At two weeks old, the five kittens in the Hester household are starting to show some independence. When Emmy, the only girl in the litter, stretches her legs and makes her way out of the box, it’s Bailey who picks her up by the scruff of her neck and carries her back.

And it’s Bailey who begins to lick her clean from her adventure across the living room floor and who begins to nurse her.

What’s unusual here is that Bailey is a dog.

Part Chihuahua, part Pomeranian, the one-year-old dog has taken up co-parenting duties with Oreo the cat, mother of Emmy and the four male kittens born earlier this month.

“This is Animal Planet stuff,” said an amazed Maria Hester, herself a mother of five, along with her husband Jack. “There’s so much sadness in the world. We wanted to share this.”

Hester admits that in the beginning, Bailey’s interest in the kittens worried her, but that Oreo didn’t seem to mind the help.

“In the middle of the night, Bailey would sneak out from under my daughter’s covers to go sleep with them. We realized this was OK with everyone,” she said.

Bailey and Oreo were inseparable before the birth. At about the same age, weight and colors, some may wonder if the kittens were just confused at first. But now, they think nothing of piling in the box with both moms snuggled in around them.

Typically a laid-back dog, Bailey became anxious after the kittens arrived.

“Within a week we noticed changes. When people come in she barks intensely,” Hester said.

Then she realized, Bailey was lactating.

“It’s amazing. And they’re sharing. They take turns,” Hester said.

Oreo was a rescued kitten herself, found over a year earlier in a Dumpster by a friend. Hester was homeschooling her four children, expecting a fifth and having a rough pregnancy and didn’t get the cat spayed, as planned, before the cat snuck out one day. (The family also includes a 125-pound epileptic chocolate Labrador.)

She and her children have families ready to take two of the kittens and are hoping to find homes for the others where they can keep in contact.

“We’re all very attached,” said Hester, who used the experience as a biology lesson for her kids, ages 14 to 5. She and another mother of five gathered their children to watch the birth.

“I thought, ‘This is so cool,’ ” said 9-year-old Alexa. “It looked disgusting, but cool.”

The first two kittens were breech and required help from Maria to get them out. Then Oreo hid behind a couch for the rest of the birth.

“Look how healthy they are,” said Maria of the kittens. “They’re getting twice the love and affection. I think this is so amazing. It will make for well-rounded kittens.”

A Google search of “dogs nursing kittens” actually produced more results than one may expect, but local veterinarian Eric Pugh says the bonding of Bailey and Oreo’s kittens is uncommon.

“It’s pretty unusual. Any species can nurture another species, but it is unique, for sure,” the Plain Township doctor said.

He said the kittens cannot be harmed by dog’s milk. In fact, many formulas used by veterinarians for puppies and kittens are very similar.

While the Hesters are clients of Pugh’s, he said he has not yet seen the kittens for himself, but adds that as long as the mother cat feeds them, too, for at least the first two weeks of life, they should remain healthy. After that, they can have regular cat food. Four weeks of nursing, he said, is optimal.