You’ve likely seen— and possibly even shared— those cute viral photos and videos of domestic cats raising wild animals. Stories of cats raising wild animals are always adorable and heartwarming, but the sad truth is that most of these stories are fake, and most attempts to recreate them end in tragedy.
Take, for example, the well-known photo series of a cat “raising” a baby opossum. Opossums can’t suckle— its biologically impossible for them to do so. One photo shows the joey posed against the cat’s belly, at an angle that obscures that it isn’t actually attached. Another shows the joey clearly
posed on the cat, with claims that it was clinging to her, at an age when joeys can’t naturally grip.
That particular viral photo series led to many people joining wildlife care groups asking for help because they had given an orphan opossum to a mother cat and the plan wasn’t working. In all these cases, the joeys died but could have been saved if they had been brought to rehabilitators quickly.
Another reason that you should never give a cat a wild baby animal is that cats, no matter how nurturing and loving, are still predators. Baby wild animals naturally fear them and their sounds and smells, and are very susceptible to stress-related death. A cat’s saliva is also easily tolerated by her kittens, but contains bacteria that can be fatal to baby wild animals (even without visible puncture wounds).
Your cat isn’t a wildlife rehabilitator. Please contact a professional for help if you’ve found an orphaned or injured wild animal in need of assistance. (And please stay and neuter your pets!)