Tonight, my dog breastfed my cat. Frankie, my seven-year-old Cavoodle, has never been a mother. Napoleon, my kitten, has been weaned from his own mother for over a month. And yet, here they were, one nurturing the other, a harmonious exchange.

It got me thinking of an image I have frequently seen circulating of an indigenous American woman tandem breastfeeding her child and an agouti. My curiosity was sparked, and so I researched interspecies breastfeeding.

Woman tandem breastfeeding her baby and an agouti
An indigenous American woman tandem breastfeeding her baby and an agouti / Source

Embed from Getty Images

Yes, it may be a little weird to get your head around at first but isn’t it remarkable? The ultimate on-tap nutrition source can be shared among species.

Sadly, in my venture, I came across an article of a mother with twins who had learned to believe that she was unable to breastfeed two children.

This happened in India. The boy on the mother’s right was breastfed, whilst the girl on her left was bottle-fed. SCN News May 1991

The child who was fed on the breast ended up thriving, and the one on formula perished. I know this is a controversial example, but it does make you ponder the difference between breast milk and formula.

Interspecies breastfeeding clearly isn’t new. We’ve been drinking from cows’ teats for quite some time now with human babes reared on their reformulated milk aka formula.

A Cuban Wet Nurse (using a goat to suckle a baby)
1903 – A Cuban Wet Nurse (using a goat to suckle a baby) Curt Teich (photographer)
1895 – Donkeys suckling children in a French institution

I’d love to see in my lifetime a switch to human babes drinking other human mothers’ milk, a scenario that is currently steeped in stigma. Curiously enough, as wet nurses were the norm.

At the end of the day, breast milk from any mother, human or otherwise is remarkable – something we’re only on the tip of the iceberg of understanding.