Q: Can cats and dogs breed with each other?
A: No. Their anatomy, physiology and breeding behaviors are too different.
However, interspecies breeding does occur in some other animals.
Surprisingly, there are more than 40 examples of crosses involving different species of wild cats, such as lions and tigers, or domestic cats and wild cats. The three most common cat breeds produced by breeding a domestic, or pet, cat with a wild cat are the Bengal (domestic cat crossed with an Asian leopard cat), Savannah (domestic cat crossed with an African serval) and Chausie (domestic cat crossed with a jungle cat).
Domestic dogs, wolves and coyotes can also breed with each other.
Horses and donkeys interbreed. A mule is a cross between a female horse (called a mare) and a male donkey (a jack). A hinny results when a male horse (a stallion) is bred to a female donkey (a jenny).
Bird breeders cross finches with other species, such as canaries. The hybrid offspring are called mules.
Falconers cross different species of falcons to produce birds with the hybrid vigor that makes them better hunters.
Amazons, conures (a type of parakeet) and macaws all interbreed. Different species of domestic ducks interbreed, and domestic ducks breed with wild species.
Backyard birds sometimes interbreed. For example, black-cap chickadees breed with Carolina chickadees where their ranges overlap.
Other species that interbreed are whales and dolphins, cattle and buffalo, different species of snakes (such as a boa and a python) and different species of crocodiles.
African killer bees are the product of crossing African bees with honeybees in an attempt to create bees that produce abundant honey and can tolerate heat.
Some offspring of interspecies breeding, particularly the males, are infertile. But others can continue to breed and establish a new species.
Q: My ferret Zippy accompanies me everywhere, even to my college classes, riding in my backpack. Should he use a heartworm preventive like our dog? I live in New Jersey, where we have heartworms.
A: Most ferret people know their pets should be vaccinated to prevent rabies and distemper, but they don’t realize their ferrets also need to be protected from heartworms, which are transmitted by mosquitoes.
Like dogs and cats, ferrets can develop heartworm disease if an infected mosquito bites. Because a ferret’s heart, lungs and blood vessels are tiny, even a single heartworm can cause substantial damage.
Clinical signs of heartworm infection include lethargy, coughing, breathing difficulties, vomiting, hind leg weakness and exhaustion after minimal exercise. Death is all too common.
Treatment options are limited and problematic, so it’s best to prevent heartworm infection. You can do this by applying Advantage Multi for Cats to Zippy’s skin once each month throughout the year. This product also kills fleas. Other heartworm preventives sometimes used to protect ferrets from heartworm infection include Revolution, Interceptor and Heartgard Plus.
Dogs and cats also need a monthly heartworm preventive throughout the year. Many products are available for them. Most also kill roundworms and hookworms, intestinal parasites that can infect people; some heartworm preventives kill fleas and ticks, too.
Lee Pickett, VMD, practices companion animal medicine in North Carolina. Contact her at
Print Headline: Which species can/can’t breed with each other?
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