This heartwarming story begins with a dog named Zuca and ends with kittens— more than 100 of them, in fact!
Zuca may be a pit bull, but she is a gentle giant who loves kittens. After being stuck in a cage for six months in an animal shelter, Ronda Layne was sure Zuca would be the perfect addition to her family.
“When I first saw her at a Humane Society shelter in 2006, I noticed there was something very different about her compared to the other dogs,” Ronda told PEOPLE.
“She was sitting quietly and barely wagging her tail while the other dogs were jumping up and down and barking.”
Of course, as a cat lover and owner, there were concerns about bringing Zucca home to meet the family cats.
“I wondered how she’d do around the cats I had at the time, so I took her into the shelter’s cattery to see what would happen,” Ronda said. “Zuca walked up to the cats and wagged her tail. Right then, I decided to adopt her.”
When Zuca was finally brought home after 6 long months of being caged up, she immediately bonded with one cat, in particular— a special kitty named Stout. The bond formed very quickly, and the two shared seven happy, cuddly years together.
When Stout became ill in 2013 and had to be put down at 17 years old, Zuca was lost and depressed over losing her best buddy. She wasn’t the same dog anymore; it was like a piece of her was missing.
This is around the time Ronda volunteered to foster a tiny kitten named Monkey for a local animal shelter. The tiny kitten somehow transformed Zuca back into her old self. Zuca was so happy to finally have another feline friend!
“Monkey jumped on Zuca and tried to nurse on her, and they were soon curled up together like best friends. Zuca weighs 50 pounds, but she was very careful around Monkey and was always patient and gentle. It was like magic. I knew right then that she had a gift.”
Monkey was just the beginning though— Ronda continued to foster kittens waiting to be adopted, giving them an unlikely surrogate in the form of Zuca, the pit bull.
Ronda thinks Zuca’s time spent in the shelter has helped the pup understand the kittens’ need for companionship and love. She seems to have a natural, motherly instinct for the kittens, making an excellent companion while the felines wait to be matched with loving, furever homes.
Psychology Stanley Coren says that dogs adopting animals from other species is more common than one might think. He says that even though dogs would rather bond with other canines, if another dog isn’t available, they really aren’t too picky. The bottom line is that dogs crave companionship from other dogs— but are willing to take another animal under the wing in the right circumstances. This propensity can lead to some pretty adorable “dog” packs— like Zuca’s, in this case.
“She seems to know instantly exactly what they need,” Ronda said. “If it’s a feral kitten, she’ll be perfectly still, won’t make eye contact and will wait for the kitten to approach her. She ‘reads’ the kitten and figures out when to look at it, wag her tail or move her head. It’s fascinating to watch those first interactions.”
Last week I had the great honor of being interviewed by People Magazine (online version) for a story about my wonderful dog, Zuca. If you haven’t read the story yet, there’s a link in my bio. This video demonstrates what I talk about in the story, and what makes Zuca so magical. This was taken about 5 minuets after meeting this group of kittens (Tikal, Tulum, Coba, and Itza). They had been quarantined in my bathroom for a few days, so had been smelling her, and had seen her through the puppy gate the day before, but this was their first actual interaction. I’ve never trained her to do this or even asked anything from her. She’s laying there by choice. Obviously, the kittens are also doing exactly what they want to do. 😉 #bestdogever #thedodo #newfriends
In the past 4+ years, Zuca and Ronda have cared for more than 100 kittens in their hometown of Portland, Oregon— and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight!
“Zuca is the best surrogate mom these kittens could hope for.”
Follow Zuca’s cuddly journey on Instagram. There is no shortage of adorable kittens to “aw” at!
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