JAMM AQUINO / STAR-BULLETIN
Snowie, a 3-year-old Shiba-Inu, cared for her surrogate "pups" -- four kittens -- yesterday in Frank Schultz's Ewa Beach home.
Pooch of a wet nurse
A family dog finds her maternal instincts with a batch of kittens
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Snowie the dog was a "certified cat-hater," says her Ewa Beach owner, Frank Schultz.
But that was before the family found four kittens abandoned in their garden shed.
Now Snowie has become their adopted mom, nursing them four to six times a day even though she has never been pregnant.
"I think it's a miracle," said Megumi Schultz, a sixth-grader.
But experts say interspecies nurturing is not uncommon.
"There's tigers that will suckle pigs," said Honolulu Zoo Director Ken Redman. "Somewhere along the line, maternal instinct kicks in."
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Ewa Beach sixth-grader Megumi Schultz was astounded when her cat-hating dog started breast-feeding feral kittens they found in her garden shed.
"I was quite shocked when she started nursing them," she recalled as she related how her dog morphed into a tender, doting mother.
Megumi was walking Snowie, her 3-year-old white Shiba-Inu, one morning when they heard meowing coming from the garden shed.
Snowie sniffed under the shed door and was scratched, apparently by a feral cat. When the girl returned with her father, Frank Schultz, they opened the shed to find a litter of four kittens. The feral mother cat darted away and hasn't returned.
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
After initially being fed kitten formula with an eyedropper, the kittens found a willing wet nurse in Snowie, who started to care for them as her own by nursing them.
"Snowie normally hates cats," said Frank Schultz. "She goes nuts. When we go for a walk, she'll chase 'em down the road. One time she chased one four blocks up into a tree and then tried to climb the tree. If she's not on the leash, she'll attack them."
The Schultz family took the kittens home and began feeding them with kitten formula via eyedroppers.
Then, "kidding around," Schultz's wife, Miyuki, placed one of the kittens on Snowie's teat.
"She looked shocked," said Schultz. "She was looking at us as to say, 'Huh?'"
Then the other kittens started suckling her.
"Snowie just laid there and let them nurse," said Megumi. Now she is producing milk and feeding the kittens four to six times a day. She has never been pregnant or nursed before, but it is possible for females to lactate from nipple stimulation alone.
"I think it's a miracle because you don't normally see dogs nursing cats," said Megumi.
A Google search revealed similar cases elsewhere.
"It's not terribly unheard of ... there's tigers that will suckle pigs," said Ken Redman, director of the Honolulu Zoo. "So somewhere along the line maternal instinct kicks in."
Kawehi Yim of the Hawaiian Humane Society said there also have been cases of cats adopting puppies.
Dr. Eric Ako of the Hawaii Veterinary Medical Association said such cases are "not infrequent," adding, "There's even wider species variations that have been documented ... a monkey has adopted a puppy."
Megumi, who has named the kittens Tabby, Ginger, Momo and Casey, said the accidental mom seems content with her brood.
"She always licks them and follows them everywhere. She protects them. She's really happy, I think, because she doesn't have any companion. I think the kittens will act like dogs, because they are always following her and doing what she does."
Added Frank Schultz: "Usually, we take a long walk at night with Snowie, but now she drags me home so she can take care of the kittens. "
At night, the kittens snuggle up to sleep with Snowie.
Schultz said he's not sure whether they will keep the cats. Some acquaintances have already asked about adopting them when they get big enough, he said.