Zoo workers are used to being around animals, but even they get surprised sometimes. When one zoo-keeper found a kitten on the grounds, she couldn't help but take her in. A year later, that cat would throw people for a loop when it was her time to nurse a litter. Read on to see the surprising babies the zoo pet helped to nurture.
Spotting A Lost Kitten
Zoos are usually reserved for exotic animals like tigers and bears, not house pets. Still, one little kitten somehow found her way into Sadgorod Zoo in Russia. A zoo-keeper named Alice was the one who spotted the furball.
The young feline was in a pile of snow during the cold winter months. Right away, Alice bundled up the animal in her jacket and rushed to the zoo vets. For all she knew, the kitten could be injured from the cold.
Becoming A Part Of The Staff
Fortunately, Alice found the kitten in time and the zoo vets were able to nurse her to a full recovery. The process of saving the young cat had caused the staff to become attached.
After all, they were animal-lovers. They decided to keep the cat and make her a part of the zoo staff. Unlike the other animals on the property, the feline wouldn't be put on display. She would be the pet of those who work there.
A Curious Cat
They named the cat Musya, and she grew up to be healthy and strong. The problem was that there were many wild animals around the zoo who could pose a threat to Musya.
To keep her safe, the zoo workers had to make sure that she was in a designated area at all times. However, the cat grew curious as she got older and wanted to explore the zoo grounds. Eventually, she got out.
Looking For Musya
The zoo workers were well aware of all the different animals on the property. So, as soon as they noticed that Musya was gone they started looking for her. She had managed to slip out through a door that had been left open.
Fortunately, Musya wasn't completely unaware of the zoo grounds. Alice took her for walks on a leash over the past year since she'd first discovered the lost kitten. However, they worried that she might try to roam into enclosures.
No Luck With The Search
The staff looked everywhere for Musya, but couldn't find the cat. Felines have a way of slipping into small spaces and going unseen, so they hoped she was at least still on the property.
Even then, that didn't mean she was safe from the many predators kept in cages. Alice stayed optimistic, though. She trusted that the cat was smart enough not to wander into a dangerous place and that she would soon return home.
Musya Came Back On Her Own
Like so many outdoor cats, Musya returned home when she was ready. After two days of roaming the zoo grounds, she returned to the staff quarters where she was kept.
The cat pawed at the door to get Alice's attention, which worked. The zoo-keeper was overjoyed to see the beloved pet. While many cats like exploring for days on their own, it was very different when the adventure happened around wild animals. Fortunately, Musya had great survival skills.
Giving The Cat A Job
After finding Musya, Alice started to think about the best way to prevent this accident from happening again. The cat was a year old now and was clearly no longer satisfied with leashed walks.
That's when the perfect plan came to mind. Alice decided to give Musya a very important job. The cat would start to foster kittens. The zoo workers had come across a litter of four kittens who needed nursing, and Musya would be the perfect fit.
A Natural Mother
The kittens took to Musya swimmingly, and the cat reciprocated the affection. While the feline had previously been looking out the window longing for something to do, now she had a purpose.
It was a win for everyone involved. The vets didn't have to worry as much about the orphaned kittens. The kittens got the comfort of someone in their species who had been through a similarly tough start. And Musya got to put her motherly instincts toward something.
Trouble In The Zoo
It's a good thing that Musya was back to safety because something soon happened on the zoo grounds that left one animal in critical condition. A lawnmower somehow came into contact with a hedgehog's head.
The accident was serious enough that the hedgehog didn't make it. The zoo staff soon discovered that the animal had something of grave importance she'd left behind. They came upon eight baby hedgehogs that now no longer had a home.
Saving The Hedgehogs
The zoo workers immediately grabbed the hoglets, knowing that they would be extremely vulnerable without their mother. The vets were able to quickly determine that the tiny hedgehogs were still newborns.
Losing their mother was a huge blow for multiple reasons. For one, they wouldn't have protection from the other animals on the property. The other issue was that they desperately needed sustenance, and now they didn't have a mother to nurse or comfort them.
