A baby meerkat which was expected to die after being shunned at birth has been saved thanks to a PET DOG who has taken the animal under its paw.
Tiny Wilson the meerkat was born on January 20 but was immediately abandoned by his mother as the runt of the litter.
Animal sanctuary owner Dennis Drew, 30, hand-reared the adorable animal but Wilson still only had a slim chance of survival.
But when he overheard staff member Leanne Clark, 22, talk about her pet Chihuahua who was going through a phantom pregnancy Dennis had a bright idea.
He introduced Wilson to Leanne’s dog Kimi – who was lactating as part of her phantom pregnancy – and was amazed when the meerkat fed from her.
Within days Wilson became bigger and stronger and Kimi took over as mother believing the meerkat was her own puppy.
After nearly two months together, the pair have forged an inseparable bond.
Wilson now follows 18 months old Kimi around wherever she goes, hitches a ride on her back – and the cute pair can often be seen curled up in a dog basket together.
Dennis, who runs Mablethorpe Seal and animal Sanctuary, in Lincs., said: “When the meerkat mother gave birth she rejected Wilson and I started to hand-rear him.
“One of our staff has a pet chinchua called Kimi who has never had a litter of pups – but has had a few phantom pregnancies.
“Coincidentally at around the time Wilson was born Kimi was going through a phantom pregnancy and was lactating, so we thought we’d try it out.
“Incredibly, he took to the milk and within a few days Kimi had literally taken over as mother. He started to become bigger and stronger and now he is doing fantastic.
“The two are pretty inseparable now and Wilson follows Kimi wherever she goes and curls up the basket together.
“Kimi even gets very protective and will growl if anybody goes near Wilson – I have worked with animals for over five years and I have never seen anything like this before.
“He’s on solids now. We’re looking at reintroducing Wilson back to the family who rejected him – but I know Kimi’s going to miss him.
“It was touch and go because I only know one other place who have successfully hand-reared meerkats.”
Full-time keeper Leanne added: “We were amazed how Kimi took him as her own.
“Wilson displays natural meerkat behaviour but has started acting like a dog – he craves human attention and will sit on the sofa for a stroke and watch TV.
“It’s something you wouldn’t be able to do with any other meerkats at the sanctuary.
“When the doorbell goes and Kimi barks at the door – he will sit between her legs and do the same.
“I’m really going to miss him when he gets reintroduced to the other meerkats because he feels part of the family now.”