While cheetahs look intimidating, the truth is that they are quite shy, sensitive, and introverted animals. Also, they get anxious easily.
If a cheetahs anxiety gets too high, they become too stressed to breed, and this worries lead experts as cheetahs are going extinct.
To prevent their extinction, zookeepers at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park are assigning each cheetah an emotional support dog. Seemingly, the goal is to have the dog’s calm, happy-go-lucky, and relaxed personality rub off on the cheetahs. Also, they want the cheetahs to learn to play and relax.
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park has been assigning support animals to cheetahs since the 1980s. Previously, this was only done in special cases. However, today, dogs are more frequently used to assist in the efforts to help preserve the cheetah species.
According to the San Diego Zoo, cheetah cubs are assigned a companion when they are around three to four months old. Initially, the cheetahs are introduced to their companion dogs from opposite sides of a fence. During this time, the dogs are with a keeper and kept on a leash.
Then, if the zookeepers see a potential pair, they proceed to let the two animals go on a “play date” where they can get familiar with each other. However, this is a slow process, especially for the cheetahs who feel uneasy.
If all goes well when the two meet, then the keepers observe them and determine if they can remove the dog’s leash. If so, they will be moved into a space where they will spend most of their time together.
After that point, the cheetahs and their companion dogs are only separated during mealtime. They will do the rest of their activities together.
Using support animals has proven to be beneficial for cheetahs. In many cases, the cheetah cubs start copying their dog companion’s confident, playful behavior. Hopefully, being relaxed will help cheetahs to breed more in the future.