For the mommy cat

This story is hugely popular on Facebook, and it’s a sweet story, but it seems extremely implausible to me. But I seem to be alone in that. I’m curious what you savagely skeptical people think.

My mother’s friend adopted this lovely dog after he was abandoned by his previous family. His name is Shaun.

Shaun had always been very good at eating all his food. Every last bit that was, he ate it.

One day he started leaving a little bit behind. He wouldn’t eat everything, no matter what. He always left a little behind.

Every morning when my mother’s friend checked Shaun’s bowl, the food was gone. That was very strange, because Shaun always spent the night by her side.

One night she decided to investigate the food situation. She waited quietly by the food bowl and then, in the middle of the night, a cat came through the window and ate the remaining food. She noticed the cat was actually pregnant.

She realized that Shaun had been saving his food for the mommy cat. A week or so later the cat came into her house and gave birth to six little kittens.

Shaun took care of them as if they were his own babies. My mother’s friend adopted the cat too (her name is Meow) and they took care of the kittens until they all found loving homes.

Nowadays, Meow and Shaun live happily together as a family and they each have their own bowls of food.

It’s the “She realized that Shaun had been saving his food for the mommy cat” bit that I don’t believe. I don’t think she did realize that, and I have a very hard time believing Shaun was doing any such thing.

What about you?


  1. leni says

    Sounds like bullshit. Though it might be a nice morality tale about sharing for very young children.

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    Shaun took care of them as if they were his own babies.

    They probably were.

    (Hey, if you can believe the rest of this story as given, a little hybridization hanky-panky should cause no problems.)

  3. rnilsson says

    Well, a long time ago we used to have this Really Nice Cat, a rather large gelding. He had an almost unnatural knack of convincing every family member how he had been starved all day, so we each fed him and scolded each other. From time to time we found it prudent to trim his gird a little, so instead of his usual canned food he got a simpler brand for a few days so he would not overeat.

    Perhaps he was actually smarter than us, because on such occasions he invited the neighbors’ cat to the feed bowl (much to the other cat’s amazement) and as soon as it had been emptied of its cheaper content, he complained loudly, again, that he hadn’t been eating properly for aa-ages!!112

    The poor confused cat next door never caught on to the difference and thus had to be chased up and down our decorated Yule-tree, which fell over, and that was the end of those fine Viennese glass ornaments.

    (Other) animals are not always as stupid as we think, and we are not always as smart as we think too.

  4. Blanche Quizno says

    It’s crap. A feral pregnant cat would *NEVER* come INTO the house to have her kittens!

    At one place we lived, I trapped a pregnant feral cat in the attic, where I could give her lots of food and water and I gave her several nests to use for her kittens, which I planned to socialize and foster to good homes. She managed to get under the floorboards.

    There is *NO WAY* that cat would have come INTO the house to give birth.

  5. rnilsson says

    Now for the skeptic side: I disapprove on principle of giving pets people names, but since the dog was adopted can we be sure he wasn’t actually a Sean? And continuing on the movie celeb theme, MommyCat would be Mia, right? Amirite?
    Suddenly respecting food bowl as property of others? Hah.
    Also, kudos to Pierce.

  6. says

    That the dog would share his food with a cat, is plausible. That the dog did it because he knew the cat was pregnant? Not so much. And as to Blanche’s objection about a feral cat? I agree that a truly feral cat would be unlikely to come inside to give birth, but a stray that had been raised in a house with people but was a runaway or abandoned? That seems likely enough to happen. Especially if in the “week or so” intervening, the owners of Shaun made friendly overtures to the cat that the cat was happy with.

  7. MadHatter says

    I could see a dog leaving food behind for the cat. She’d probably been in and out of the house before, and if the dog had been doing this long enough, probably before she was pregnant either. Animals making odd friendships isn’t really out of the ordinary, but assuming the dog could have known about the pregnancy is pushing it. And yea, she was either abandoned, or belonged to someone nearby and liked this house for another source of food.

    Indoor/outdoor kitties do that often enough. We had one who used to wander the entire neighborhood, checking out the barns and garages for cat food. And she was far from starving.

  8. latsot says

    The narrative has the feel of something constructed after the fact. The part about Shaun’s owner checking the bowl, for example, looks like a plea. If it happened the way they said it happened, a plea wouldn’t be necessary. It just seems like information that’s only put in to make the story seem more plausible. That alone makes it (even) less plausible to me, but I’m a cynic. And then there’s the fact that Shaun always spent the entire night by his owner’s side (what, did the owner stay awake all night, every night to check?)/ It’s another plea. And of course, this all happened to “someone’s friend” or – even more ‘convincing’ “my mother’s friend”. It seems calculated to make the story sound more believable or to label it as an obvious anecdote so that the teller doesn’t feel inclined to hold themself to the same standard of truth that might ordinarily be expected. Like I said, I’m a cynic.

    It’s far more likely that the cat was seen eating leftover food and the owner thought “wait a minute, I did notice the other day that Shaun had left some food…” and then constructed this into a narrative of Shaun never ever previously leaving food (how would you know? Do you check his bowl obsessively every few minutes?) and then *always* leaving some food once the cat was on the scene (did you only start checking the bowl regularly after you’d seen the cat? Can you really say with such certainly that Shaun had never left food on any previous occasion or did you just not check because…well, why would you?)

    Or it could just be completely made up. It’s bullshit either way.

