May 10, 2014
'Are You My Mother?' A Barn Cat Discovers Newborn Ducklings [Watch]

A couple checking on their soon-to-hatch ducklings were horrified to see their cat had gotten to them first. When Ronan and Emma Lally saw their cat Della with one of the ducklings, they assumed she had eaten the remaining ducklings and was about to eat that one. They followed their cat back to her nest and found the cat had the exact opposite goal in mind for the "orphaned" ducklings.

The Lallys had purchased fertilized duck eggs to add to their family farm's poultry diversity. The ducklings hatched from their eggs at a most serendipitous time. The Lallys' cat had just delivered kittens within hours of discovering the fluffy newborn ducklings. Just after birth, Emma explained, mothers of many species are flooded with hormones that assist in maternal bonding. When the cat discovered the fluffy warm ducklings, she didn't eat them. Instead, she brought them to her nest and took on the role of mother to the ducklings.

Ducklings are born able to forage for food the video, which was re-posted on the San Francisco Globe's webpage Thursday, explained. They had no need for maternal sustenance. Ducklings are opportunistic eaters, according to the video commentary. When the cat took them into her nest, she also nudged them towards her, just as she did her kittens. Besides the free food, the ducklings also had the benefit of a foster mom to show them the ropes around the farm. Before long, the ducklings had outgrown the kittens and much to the cat's dismay, started hopping out of her nest long before her kittens did. The cat would then round the ducklings back up... for their own good, of course.

Meredith Turner, from the animal rescue organization Farm Sanctuary, told Huffington Post that "ducks absolutely cannot suckle." Though that may be true, it certainly does appear in the video that they are at least going through the motions of appeasing their protective foster mother.

Ronan doesn't care what ducks may be presumed capable of though. He believes his own eyes and said, "We lifted her up and two ducklings were latched onto the cat. The cat has all the maternal instinct, she has her paw around them and it is just extraordinary."

In the video, the almost grown ducklings are seen in a single-file line following behind their foster mom. Della, the cat, may not have been the ducklings' biological mother, but thanks to the most fortuitous of circumstances, she did a nice job as an adoptive mother.