Cheetahs Prove That Cats & Dogs Can Get Along

There's a lot of animal stories online these days about the unusual pairing of animals, where one species becomes the BFF of another. I've personally researched and written about tigers with bears, a goose and a puppy and even a fictional tale of the pairing of various wildlife in Africa. Today, we find that cheetahs get so anxious they need the company of a support dog to see it through the day.

Can't Socialize of Procreate

Cheetahs in zoos can get so nervous, they won't socialize with each other. Sometimes their stress meter risea so high, they can't even procreate. As an endangered species, zoo administrators needed to become creative, less their cheetahs become extinct.

Built for flight rather than fight, as they grow older, these big cats are always on edge — eyes out for lurking predators — and ready to leap into action with incredible bursts of speed. In a zoo setting, such nervous energy has nowhere to go. They're trapped.

Lassie to the Rescue . . .

Zookeepers have figured out that emotional support dogs may be the answer to this critical dynamic. Sort of like "Lassie" coming to the rescue, they have been assigning trained dogs to provide their assistance.

“It’s a love story of one species helping another species survive,” said Jack Grisham, vice president of animal collections at the St. Louis Zoo and species survival plan coordinator for cheetahs in North America.

“A dominant dog is very helpful, because surprisingly cheetahs are quite shy instinctively, and you can’t breed that out of them,” explains Janet Rose-Hinostroza, animal training supervisor at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

“When you pair a cheetah cub with a guide dog, the cat looks to the dog for cues and learns to model their behavior. It’s about getting them to read that calm, happy-go-lucky vibe from the dog” – and that helps them be more confident and willing to get it on. As a result, a calmness comes about.

In the Wild . . .

This combo sort of works in the wild as well. Specially bred dogs, such as Anatolian shepherds and Kangal dogs, are now raised with the herds and chase cheetahs away before farmers have to load their guns. The program has been wildly successful, reducing cheetah trappings and killings by 80 percent or more.

The question whether or not this type of relationship can be considered friendship is speculative? These livestock guard dogs may not romp around with cats the way dogs do at U.S. zoos, but they are taking care of cheetahs in a healthy manner, nonetheless.

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