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There are only two cat species in which the females raise their young together: the lion and the domestic
cat, Bradshaw says. Lions live in prides where the females care for their cubs together. Similarly, when cats are living outdoors on their own, three or four females will put their kittens in one nest that they all defend. The mother cats will also go out hunting and bring back food that they allow all of the kittens to eat. Breeders and rescuers can make use of this behavior by putting orphaned kittens or those whose mothers are short of milk with another nursing female. "What they're taking advantage of is the fact that mother cats basically don't seem to recognize their own kittens, which is unusual," Bradshaw says.
However, the social lives of domestic
cats and lions differ on the male side. "In lions, the males also cooperate," Bradshaw says. "It's virtually unheard of for male domestic cats to cooperate." Although we think of there being one male lion in charge, Bradshaw says that actually a pride includes a group of males, usually closely related to each other but not to the females. "The reason they are in a group is to defend those females from other groups of males," he says. That defense is important to the survival of the pride; when a new group of males takes over, Bradshaw says, "the first thing they do is kill all the cubs. [The new males] know they're not theirs, because they've only just arrived, and they want to get the females breeding again as soon as possible so they can produce offspring of their own."
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