Prairie Dog’s New Best Friend is a Kitten at Sanders “Zoo”

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By Adrea


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When videos of a kitten and prairie dog went viral, curiosity got the better of us, so we reached out to Mattie Sanders to learn a little more about the Sanders Zoo and how this unusual friendship came about. 

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Snack time at the Sanders Zoo. (All photos and videos: Mattie Sanders)

Life With Cats:      Let’s start with the most obvious question, how did the Sanders Zoo get started?

Mattie Sanders:   The Sanders Zoo started with Audubon (turtle) who I have had since I was 8 years old (so he is about 28 years old now) and Chance (white Chihuahua) who is 11. When my husband and I got married I really wanted to get a puppy, but we lived in an apartment, so we settled on getting Watson (ferret) and then the family just grew from there. After Watson, we got Scarlett (German Shorthaired Pointer) and we moved out of the apartment into a shotgun house where we lived for about 6 months until I realized I wanted a home so I could have more animals. Once we moved into our house we got Harvey (grey cat) from Petco when we were running errands and couldn’t resist his cute little face. Eventually, I found out that Prairie Dogs could be kept as pets and I started to do my research and worked on convincing my husband that they needed to be apart of our family. We drove to Kingwood Texas and got Otis and Lilly and after we got them we told ourselves we were complete. However, one day while at the dog park, we found Oscar (Dachshund) roaming around the neighborhood, so we drove around, knocked on doors, called shelters and vets, but no one ever claimed him so he became the next member of the Sanders Zoo. Last, but not least, there is Katrin, she showed up at our CrossFit gym one night. I received a call so we hurried over and took her home with us since she was all alone and there were no other kittens or mom in sight.

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LWC:     Can you share a bit about the different characters that make up your zoo?


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MS: Audubon – He is very relaxed and normally spends most of his time under our bed or under our entertainment center. He has run of the house and will get very active when we have visitors.


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Chance – He is my sidekick. I’ve had him for 11 years and he is very protective of me. Although he is one of the smallest he definitely acts like Top Dog.
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Watson – Very playful and loves to hide toys under the bed or our couches. He also loves to do his “war dance.”


mattie & scarlett
Scarlett – She is our sweet girl. She loves to play with her favorite red ball and she is very gentle with everyone. I’m convinced she thinks she’s small just like Chance.
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Harvey – He is a very affectionate cat and loves to go outside when he is supervised.
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Otis – LOVES CARROTS and Katrin. He is very social and loves to snuggle. Lilly – She is a little more cautious than Otis and only really likes Cheerios.


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Oscar – He is our sweet little old man. He loves to go wander out in the backyard.
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Katrin (as a kitten) – She loves ice and Otis. She will sit next to the refrigerator and just wait for a piece of ice.

LWC:     It seems that your household is quite content and friendly, but it is the friendship that Katrin and Otis that has garnered a lot of attention. How did that relationship blossom?

MS:       When we first found Katrin, she was so tiny and scared and I think since Otis was kind of her same size they really connected. Even when Katrin was tiny she would groom Otis and ever since then they just have a really special bond. They also both like to wait by the refrigerator for treats :).


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LWC:     Why do you think people are fascinated by the pair?

MS:         I think people are fascinated by them because they are two totally different species and most likely in the wild they wouldn’t be friends. They are also so sweet to each other that I think that’s surprising to some people.

LWC:     Are there any lessons you have learned along the way as a zookeeper?
MS:        I’ve learned how truly different each of our animals are and how they each have their own personalities. I’ve also learned that sometimes it’s super hard to keep up with everyone, but I can’t imagine life without them. They all bring so much joy to our lives and I love watching them together.
LWC:     If you were to add something to your collection, anything, anything at all, what might that be?
MS:        I really want a white prairie dog but my husband is hesitant on another animal, so we’ll see :).
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Be sure to follow the entire Sanders Zoo on FacebookInstagram, and YouTube to keep up with all the action!




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