped out of his concrete truck and followed her to a stray tire at the company's Front Royal plant.
"A mama cat wasn't in sight," he said. "She was all by herself."
Immediately, the 6-foot-2, 290-pound man said the tiny kitten stole his heart because she reminded him of a cat he used to have.
"She was so pretty. I held her and brought her home. I had to wrap her in a towel because she was still so little," he said.
The kitten slept all the way home on the towel -- but Jimmy wasn't sure how he was going to keep her alive after they arrived at his Stephens City residence.
"I had to find a bottle to feed her," said Jimmy. "But she wouldn't drink from it."
Jimmy's mother, Ruth Martin, who lives with the family, didn't think the kitten was going to make it.
"They're so hard to feed because they're so tiny," she said.
Given the circumstances, Kathy tried not to get too attached and started asking people at work if they would consider adopting the kitten.
Meanwhile, Jimmy named her Precious -- and their children started declaring that Precious was a part of the family.
"She's such a cute little kitten," said Serenity Martin, 9.
Her little brother, 6-year-old Jacob Martin, agreed.
"She feels soft," he said.
Yet no one was more excited about Precious than Honey.
She would wag her tail and prance all over the house, trying to get a peek at her new playmate.
"We tried to keep Honey away [from Precious] at first because she was so excited," said Kathy.
They were afraid Honey would play too rough -- but the dog's enthusiasm eventually wore them down.
To everyone's surprise, Honey toned down her typical exuberance for the little kitten.
"She started licking her and loving her. Within a couple of days, Honey started naturally lactating," said Kathy. "The kitten took right to her, and she started nursing her."
After that, Kathy couldn't imagine giving Precious away.
"Honey decided we were going to keep the kitten," she said.
When the Martins told a veterinarian about Honey and Precious, they learned that such maternal acts happen on rare occasion.
Media reports from around the country have recorded stories of a cat nursing a pug puppy and a dog nursing a piglet.
And a tiger at a zoo in Thailand reportedly took on a litter of piglets -- so maybe it's not such a stretch for dogs and cats to get along after all.
Nowadays, Precious occasionally plays with dog bones, and Honey lets Precious gnaw on her like a puppy.
"She thinks she's a dog," said Kathy. "She's really fit right in."
Ultimately, both pets have earned their names.
"Precious really is precious," said Kathy. "And Honey has really proved to be a honey."
STEPHENS CITY, Va. - A stray kitten has found a new mother in a golden retriever, who began producing milk for the gray tabby after hearing its cries.
The hungry kitten, found in an old tire at a concrete plant, refused to drink from a bottle and her rescuers feared she would die. That's when Honey, the family dog who hadn't given birth in 18 months, stepped in with her motherly instincts.
"She started licking her and loving her. Within a couple of days, Honey started naturally lactating," said Kathy Martin, whose husband, Jimmy, brought the kitten home six weeks ago. "The kitten took right to her."
Initially, the family worried such a big dog would be too rough for the tiny feline named Precious. But Honey showed her elation at Precious' presence, wagging her tail and prancing all over the house.
Precious now sometimes plays with dog bones, and Honey lets the kitten gnaw on her like a puppy.
"She thinks she's a dog," Kathy Martin said. "She's really fit right in."