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Strange Animal Relationships

Updated on July 4, 2011

Owen and Mzee

Strange Bedfellows

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Many examples of this can be found in the animal kingdom. Following are a few examples:

The devastating Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004 caused severe damage but there were some silver linings to the tragedy.

Just before Christmas, unseasonably heavy rains near the town of Malindi washed a family of hippopotamuses down the Sabaki River and out to sea. When the Tsunami hit Malindi, the hippos were momentarily forgotten as all efforts went to rescuing stranded fishermen.

The next day only one hippo could be seen. It was a baby male stranded on the reef. Hundreds of people came to watch the rescue attempt and it took a concerted effort to finally capture him.

Lafarge Eco Systems agreed to provide a home for the baby hippo now named ‘Owen’ in honor of the person who finally captured him. Owen was taken to Haller Park in Mombasa and released.

Tondalayo and TK

Exhausted, frightened and confused, Owen immediately ran to the safety of Mzee, a giant 130 year old tortoise, who just happened to be nearby. At first Mzee seemed bewildered by Owens’ odd behavior. The frightened baby hippo was nervously cowering behind him as a baby hippo would naturally do with its’ mother. Mzee quickly adjusted to the situation and accepted Owen as a new friend and even returned signs of affection. The unusual relationship between this baby hippo and the ancient tortoise was featured in most countries on television and news papers.

Faith and Hope

A Harrisburg, Pennsylvania resident reports that her cat has struck up a friendship with a local deer. Every morning, the deer visits the cat and they groom each other. (Courtesy of
A Harrisburg, Pennsylvania resident reports that her cat has struck up a friendship with a local deer. Every morning, the deer visits the cat and they groom each other. (Courtesy of

Owen and Mzee continue to spend days together. Owen nudges Mzee to come for walks, and Mzee sometimes even follows Owen. Owen will eventually be moved to a bigger pond in Haller Park where he can socialize with other hippos.

And then, here are another couple of strange bedfellows: Gohan, a 3.5-inch dwarf hamster and Aochan a four-foot rat snake. According to Zookeepers at Tokyo’s Mutsugoro Okoku zoo, the snake had begun refusing to eat frozen mice and they were worried about his failing health. So the keepers decided to put Gohan the hamster in his cage to entice him to eat. Coincidently, ‘Gohan’ directly translated means ‘meal’ in Japanese. But to everyone’s astonishment the pair became fast friends and the pair have shared a cage since.

Another such case was with an ape and cat in Panama City, Fla. When 45-year-old Tondalayo, a Sumatran orangutan, lost her mate, she became depressed. It was obvious she was lonely and needed companionship. However, due to her age, introducing another orangutan was not the answer.

Then Stephanie Willard, a zookeeper, got an idea for the perfect mate for ‘Tonda’…a 1-year-old tabby cat named TK. "TK” came to us and we found out very quickly that his personality was one that was very demanding, very loving, very understanding, and ... he was a big, rag-doll kitty," Willard said. "He's a very sweet cat. He's absolutely a perfect cat. He doesn't seem to grow out of his kitten stage. He still licks and rubs and purrs and loves all over her. ... I think it made Tonda 20 years younger.”

And it's not just these few. There have been many odd cases of animals of different species that have ended up together, such as a hog that bonded with an antelope when his mate died.

Concerning these types of animal relationships John Wright, Ph.D., a certified applied animal behaviorist and professor of psychology at Mercer University in Macon, Ga. said “They’re often actually the real deal. Given the right set of circumstances, and the right animals, they can form close and lasting relationships.

Heather MacLeod is a believer. She credits her white German shepherd, Faith, with saving the life of a distressed cat she had taken in. MacLeod was driving home from work when a hapless kitten wandered in front of her car. She swerved to avoid her, stopped the car, rescued the kitten and immediately took it to a veterinarian. He diagnosed the kitten as being so malnourished she probably wouldn’t survive the night.

But MacLeod named the kitten Hope and took her home anyway. Faith and Hope became so close that Faith, who had never been bred, nonetheless produced milk for the little vagabond. MacLeod, who lives in New Brunswick, Canada, says the two have remained best of friends.

Wright also said he had a chicken that became inseparable with his late chocolate Labrador retriever, Charlie Brown. “We know they were bonded because they cuddled up next to one another and that’s where they rested. They hung out and did just about anything together,” he says. “They were true friends.”

It’s truly amazing such strange companionships in the animal kingdom can form. Perhaps, it’s not animals who are acting strangely by being able to form friendships with other species than themselves. Maybe it’s us.


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    • JY3502 profile image

      John Young 7 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      OH GOODY Cats...can we get married now? !! LOL

    • Lucky Cats profile image

      Kathy 7 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

      Ohhhhhh, now JY, you know you're speaking "my language" in this hub. I truly enjoy this and will read it again and again. I think there's a message here. Under the right circumstances and/or given a chance (free from duress and stress), different species can bond and find solace w/one another. There are several you tube videos of a cat and dolphins, a deer, cat and dog, etc. You've touched a very compelling subject you have done an excellent job of sharing this with your readers. Thank you, as always!

      " In the best of all possible worlds...."


    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 7 years ago from Wales

      I loved this and thanks for sharing.

      The pictures are priceless, how can anyone better that ?

      I push all the buttons here.

      My daughter has a rescued Staffie who shares his bed with Sniffy the rabbit.

      Take care


    • JY3502 profile image

      John Young 7 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      Thanks Sunny. I can tell you are a good person.

    • profile image

      Sunny Barb 7 years ago

      Hi JY3502,

      Loved this hub. This one is near and dear to my heart since I am an animal lover. What Ginn and you say above is so true. What an example they are to us as how we should behave towards one other. They don't see race, religion or political party. Loved the pictures, too.

    • JY3502 profile image

      John Young 7 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      I was thinking along those lines when I wrote this Ginn. Animals are actually smarter than us I think.

    • Ginn Navarre profile image

      Ginn Navarre 7 years ago

      Yes indeed we could all learn a lesson from the creatures around us--"its called REAL FRIENDSHIP."