strange dog behavior

I own a 10 month old intact female chihuahua named Penny and a 1 year old female cat named Cheeto. Cheeto had 5 kittens 3 weeks ago. She seems to be a good mother and takes good care of them. For the last few days Penny has really taken an interest in the kittens. Whenever Cheeto is out of the box Penny goes in to lay with them. When Cheeto comes back, Penny growles at her and wont let her back in. I think the dog thinks they are her kittens. She has even tried to move them to another location twice today.

I was wondering if anyone here has heard of, or had any first hand experience with this behavior? I looked online, but only found similar behavior with dogs that have recently given birth. Penny has never even been pregnant.

I had a (spayed) female ferret who performed maternal-instinct type of behavior … with wine corks, her chosen surrogate. Makes sense enough, I suppose, since they’re about the same size as newborn ferret pups, round & lightweight. Anyway, she’d hoard any corks that she could beg, borrow, or steal and, if her “nest” was found or disturbed by a human while she was watching, she’d move the corks, one by one, to a new location.

It’s relatively common to see maternal instincts being displayed in female mammals regardless of whether or not they’ve given birth. Hell, look at little girls playing with dolls. It’s also not unheard of in the animal kingdom - including among humans - for adult females to steal the young of others.

I believe that’s called “false whelping”. I had a registered Newfy and had plans to breed her. Of course I waited and didn’t take her to stud her first couple of heats. After she dried up she would treat a stuffed animal as a puppy, trying to nurse it, protect it, carried it around just like a puppy.

Sad to say her hip x-rays came back positive, so I did finally spay her.

An ugly dog and cute kittens, that’s Internet Gold!!

I’ve heard of stranger animal combinations than dogs and cats. A bitch of the appropriate age is ‘programmed’ to take care of small helpless creatures so it’s not really surprising given the situation. Cats will sometimes ‘adopt’ mice and treat them as their own. Go figure.

I grew up with an adult male dachshund who found and adopted a desert tortoise.

I had a spayed, mixed breed bitch adopt a previously weaned ~4 month old kitten. The kitten started nursing on her and she actually began lactating! It was so bizarre.

When I was a kid, the youngest of my mom’s cats (spayed all) decided that she was mother to the oldest of the cats. It actually worked out quite well, though the two cats had very different views of the nature of the relationship. Baby groomed Spunky because she was her kitten, and Spunky allowed Baby to groom her because she was Supreme High Empress of All she Surveyed, and it was only appropriate for lesser beings to be her servants.

Why does it not surprise me that SDMB posters all have insane pets?

Thanks for all the replies. I guess this isn’t as strange as I thought it was. I have seen weird animal pairings like ducks with cats online, but just assumed that they were staged for the picture.

My wife moved the kittens into a lockable dog kennel yesterday. We are letting the mama cat in and out whenever she wants. I kind of feel bad for the dog because she just sits there at the kennel whining and looking at us.

Got to hand it to the cat though. She doesn’t seem to be bothered by any of this. If I had to guess, I would say that she is kind of amused by it.

As an undergrad, a TA sent me to the biology library tasked with finding a specific textbook and looking at a specific page number. I went along with the gag.

The book was a huge, scholarly tome on mammalian milk biochemistry. The page number was a photograph of a cute, young girl breastfeeding an orphan fawn.