Two unusual co-parents have melted hearts online after their picture went viral on Reddit this week.
Shared on Tuesday, Reddit user Lindsey—who uses the handle Lindseyh911—posted the picture featuring two cats and their kittens, which has now received more than 34,000 upvotes and thousands of comments.
Posted with the caption: "Co-parenting at its finest!! 2-week-old jelly beans, 6-week-old toddlers, and 2 mamas who love and feed whichever kitten is closest," the endearing cat story has bought joy to internet users.
A picture of the two mother cats and their kittens. The story of two cats sharing parenting responsibilities between their new litters has melted hearts online.LINDSEYH911/REDDIT
The mother cats are named Clementine and Cloud, and they have each had their first litter recently. Clementine's kittens are now 6 weeks old—referred to as the toddlers, while Cloud's kittens are 2 weeks old—referred to as the jelly beans.
Lindsey, who lives in rural Ohio on a small hobby farm, told Newsweek: "We had no idea they would do this. Each litter had it's own cat bed and Cloud combined the litters in the middle of the night into one bed and they've been a happy little family ever since. They take turns feeding whatever kitten is hungry and snuggling whichever ones are tired."
One Redditor shared a story of a similar experience in the comments and wrote: "When I was a kid, we had two cats give birth within the same week, and one cat mom was not interested in being a mom, so the other took care of all the kittens. It's so sweet how cats will take care of kittens that aren't their own."
Sarah-Jane White, an animal behaviorist from Ruffle Snuffle, told Newsweek: "It is common for cats to co-parent. Co-parenting is when two animals work together to care for their young. Co-parenting has been observed in a variety of different animal species, including lions, gorillas, and dolphins.
"Cats often form close bonds with their littermates, and these bonds can last into adulthood. Cats who co-parent typically share responsibilities such as cleaning, feeding, and protecting the kittens. Co-parenting is thought to provide many benefits to both the parents and the kittens, including a greater chance of survival."
Redditors, delighted by the picture, flooded the comments. "This is certified adorable," wrote one commenter. "This is absolutely beautiful. So much love in one spot," said another on the now-viral post. And another user wrote: "There is too much cuteness here for my brain to properly comprehend!"
Not all cats have the same maternal instincts though, White explained: "Some cats may be willing to help out if they see that the kittens are in danger or need help, while others may not be interested in helping at all. It likely depends on the individual cat and the circumstances surrounding the situation.
"Whatever the reason, it is clear that cats are capable of forming strong bonds with animals other than their own offspring."
With ten cute kittens to care for, these co-parents have their hands full for now. "Two of the kittens will be going to live with family friends when they are old enough," said Lindsey. "Any kitten that doesn't go live with someone else will stay on our farm to be loved by us and to chase mice."