Odd Couples Among Animals

When most people hear "Odd Couple," they usually think of mismatched roommates Felix and Oscar.

But The Early Show resident veterinarian, Dr. Debbye Turner, says animals have their share of unusual pairings as well.

Generally, she observes, birds of a feather flock together in the wild kingdom. But Turner found a few cases of animal odd couples that prove love can indeed be blind.

Such is the case with an ape and cat in Panama City, Fla.

When 45-year-old Tondalayo, a Sumatran orangutan, lost her partner, she was listless and depressed, Turner says. She needed company but, because of her age, introducing another orang was out of the question.

Then zoo worker Stephanie Willard got an idea for the perfect mate for Tonda.

"'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 of a 1-year-old tabby who turned out to be the cat's meow for Tonda. "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.

"I think it's more of a maternal thing with (Tonda). It's kind of like the most overprotective, overbearing mother there is."

"I'm very proud," says Willard, like a proud parent.

Turner also noticed that visitors to ZooWorld can't take their eyes off the unlikely pair.

"I couldn't understand why the cat was with the orangutan," a laughing woman told Turner.

"I seen a cat and a doggie alone together, and I thought that was real odd," a chuckling boy remarked.

"A monkey and a cat, you know, you just can't picture it!" a girl observed.

And it's not just Tonda and TK, Turner pointed out. In the news recently, there have been photos of animals of different species that have ended up together, such as a hog that bonded with an antelope when his mate died.

Says Wildlife expert Don Moore: "It's very difficult to explain a lot of these."

But Moore say there's a logical explanation for Owen, a baby hippo in Kenya who was separated from his mom after a flood: "It got swept onto shore. It's at a sanctuary. The biggest, gray thing that's moving slowly near it is a tortoise. So it says, 'Tortoise, you're my mommy.'"

Apparently, says Turner, a friendship between a snake and hamster can largely be attributed to the snake not being hungry when the hamster was put in its tank as a snack.

"The hamster is near something that's not eating it," Moore figures. "And it also gets a little bit of protection. That might happen in the wild, too."

While there are probably no cats and orangs hangin' out in the wild, Turner says, it's clear Tonda and TK are wild about each other.

Animal odd couples are rather rare in the wild; they usually occur in captivity, Turner notes, adding, "While they're certainly cute to look at, the couples obviously can't reproduce, so it's a case of finding love in all the wrong places."