Why Animals "Adopt" Others, Including Different Species
Odd alliances often form due to instinct—but empathy may be involved.
Such adoptions are relatively common among domestic animals, and occasionally seen in the wild, according to Jenny Holland, author of the 2011 book Unlikely Friendships. (Read a Q&A with Holland about her book.)
Some examples include a dog that nursed a baby squirrel as part of her own litter, captive apes that treated cats like infant apes, and a dog that watched over a baby owl, Holland said by email.
And in her forthcoming book, Unlikely Loves, Holland will feature a Dalmatian that adopts a calf that happens to wear Dalmatian-like spots, a goat that helps a young giraffe learn self-confidence, and a hen that sits on "her" pups to keep them warm.