After a mom genet (kind of a cross between a rodent and a cat) abandoned her babies because of children taunting and throwing rocks at her, the three orphaned babies were later found in a puddle beneath a tree. Some children found the 2 week-old critters and told the local pastor. He then called in the experts from the Daktari Bush School and Wildlife Orphanage of Hoedspruit, South Africa.
Ian and Michelle Merrifield, co-founders of this non-profit, quickly came and collected the furry trio. After they realized just how small and helpless these little genets were, they worried they may not be able to pull them through. At this age any animal still needs to be under the protection and care of its biological fur mommy.
The Merrifields didn’t let the circumstance stop them and went to work to try and save the babies. They wrapped them in a blanket and laid them beside their three dogs in the office in hopes that the pooches would keep them warm. Surprisingly, Candy, a Cockapoo, was extremely interested in the orphans.
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She would watch as the Merrifields fed the babies with a syringe and even allowed the genets to snuggle up to her. This is when the team noticed the genets were trying to suckle from Candy. The little female dog had puppies in the past, but she wasn’t pregnant at the time.
To the Merrifields great surprise, Candy actually started producing milk for her tiny adoptees.
However, according to veterinarian Dr. Honorata Lenk Markham (Oaklawn Animal Hospital in Rhode Island) the occurrence of one species nursing a different one isn’t so strange or unheard of. He theorizes that when an animal’s maternal instincts kick in, she will produce the oxytocin hormone, which in turn will begin the production of milk.
Markham figures this is exactly what happened with Candy. Her bond with the babies were so great, she felt they were her own and needed to nourish them as her own. The good doctor has seen cases like this before, when a dog has become so attached to a stuffed toy that it creates the same situation.
Candy was a good surrogate mom and nursed the genets named, Maswika, Sakka and Chouchou, everyday without fail. Although, dog’s milk is not fully nutritious for the genet species, the Merrifields were happy to supplement the babes with some needed calcium. That is, when Candy was not being an overprotective mom to her little litter.
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She would became very jealous and protective of her adoptive young, and would not allow any other animal or humans (other than the Merrifields) to come near them. After Candy’s loving devotion, two of the genets were grown enough and ready to embark on their lives back in the wild. However, the smallest, Chouchou, was just too nervous for this type of life, so it is being kept at the sanctuary.
Even though the genet is nocturnal, Candy still visits whenever she gets the chance and regularly sneaks into the enclosure when the Merrifields are attending to the now grown-up baby.