Trying To Feed The Hoglets
The first order of business was to try to get the hoglets to eat. Fortunately, there were plenty of experts at the zoo who knew just how to take care of the young hedgehogs.
The zoo workers attempted to feed the hoglets milk through multiple methods. They placed it in a saucer and left it out for them. They put it in a bottle and tried to feed it to them. They even put it in a syringe and tried to shoot it into their mouths.
Refusing To Eat
All three methods, saucer, bottle, and syringe, failed miserably. For some reason, the baby hedgehogs wouldn't drink the milk no matter what the zoo vets did to try to accommodate them.
The hoglets had already been through so much that they needed to eat to survive. At their young age, getting nutrients was vital and malnutrition could have lifelong consequences. Still, the little ones wouldn't give in for some reason. One person thought they knew why.
They Wouldn't Eat On Their Own
The zoo's deputy director, Alyona, figured out why the hedgehogs might be refusing to eat. After two days, they were in desperate need of nutrition, but still wouldn't accept milk.
Alyona figured that the reason might be that the milk wasn't coming from an animal like they were used to. The newborns were still blind, so it's understandable that they would be hesitant to accept a foreign object that they couldn't even see.
Bringing In Musya To Help
After two days of not being able to get the hedgehogs to eat, the vets weren't sure what to do. That's when Alyona looked over and saw Musya. Suddenly, an idea clicked in the deputy director's mind.
The cat was minding her own business, lounging in the yard. Alyona knew that Musya had been successful nursing foster cats. She also knew that the feline was still producing milk, and wondered if maybe the hedgehogs would respond.
Putting Together Musya And The Hoglets
Like the rest of the zoo staff, Alyona knew Musya well enough to trust the cat. If it were just any feline, they might pose a threat to the fragile hoglets, but not Musya.
She immediately went over and picked up the cat, then placed her in the area where they were keeping the newborn hedgehogs. That was all she could do. The rest would be up to fate, so she stood and waited to see what would happen.
Everyone Knew Exactly What To Do
Alyona said that it was only a matter of seconds before both Musya and the hoglets' instincts kicked in. Even though they weren't the same species, they still knew just what to do.
The hoglets could smell Musya's milk and made their way over to her. Musya somehow understood that these were newborns in need of feeding. The cat laid down, completely prepared to nurse these baby hedgehogs. Sure enough, they found the cat and started nursing!
Musya's Body Warmth Helped
While the hoglets could smell the milk that the vets were trying to feed them, they responded differently when it came from a cat. Part of this could have been her animal-like scent, but it also had to do with her body warmth.
The hedgehogs were comforted by the fact that they were nursing from a warm body they could snuggle up to. Even though she isn't a hedgehog, Musya was similar enough to remind them of their mother.
She Comforted Them At Night
As with the foster kittens, Musya became a full-blown caretaker as soon as she met the hoglets. They took to her so well that they even would snuggle up to her at night.
The zoo workers watched in amazement at how these two different species could still bond and have a mutual understanding. The vets had even tried using a heating pad to stimulate the hoglets' hunger, but nothing worked until they felt safe with Musya.
Their Prickly Fur Can Be A Problem
It's amazing enough that two different kinds of animals were able to form a mother-child relationship. But even more incredible is that the feline is comfortable with prickly hoglets snuggling up to her.
Like many cats, Musya isn't shy about needing some space, though. If one of the hedgehogs accidentally pricks her, she'll be quick to hiss at them. But like a mother scolding their child, the hiss doesn't impact the hoglet's trust in her.
The Hoglets Can Eat On Their Own Now
Musya enabled the baby hedgehogs to gradually transition from nursing to eating on their own. Even though they no longer need their feline foster mother to nurse them, they still remain close to her.
The cat keeps an eye on the hedgehogs, making sure that they sleep well at night and feel comfortable. If anyone understands what being a young animal stranded at a zoo feels like, it's Musya. Thanks to her, the hoglets don't have to feel quite so alone.