Toddler Raised By Dogs and Cats

In May 2009 after being contacted by a concerned neighbour, a five year old girl from Chita, an east Siberian City in Russia was found by child protection authorities to be living in a home with cats and dogs.  This in itself is not a reason for the child to be taken into care but as the girl was dishevelled and unable to speak it became clear that the child had been neglected.

The young undomesticated girl, Natasha Mikhailova, was living in a flat along with her father and his parents and for the whole of her life had been raised with cats and dogs all around her and had apparently never been outside of the flat.  She could not speak any of her native language and even appeared to behave like a dog.

A neighbour stated that she had seen the family taking their dogs out for walks but had never seen the child and in fact, did not even know that a child lived there.

Police commented that she looks like a two year old child and she shows characteristics like the lives of animals such as jumping up at people, walking on all fours, lapping at her food and barking.  She was dressed in dirty ripped clothes and in need of a good wash and it was also noted that the flat had no water facilities, no heating and no sewage systems.

Authorities stated that the little girl has her own vocal language which consists of barking and mewing although she does seem to understand Russian when it is spoken to her.

The girl's father, twenty seven year old Victor Lozhkin and her mother Yana Mikhailova who is twenty five were arrested and could face up to three years in jail if found guilty of neglect.  Yana claims that when she and her partner separated two years ago, he took the girl and she has not seen her since.  It is believed that the father did not let anyone visit the apartment nor did he venture outside a lot himself.

The girl, believed to have Mowgli Syndrome is being examined thoroughly and talking with psychologists during her stay at a local orphanage.  The Police have begun an investigation into child abuse.

Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian President, stated in March that over eight hundred thousand children in Russia were living in unsafe conditions.  He was urging for more action to be taken against child abuse.

Other Cases

Unbelievable as this is, there have been other cases of children being raised by animals around the world, concentrated recently in Chile, Romania and Russia.

One such incident was a seven year old boy, Andrei Tolstyk who was found in 2004 living with dogs after his parents abandoned him when he was just three months old. 

Seven year old Traian Caldarar from Romania lived with dogs for over three years after being abandoned by his mother Lina Caldarar.  He was found in a cardboard box by a shepherd who had broken down.  Traian had no clothes on him, he had severe injuries as a result of infections and rickets and it was believed that he had been eating a dog that lay dead near to him.

In Talcahuano in Chile, Alex Rivas was abandoned at five years old and after escaping from a home in 1998 at the age of eight, he lived with a pack of dogs for three years.  While Alex was considered a normal child by authorities, they learned that he lived in caves, age out of rubbish bins and even drank milk from the teat of a pregnant dog when he was hungry.

In Moscow in 1998 a six year old boy, Ivan Mishukov who had run away from home at just four years old had been living as a leader of a pack of dogs for two years when he was rescued by police.

At the young age of three, John Ssebunya from Uganda ran away from home after his mother had been killed by his father and he lived with monkeys.  For three years he lived in the jungle until being found by a tribe woman who captured him and placed him with local authorities.

Thankfully for most of them although with a lot of hard work, they were able to be integrated back into society and live a semi-normal life.

Mowgli Syndrome

This syndrome, while not an official medical term, is given to children who have lived apart from human contact with animals who have technically raised them.  They will exhibit the animal's behaviour as this is all they have been around.  These children are usually termed as 'feral' which means the child has been isolated to such a degree that the child will undoubtedly suffer from mental and physical impairments along with a fear of human contact.

The term comes from The Jungle Book, a fictional story by Rudyard Kipling about a young boy called Mowgli who was raised by a pack of wolves in the jungle.

This poor young child was living in squalid conditions and had no interaction with the outside world, and it seems hardly any attention from her own parents.  Is it any wonder then that she imitated those closest to her?