There are good days, and bad days, when it comes to interspecies living. Today was a bad day. Well, not really. A bit of an exaggeration, especially as the day has barely started.
The weather is cold and the cats have taken to staying in. They are not used to, nor really like all hanging out together. So when Gabby, our pet duck, comes in for the night, it’s sometimes one too many. A bit of hissing ensues. Usually by our Gigi, as she hates crowds, especially during breakfast.
If you don’t follow Pumpjack & Piddlewick, I will tell you we (currently) have 1 dog, 3 cats and 10 ducks. Two of these ducks are imprinted on me, Maggie and Gabby. This means they think I am Mom. Which I think means, they think I am a big weird ugly duck. But I am still Mom.
In the last post I gave a review of 2020 and a look towards 2021, and included a family roll call in images. Their mug shots were listed in order of their appearance in our lives. In amongst these we have taken care of rabbits and chickens, from which we gained a disabled chicken named Poule Noir, who sadly died. (And whom I still miss.) As well, over the years, we have gained and lost a few ducks. (All still missed, especially little Pi.)
Throughout our adventures with these animals, we have worked for them all to live together. And more importantly, for the natural predators to not eat, but rather befriend, the prey. And we have been successful, though not without mishap.
Promoting interspecies living seems quite strange on the outside looking in. I would never have considered it prior to garnering our menagerie. In fact, the natural order of things would have been considered, well, natural to me. And the thought of predator and prey living together just never would have crossed my mind.
For us it happened by accident. We had planned on a cat, to keep cheeky mice at bay. (Predator – prey.) It had to be a kitten as we were looking after chickens and rabbits at the time. So, young enough to be trainable to live with them. Amongst this planning Maggie hatched. And we ended up bringing up a kitten and duckling together as siblings.
Like most siblings, they played together. And fought. We really didn’t think this was a good idea. Then we noticed that Gigi, the cat, always kept her claws retracted whilst playing. Also she didn’t play with Maggie like she would have played with another kitten, or even a cat toy. They had this pecking / batting thing they did. It doesn’t mean we still didn’t worry, or feel cautious, but as time went on we did realise that they had worked out how to live together. We also realised that Maggie figured out when to avoid Gigi. That when she was in a bad or ral ‘cat’ mood, it was best not to bother her.
They still pester each other now and then as adults. In fact all the ducks at times have a little chase of a cat. And vice versa the cats sometimes have playful runs at the ducks, hopping into their midst suddenly to scatter them. Harmless, luckily, and keeps them on their toes.
Chewie, our standard sized dachshund, joined us as a 6 month old puppy. Again, the idea was bring him in young so he could be trained to live with the other species. We had some incidents in the early months. Turned out he liked to play with chickens, a little too hard. There was this one little chicken that was his favourite. But I don’t think she saw it that way.
He liked to get her on her back and snuffle his nose in her feathers. She was of course frightened, though luckily not to death. We worked hard at training Chewie not to do this to the chickens. He got the message after two incidents. No chickens. So he worked out that ducks weren’t chickens. No surprises that Maggie became a target, as she had no fear and liked to taunt him. Luckily Sir Studly (another duck) came to get me and no harm was done. He learned no ducks either.
Interspecies living with dogs depends so much on the breed. When we were looking for a puppy we knew we did not want a retriever breed. It’s not that they can’t be trained, but we didn’t want to put our birds in the way of instinct. They already had this with the cats. But luckily the ducks are big enough they actually sort of scare the cats. Especially if they gang up.
We have had times we have looked after guinea pigs and in this instance we would not leave Chewie alone and unsupervised with them. They play to his instincts. The dachshunds were bred to borough and bring out boroughing animals, like rabbits and badgers (hence the translation dachs hund = badger hound). And he likes nothing more than to dig into a mole hill or rat hole.
Chewie was very obviously fascinated by them. Do we think he would have harmed them? No. He’s well trained. But temptation can be powerful, so why tempt it. For this reason, we never plan to own guinea pigs or rabbits ourselves. Nor smaller birds than our dwarf ducks. Too much temptation for the cats.
So interspecies living does work, with training, diligence and care. And some awareness of how and which breeds interact.
Find us on Instagram – To view our menagerie and the interspecies mingling, you will find lots of photos and videos on our Instagram page: PumpjackPiddlewick