You already know that cheetahs are the fastest cats on the savannah, but did you know they're also one of the most anxious? Captive cheetahs are notoriously nervous creatures that have a hard time socializing with other cheetahs. Their social avoidance has negative impacts on their procreation rates as well, as this endangered species seeks comfortable solitude over mates.
The solution? Give them a bubbly companion to break them out of their furry shell! Like the yin to the yang, cheetahs in captivity are being assigned emotional support dogs to reduce their anxiety and learn the social skills they need. Here are some of these adorable working relationships.
It's not just puppy love between Emmett the cheetah and support companion Cullen at the Columbus Zoo. The pair have been inseparable since Emmett arrived at the Zoo from his birthplace at The Wilds animal sanctuary in Ohio. Born into captivity without access to traditional cheetah group dynamics in the wild, Emmett needs the social interaction that Cullen offers.
They live and learn together as Cullen helps calm Emmett's skittish nerves and gain valuable confidence. An added bonus is that this duo will melt your heart with their cuteness.
A Buddy For Life
Kumbali was the runt of the litter, and Metro Richmond zookeepers quickly intervened when they saw that his mother only had 2 of her 8 nipples functioning for her 3 cubs. After switching Kumbali to a bottle diet, zookeepers noticed that he needed another kind of support.
Male cheetahs are traditionally solitary but they will join with other males to form "coalitions." Male cheetahs in captivity like Kumbali don't have access to this brotherhood. But ever since introducing Kumbali to Kago the golden retriever, the two have forged a bond that lasts a lifetime.
An Unlikely Friend
At the San Diego Zoo, male cheetah cub Ruuxa was recovering from leg surgery when a concerned puppy Raina stood by his cage and waited. Raina stayed vigilant beside Ruuxa to make sure he was okay while his legs healed. Five years later and the pair is still going strong.
Raina and Ruuxa weren't San Diego's Zoo's first bonded cheetah-puppy pair. Back in 1980, a male cheetah Arusha and golden retriever Anna were the first to link up. The zoo has continued the practice ever since, citing the positive effects on the male cats.
In The Wild
While adding a dog to the mix has helped cheetahs in captivity, it actually works in the wild too. In Namibia, where local farms encroach on wild cheetah territory, cheetahs have been known to hunt local cattle. In the 1980's farmers trapped a number of cats to protect their valuable livestock.
To stop the loss of cheetah lives, Anatolian shepherds and Kangal dogs have started being raised to drive the cats away before they hunt the livestock. The relationship has helped reduce cheetah trappings by 80%.
It's Not Just Cheetahs
Just like anxious cheetahs, other animals occasionally need the support that a companion offers. Meet Charlie and Maverick.
In 2017 after losing both eyes to glaucoma, 11-year-old Charlie the golden retriever needed a little help from 4-month-old puppy Maverick. Maverick became Charlie's own "seeing eye dog" and later his best friend. They eat, play, and sleep together, and Maverick even does his part helping walk Charlie with his leash in his mouth.