    I cannot buy – without serious evidence – the idea of a dog leaving food for another creature. FEEDING another creature, sure. SHARING with another creature, absolutely. But there is a vast jump in reasoning ability required to figure out that leaving food will feed that other creature and even that the creature needs feeding. It requires either a very specific misfiring of instinct or a level of reasoning that I suspect is beyond dog intelligence.

    I think it’s unlikely for a cat to enter another house to give birth, but it’s not impossible. I was raised on a farm with lots of cats, many of which often made some very unexpected decisions about where to give birth. But to me, that’s the only vaguely plausible part of the story.

  9. latsot says


    Now for the skeptic side: I disapprove on principle of giving pets people names

    You’re right. It is perfectly obvious that pets should always be named after programming languages.

  10. latsot says

    This is annoying me now:

    She waited quietly by the food bowl and then, in the middle of the night

    That doesn’t seem even close to a reasonable response to the situation when the obvious explanation is that Shaun was leaving a bit of food then going back for it later, while the owner was asleep. Like many dogs do. She really decided to sit up and wait all night – and wait *quietly* for some reason – when she had no idea that the cat or anything like it even existed? Would anyone do that?

    Other things that make it seem implausible to me are the unnecessary use of words like “quietly”. Why is it necessary to know that she waited quietly? Because the cat wouldn’t have come in if she’d been noisy/ But she didn’t know that there was any such cat. And by the way, where was the dog all this time? I thought it spent the entire night by her side? Why do we need to know that the kittens were “little”? Kittens are *always* little. Is it to make the adorableness distract us from the fact that the story is obviously bullshit? Why do we need to know that the kittens’ new homes were ‘loving’? etc.

    I’m with you, Ophelia, on the “realizing” aspect. I’m going to call it “fakealizing”.

  11. latsot says

    Last one, I promise 🙂

    If the dog spent all night, every night at his owner’s side, how did he know that a cat – pregnant or otherwise – was coming into the house at all?

  12. Blueaussi says

    Someone had a window – with no screen – open every night? And that window was in a place that the homeowner couldn’t see or hear an animal – or human- entering and leaving every night?


    I wonder if “dog door” became “window”, because there is no way someone left an unscreened window open and unobserved at night in this day and age.

    I can believe a stray cat would come to a place where it found food, and I can believe that with a little encouragement, it would have its kittens there. I can also believe that the dog helped with the kittens. That’s not unusual, my dogs even helped out with some orphan kittens I raised last summer. However, knowing the cat was pregnant? No. It would be more like a well fed dog doesn’t finish its kibble, and doesn’t get possessive about what’s left in the bowl.

    I like a good “awwwww…” story as much as the next person, but this one is too full of holes.

  13. latsot says

    I wonder if “dog door” became “window”, because there is no way someone left an unscreened window open and unobserved at night in this day and age.

    I think that depends on where the person lived. I have no problem leaving upstairs windows open at night when it’s warm. I don’t do it every night (it’s not often all that warm here) but it happens. However, I think you’re right that it seems a bit odd that this friend of a friend of an imaginary mother would leave open a window in (presumably) a different room to the one she slept in night after night, as a matter of course. I don’t particularly buy it, but it’s not what I find the most implausible about the story.

    I can also believe that the dog helped with the kittens. That’s not unusual

    Agreed. Some dogs are suckers for infants of many species. When I was a kid, we had a sheepdog who was fiercely protective of orphaned lambs. We had an old sow who seemed to delight in the company of one of the semi-feral cats, who seemed to return the affection. They just seemed *interested* in each other.

    However, knowing the cat was pregnant? No.

    I expect that to a dog, a pregnant cat might smell different to a not pregnant one. But – like you – I don’t believe that a dog could really understand what that means and change it’s behaviour to treat the animal differently. How would it know that a pregnant animal needs extra care? Do male dogs treat pregnant female dogs differently to non-pregnant female dogs? I’ve never noticed them doing that, but my experience is limited and I wasn’t really looking. If they do, then…. possibly…. at a fairly massive stretch… perhaps….. a dog’s instincts might be falsely triggered by the smell of a pregnant cat. But I still think there’s a big leap from that to the idea that a dog would save a portion of its food for the cat. Do male dogs save a portion of their food for their pregnant mates? I’ve never noticed, if they do.

  14. rnilsson says

    @ 11 latsot:

    You’re right. It is perfectly obvious that pets should always be named after programming languages.

    Except for ADA. Or Perl. Not sure about Lis-P.

  15. notyet says

    This looks like a true case of an animal using logic at a level that we aren’t accustomed to seeing. Leaving bait out for a pregnant cat in an effort to gain access to a gourmet “Kittens and Bits” meal shows cunning and forethought. The fact that the owner got suspicious and foiled Rovers plan by adopting the intended victim is an interesting twist to the story. Weeks of planning and preparation come to naught in the end. Meddlesome humans.

  16. Claire Ramsey says

    The very first words of this tale “my mother’s friend” suggest that this is urban legend material. Also, I have never known a dog that was not “good” about eating all the food in the bowl. . .

    I am a horrid and snarky skeptic and I live with a human who cannot stop attributing human emotions to our four pets. And believe me, the pets are totally adorable and very active narrative-generators because they do so much cute, endearing, sweet stuff. But their business is their business and can’t be interpreted through human emotions.

    It’s a sweet story but I prefer the videos of cats playing with their owl friends, or dogs playing with their magpie friends or pigs playing with their deer friends.

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