Status: Probably a rodent posing as a kittenAbout a week ago Smerk posted a link in the forum to a story about a cat who supposedly gave birth to a kitten that looks like a mouse. The story reads:
According to the owner of the cat, the litter included 5 regular kittens, and one that more resembles a mouse. The owner says the nose, mouth and ears look like that of a mouse, but the rest of the body is that of a cat. The mother cat doesn't seem to notice or mind. She's nursing and taking care of it, just like the kittens.
The thing is, when you watch the accompanying video you can see that the "kitten" doesn't just slightly look like a mouse. It really looks like a mouse. But why would a mouse be living with a bunch of cats? To clear up this mystery, I contacted Sarah Hartwell, who runs messybeast.com. I figured that if anyone could shed light on this mystery, it would be her. Her verdict: That's no kitten! Here's what she writes (reproduced with her permission):
It is just a rodent that the cat has adopted. I've added information to http://www.messybeast.com/freak-misc.htm
Possibly the mother took the rodent back to the nest and then her maternal instincts overrode her predatory instincts. This is not uncommon if the prey is the same size as her kittens and makes similar noises and especially if it doesn't run and re-trigger her predatory instinct. Alternatively it went into the nest attracted by potential food while the mother was absent and because it had ended up smelling like the kittens she didn't view it as prey. Once it starts acting like a mouse again i.e. jerky movements and instinctively fleeing, she will treat it like prey. Possibly it isn't acting like a mouse due to being injured by her if she hunted it. You may have seen documentaries on confused lions, usually inexperienced juveniles, that adopt young prey animals because the terrified or injured prey stops acting in a prey-like manner and this confuses their instinct to kill it.
There are several cases of young squirrels being fostered on nursing cats and the maternal instinct overriding the predatory instinct. On the other hand, but involving the same 2 instincts, in cat colonies, there are plenty of cases of kittens being killed by other females because their movements and sounds triggered predatory instincts and they were treated as prey (my friend's cat was a female that hunted another cat's kittens because of confused instincts).
Update: Boing Boing speculates that the rodent in question is a kangaroo rat.