Allolactation, the nursing of another female’s offspring, occurs most commonly where several females
raise young simultaneously in the same nest, but also occurs in singular breeders where nonbreeders
also lactate for the offspring of dominant females. In this study, we investigated the factors predicting the
frequency of allonursing in meerkats, Suricata suricatta, whether or not subordinate females invest in
allonursing, and how much time they invest. Around half of all litters born to dominant females were
allonursed. Litters born later were more likely to be allonursed than those born early in the season.
Group size, litter size, rainfall and maternal condition were not associated with the likelihood that a litter
was allonursed. Subordinate females were more likely to allolactate if they were (or had recently been)
pregnant. This effect was stronger if they were also highly related to the litter’s mother, suggesting that
females may gain indirect benefits from allolactating. Older females and those that had recently returned
to the group following eviction were also more likely to allolactate. Females nursed for longer periods if
they were in good condition, and invested more time if the litter was large or if the litter mother was in
poor condition. We suggest that allolactation generates a combination of direct and indirect benefits.