Felix and Cinnamon in repose

The close friendship between Felix, a dog, and Cinnamon, a goat, caught the attention of North Carolinians this month as the Wake County Animal Center tried to find them a home together.

The dynamic duo is Raleigh’s own version of mismatched animal relationships, examples of which can be found across the globe. Whether it’s a sheep and an elephant, a tiger and a pig, or a dog and a goat, these unlikely friendships typically draw widespread support, reminding people about the power of friendship, which can create bonds even across different species. 

Felix and Cinnamon’s story was no different. When the Wake County Animal Center first posted about the pair on social media, earlier this month, the story blew up.

And the tale ended happily this week when animal center staff found the pair a home on a Johnston County farm. 

“In this world we live in today, it’s nice to have some fun stuff to talk about,” says Jennifer Federico, director of Wake County Animal Services. “It’s really cute. (They) sleep on their little cot together. If you take Felix anywhere, Cinnamon just follows.”

At first, Federico wasn’t sure about housing the two animals together, she said. The center sees a lot of cases of dogs attacking goats. But Felix and Cinnamon were so attached that keeping them separate made both miserable, Federico says. That’s the biggest sign of a strong bond between a pair of animals, she added. 

“With bonded pairs, we see that together, they’re more relaxed and happy. It causes them stress to be apart,” Federico says. “So you might have bonded pairs in siblings, but that’s not necessarily always the case. You might have multiple dogs in the house and they don’t get along … they’re not always best friends just because they live together. But it’s just, some of these matches, they work.”

Federico doesn’t know exactly how Cinammon and Felix became friends, but she has a guess. Bonds between animals of different species are usually situation-dependent, she says. If Cinnamon spent a lot of time with Felix as a baby goat, that may be the only social bond she ever knew.  

“Goats are really herd-bound animals. But she didn’t have a herd, and so Felix was the stand-in,” Federico says. “So that’s her herd, as far as she knows.”

Social bonds are unique to each animal, Federico says. You could raise a dog and a goat together, but there’s no guarantee they would end up as connected as Felix and Cinnamon. The animal center has seen a few bonded pairs over the years, but it’s usually between members of the same species—two cats who have lived together or two senior dogs who have a strong friendship. 

Inter-species bonds are likely the product of adaptation, Federico says. She’s seen a lot of unusual pairs online, including a dog and an elephant. 

“Why are they friends? I think it just has to do with the situations that they find themselves in. There’s no other option for them, and then they adapt because of their social needs,” Federico says. “I always wonder, do the bonds form because they don’t have another of their own species?”

Like people, animals need a strong network of social bonds as well. And anyone who has a pet knows that animals can be picky about who they spend their time with. With dogs, it’s far more common to see a pet who is selective about their friends, versus one who gets along with most other animals, according to Federico. 

“I don’t think we should be that surprised,” she says. “I find very few people in the world who actually like every other single person in the world. So why would we expect the same of our dogs, right?”

Ultimately, humans could learn a lesson from the ease with which some animals form inter-species bonds, Federico concludes. The story of Cinnamon and Felix is heartwarming because they found friendship amid stressful circumstances. 

“(Animals are) adaptable. They’re somewhat open to these (bonds) happening,” Federico says. “We can learn a lot from them.” 

Follow Staff Writer Jasmine Gallup on Twitter or send an email to jgallup@indyweek.comComment on this story at backtalk@indyweek.com.  

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