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Orphaned Ducklings In Desperate Need Of A Home Get Taken In By An Unlikely New Family

As the owners of their own humble farm, Ronan and Emma Lally knew quite a bit when it came to taking care of animals. First and foremost, they knew that predators and prey were not to be mixed.
Unwittingly, the two put this to the test when they decided to bring a few fertilized duck eggs back to their property in Clara, County Offaly, Ireland. Still, they worried that without a mother duck to provide for them, the future hatchlings would be in serious trouble.

Of course, that was easier said than done. One morning, when Ronan and Emma checked on the eggs, they discovered that they’d already hatched—but there were only empty shells in the barn! What happened to their precious ducklings?
They began to worry that something awful had happened—and that’s when they caught sight of the family cat, Della, suspiciously slinking off. Soon enough, they would realize that there was far more to the story of the missing ducklings…
“Within seconds of that [not being able to find the ducklings],” Ronan said, “the cat jumped down from a pigeonhole in the shed over there, and I can put one and one together. I just presumed the cat had swallowed up the ducklings.”
For six hours, Ronan and Emma searched their farm to no avail, which only confirmed Ronan’s suspicions. “Ronan thought there was no hope at all,” Emma said. Still, they continued to check every corner just in case they found the baby ducks.

Miraculously, the couple found the ducklings! Only, the little quackers weren’t safely tucked in a hard-to-see corner of the barn. No, by all appearances, they were in serious trouble of becoming Della’s next meal!
It turned out that the mighty predator Della was the one who had found the ducklings, and by the looks of it, that wasn’t good news. “The cat had a duck in her mouth at this stage,” Emma said.
“I was thinking, ‘Oh no,'” Ronan said. “We’re only [just] getting them back, and now she’s going to eat them right in front of us!” And that would not have been out of character for a barn cat. But then Emma noticed something…
Emma realized that Della wasn’t attacking the duck at all. In fact, she was being quite loving! As a little experiment, Ronan placed a duckling beside Della. That’s when the cat reached out her paw and did something truly remarkable…

“The three little ducklings waddled straight underneath the cat,” Ronan said. “The cat laid down on her side, put her paw over one of the ducklings, and was kind of nursing the duckling… it was incredible to see it.”
With the ducks under her wing—er, paw—Della started purring like a race car engine. To her, these ducklings weren’t dinner, but her own babies to love! That was even more impressive considering what Ronan and Emma found next…
Amazingly, Della had given birth to kittens just hours before she found the ducklings—and that ended up saving the ducks’ lives. “Mothering hormones” were flowing through her, prompting her to treat the ducklings as if they were her own.
While under the “spell” of these hormones, Della followed one rule: if it was tiny, furry, and warm, then it must be her baby. When Ronan and Emma tried to move her to a safer place, they discovered just how far Della was willing to care for the ducks.

Believe it or not, the ducklings were breastfeeding from Della! Usually, ducklings in nature find their own food the moment they’re born. The fact that they were suckling was both strange and an oddly efficient solution to their food search.
Ronan feared that as Della’s hormones dissipated, she would eat the ducks for dinner, but Emma wasn’t so sure. In her day job as a midwife, she’d seen what love between a mother and her newborn looked like, and she saw the same signs with Della and her ducklings.
Della’s story made waves on the Internet, and people seemed to agree that they could see how much love the cat had for her feathered babies. Della made sure that each duckling had a chance to eat; she’d even pull away the food hogs.
Beyond making sure her babies were fed, this mama cat made sure they had a regular playmate. Della would play gently with the ducks in a way that didn’t show even the smallest hint of aggression.

Emma and Ronan soon realized that this wasn’t going to be a typical duck and cat relationship. You just wouldn’t see this kind of embrace between two creatures that had anything but love for each other!
Eventually, the ducks grew big—far larger than Della’s kittens—and the mama cat had a hard time controlling and caring for them. But even as growing, independent adults, the ducks couldn’t get enough of their feline mother!

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