Although Cheetahs appear to be fierce, dominant predators, the truth is that they’re actually very shy and anxious!
Much like house cats, Cheetahs have some skittish tendencies.
These “fearsome” creatures are sensitive and introverted animals that are easily stressed.
This stress makes it difficult for them to reproduce, which has concerned scientists about the future of their species.
Zookeepers at the Columbus Zoo have taken a creative and adorable approach to helping their cheetah cubs be less stressed.
They’ve given each cheetah cub their very own emotional support dog!
Their goal is to improve the cheetahs’ emotional health by helping them learn how to relax and have fun from interacting with the dogs.
Learning to become less anxious as cubs helps reduce the stress that prevents them from breeding as adults.
Dogs are perfect for this task as they’re eager to make friends and offer a helping hand!
Other zoos have used this technique in the past and now it’s being implemented more often for conservation purposes.
According to the San Diego Zoo, the cheetahs are assigned an emotional support dog when they’re 3-4 months old.
Their friendship doesn’t happen overnight.
It can take several weeks or months for the pair to get acquainted.
The introduction is made slowly and carefully by first introducing them through a fence with the dog on a leash while they get familiar with each other.
Then they warm up to several supervised play dates!
Once the cheetah cub and dog have become comfortable with each other, they become inseparable.
Other than being apart for meal times, the cheetahs and dogs do pretty much everything together.
The cheetahs learn how to be more playful from their friendly canine companions.
They mimic the happy-go-lucky nature of the dogs who do an excellent job easing the cheetahs’ nervousness.
It’s an adorable sight to witness. The pictures speak for themselves!
Cheetahs as a species group (Acinonyx jubatus) are currently classified as “vulnerable” according to IUCN.
Some cheetah species such as the Asiatic Cheetah and Northwest African Cheetah are already critically endangered.
There are an estimated 7,100 cheetahs left in the wild, and their numbers continue to be threatened by farmers, agricultural development, and the illegal trade of live cubs and adults.
The cheetah and emotional support dog relationship shows promise in helping Cheetahs raised in captivity thrive as a species.