According to writer Anne Morrow Lindbergh, the trials of motherhood make mums the great vacationless class. Although she may have been talking about the human variety, other animals show the same tireless dedication to their children. PETA hopes that this Mother’s Day, while you are praising your family’s matriarch, you’ll also remember that some of the best mums in the world are found in the animal kingdom.
Human mothers who tune in to Channel Mum may find themselves responding to anybody’s child when they hear someone calling the “M word”, but fur seals never make this mistake. Fresh from foraging for food, mums have to find their young quickly in a sea of hundreds – or possibly thousands – of seals, so both mother and pup depend on their uncanny powers of vocal recognition to find one another. Both of them will call out and answer, responding selectively to one another until they are reunited.
The TLC that these mammoth mothers bestow on their babies is one of their most engaging qualities. Always ready to give an affectionate caress, a gentle nudge in the right direction, or a cool bath to help their babies beat the heat, doting mums maintain constant physical contact with their young ones, never allowing them to stray too far from their side. Mothers even stay in touch with their adult kids and enjoy close relationships with their daughters that can last up to 50 years.
For cows and their calves, it’s love at first sight. The first minutes after birth are spent developing a bond that will last a lifetime. Throughout life, mother and child maintain social contact and regularly enjoy each other’s companionship. Their attachment and affection for each other is so deep that if they are forced apart, they both endure severe stress. Mums have been known to escape their enclosures and travel for miles as they look for their calves.
Dolphins are known for graceful synchronised swimming, but dolphin mothers and their babies also synchronise their breathing for the first few weeks following their babies’ birth. These dedicated mums may nurse their young for up to 10 years and will also mentor less experienced females by allowing them to babysit as practice for when they have babies of their own.
Let’s hear it for single mums! These lightning-fast felines have their paws full as they care for their cubs all on their own. Not only does mum protect her children from predators while she is nursing them, she also hunts for them from the time they are weaned until they are 14 to 18 months old. Overly active offspring can make the task of hunting even harder: Cubs often scare hunted animals away with their animated antics, leaving mum so worn out that she sometimes falls asleep in the middle of a hunt.
Nurturing begins in the nest for these caring mums. Mother hens will turn their eggs as many as five times an hour and cluck softly to their unborn chicks, who chirp back to her and to one another from within their shells! Once chicks hatch, devoted mums use their wings to shield their babies from predators and have been known to refuse to leave their nests during a fire if they have newly hatched peeps.
This Mother’s Day, please take a moment to recognise the unique bond between mothers and children of all species. For ways to practice kindness and compassion in honour of all animal mums, please see our action alerts.