A former resident of much-loved UK animal rescue charity, Battersea, has been melting hearts after taking a litter of kittens under his wing.
Unlikely father figure, Bertie, is a one-year-old Labrador who has spent the last several weeks caring for seven motherless kittens brought to the charity in need of urgent help.
The stray kittens were discovered on the side of a road by a member of the public when they were approximately two weeks old, with no mother in sight. At such a young age, they were unable to fend for themselves so were rushed to Battersea to be checked over by their expert clinic team.
Once vets established the very hungry kittens were otherwise healthy, Battersea's Head Nurse Rachel volunteered to take the litter home with her, where both she and her Battersea dog, Bertie, could keep a close eye on them.
Battersea Head Nurse Rachel said: "As a former Battersea resident himself, there's something particularly touching about seeing a rescue pet now helping to rescue other animals in need. I'm incredibly proud of Bertie for the way he has cared for the kittens over the last few weeks. At less than two years old, he's barely an adult himself, but you wouldn't think it when you see how incredibly patient and nurturing he has been.
"These kittens have certainly been a handful, from the early days when they needed bottle feeding round the clock, to when they first discovered the joys of climbing. Not only has Bertie helped the kittens become confident, sociable little cats, he's also kept me entertained."
Kittens will ordinarily spend the first eight weeks of their lives with their mother, as she will need to feed them and teach them survival skills until they are ready to fend for themselves. If a motherless kitten is brought to Battersea during these crucial first few weeks of development, a foster carer will take on the role of mum, including regular bottle feeds and help with toileting.
Once they are old enough to feed and care for themselves, they will be brought back to one of the charities catteries until a new permanent home has been found.
Rachel added: "Hand rearing kittens is such a wonderfully rewarding experience, you get to help them grow from tiny defenceless babies into unique characters ready for a loving home. I was sad to see them go, but I can take comfort in knowing that Bertie and I helped give them the best start in life. I suspect Bertie may also have been enjoying the peace and quiet once his young charges had gone, he'd certainly earned it!"