Newborn kittens find unlikely mom

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Mount Sherman family's shepherd helps care for abandoned cats

By Ben Sheroan

A litter of abandoned kittens found their way into Lenore Hoover’s home and into the heart of her Australian shepherd, Sheba.


The dog attentively licks the rat-size kittens clean each time that Hoover, Liz Fary and her other helpers feed the brood from tiny bottles. It’s an essential job that momma cats normally perform to stimulate a bowel movement for the babies.

Sheba also gives the six kittens a thorough tongue bath once a day, Hoover said.

“She always wanted to be a mother but couldn’t,” Mrs. Hoover says of her dog.

Because the dog contracted parvo as a pup,  Hoover said the animal was spayed. She said the dog always demonstrated a protective maternal instinct toward children — whether human or animal of any species.

The feeling is not universal. Hoover’s other dog, a Prince Charles springer spaniel named Shadow, wants nothing to do with the new house guests.

When a neighborhood friend, Johnny Sexton, discovered the mother cat had abandoned the litter of seven kittens, he brought the 2-day-old animals to the Hoover home off Bird Road near Mount Sherman. The kittens will be 2 weeks old on Friday.

One of the seven died but the others — three gray and three orange — are thriving inside a cardboard box outfitted with a heating pad and regular doses of formula that costs about $5 per day.

“I just can’t stand to see any animals hurt or abused,” Mrs. Hoover said. “I love animals.”

Apparently, so does Sheba.

The relationship will not be permanent. Mrs. Hoover says when the kittens are weaned after about six weeks, the family will need to find them new homes.