CINCINNATI - A baby cheetah has been paired with a rescue puppy at the Cincinnati Zoo, and the two playmates have quickly become best friends.
The 3-month-old cub named Kris is the sole-surviving baby cheetah of her mother's litter.
"When a cheetah mom has only one or two cubs survive in her litter, often she will abandon those cubs and even stop producing milk for them," the zoo explained in a blog post. "This allows her to be able to breed again and have better luck next time in having a larger litter to survive."
The zoo made the decision to hand-raise Kris, but decided to pair her with a shelter pup they rescued, named Remus, in order to give the cub the companionship she would've otherwise received in a litter of siblings.
The zoo's program pairs dogs and solo cheetahs together because the dog acts as both teacher and playmate to the cub in ways that humans cannot, said Cincinnati Zoo lead trainer Linda Castaneda.
Cheetah cubs will learn to listen to their human trainers and do simple tasks like drinking from a water bowl by watching the puppy.
“Even if we wanted to play with her, we’re just not able to do it in the same way that a puppy can,” Castaneda said.
The zoo said dog companions are common for lone cheetahs in zoos across the country. Castaneda said Kris and Remus are the sixth successful cheetah-dog pairing at the zoo.