Hilda Russell's only trepidation about bringing home six abandoned kittens was her 2-year-old female dachshund, Sydney. "I tried keeping her away from them, but she just got more curious," Ms. Russell said. "She would lay down on her side like she wanted to nurse them."
Sure enough, Sydney started lactating and has been nursing the kittens for three weeks.
Ms. Russell even brought home another abandoned litter, giving Sydney 11 kittens to nurse.
"What Sydney has experienced is a false pregnancy," said veterinarian Craig Wood, who said he had never seen a case like it. "This is not a common occurrence in animals. . . . Sydney has fooled her body into thinking these babies are hers."
Wood said the dog's nursing is harmless to the kittens.
"Sydney's milk may not be as good for them as their own mother's, but they can thrive and survive on it," he said.
Ms. Russell said Sydney's newfound motherhood is "the strangest thing I have ever seen. She used to sleep with me at night, but now she only wants to stay with her kittens."