Taking care of a baby is a lot of hard work, whether you’re a human, a cheetah, or an otter. While different animal species have many different needs in their baby years, one thing that tends to be pretty constant (at least among the larger, land-dwelling animals) is that those years are spent in close proximity to mom. Unlike humans, however, it’s pretty common for junior to hightail it (or get kicked out!) as soon as they’re able, often at only a few months or years old.
That doesn’t mean these furry, or feathered, or scaly mamas don’t love their kids. Sometimes the survival of a species depends on getting their kids ready to survive on their own ASAP. It’s a pretty fascinating thing to look at the way different animals manage this task. Maybe we’re looking for tips! Or maybe not. Maybe it’s just interesting to compare and contrast. Either way, it seems like there are as many ways to raise a kid in the animal kingdom as there are animals.
Cheetahs stick with their mama for around two years. As a top-ranking predator, it’s really more about learning how to hunt than it is protection.
For a good 6 months, the babies of the Verreaux’s sifaka species cling tightly to their mother. This is important because this particular primate likes to leap wildly from tree to tree.
Humpback whales tend to do a lot of stuff alone, but being a child isn’t one of them. Their first year is typically spent right next to their moms.
Penguins are known for their co-parenting skills, with mom and dad sharing incubation and child-rearing duties.
But the unsung hero of the animal parenting world is the mama possum, schlepping piles of babies everywhere she goes.
It’s no surprise that as we get closer to humans on the animal family tree, the similarities get striking. Orangutans build shelters for their kids each night and children stay with their moms for years.
But here’s something that might also be familiar to many human moms; bald eagle mothers feed their chicks first, and their own meals are usually only what baby rejects.
If you want to see a protective mother, walk into just about any park in the spring or summer and look for a swan (or Canada goose), and see what happens when you get near her downy darlings. It’s not pretty.
Mother seals can recognize their pups’ voices.
Baby crocodiles ride in their mothers’ terrifying mouths until they’re old enough to swim.
Speaking of scary, Sarah Palin didn’t declare herself a “mama grizzly” for no reason. These mothers are tough and you don’t want to get between them and baby.
Every good mother knows when it’s time for their child to leave the nest. Moose are no exception. They typically chase their male offspring away at age two.
When an elephant has a baby, the entire family, grandmothers, aunts, and cousins all chip in to raise the new one.
Mountain goats are known for their agility on steep slopes and rocky terrain, but until they gain those skills, mom’s there to keep them safe.
What’s a hyrax? This is a hyrax, and, interestingly, these furry little fellows are close cousins to elephants and manatees, not the rodents they resemble. They also have a fascinating way of taking care of their young. Hyrax mothers create nursery groups and take turns at the job!
The cuddly koala spends a lot of time cuddling its young. Babies continue riding on mom’s back after leaving her pouch.
Baby otters are born in the water, but it takes them a while to learn to swim. In the meantime, they use their moms as rafts!