Labrador puppies help to calm cheetahs

Zookeepers assign dogs as best friends for life to speedy but shy African cats
cheetahs dogs "So glad we met each other!" "Me, too!" (Columbus Zoo)

Do you ever get uncomfortable around new people? Feel a touch shy without your best friend by your side?

Hey, don't sweat it. The cheetah knows how you feel.

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Cheetahs may be best known for being the world's fastest land animal, but they're also famously skittish. These lean big cats get spooked super easily, and that can lead to some real difficulties for animals being raised in captivity. And since the endangered cheetah is the focus of many conservation and breeding programs in zoos across the world, this can make for some truly frantic felines.

So what do you do when the cheetah in your life is feeling nervous? You call the life of the party.

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This guy.

BFFF (Best Friends For Felines!)

We may not normally think of cats and dogs as best friends, and in their native African habitat, dogs are actually used to guard livestock from cheetah attacks. But in zoos from Columbus to Richmond to San Diego to St. Louis, golden Labrador retrievers are being paired up with cheetah cubs to form a bond for life.

How does it work? The cheetahs are introduced to the labs when they are just cub and puppy.

cheetahs dogs 2

(Columbus Zoo)

Quickly, a bond is formed, so that the animal's don't see a dog or a cat—they see a brother or a sister.

cheetahs dogs 4

(Columbus Zoo)

The dog's outgoing and easy-going nature helps calm the cheetah's instincts. This does more than simply make the cat comfortable with the environment of a zoo or with being shown to crowds as a part of public awareness of the cheetah's plight. It also helps reduce stress in the cheetah overall, making things like breeding easier.

And that last point is extra important when the world needs more cheetah cubs!


It's a long way back for the cheetah in the wild. Where there was once 100,000 animals, the population is now less than 8,000. Project Puppy (yes, we made that name up!) may not single-handedly save the species, but every friend counts, especially when it literally lasts a lifetime.

cheetahs dogs 3

Cheetahs and dogs have similar life spans, meaning these animals stay friends for life. (CBS News)

How can you argue with this much happiness?

Learn more about dogs and cheetahs in this video.

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