A 6-week-old cheetah cub at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park named Ruuxa was rejected by its mother and has no siblings. But keepers have given her a companion, a 7-week-old Rhodesian ridgeback puppy named Raina.
It's worked before, pairing a cheetah cub and a domestic dog. And so far, so good. The two like to play and neither is afraid of the other. They share "warmth and closeness" during naps, according to zoo officials.
Cheetah mothers usually give birth to three to five cubs. When they have a singleton, they often abandon it, possibly out of a belief that it cannot survive the wild.
As dog and cub get closer, the dog's body language will tell the cheetah that there's nothing to fear in its new surroundings, which calms the cheetah, zookeepers said. The hope is that the two will be lifelong pals.
Cheetahs are listed as a "vulnerable species" in their native Africa. Although the cheetah is considered the fastest-running land animal, they are often preyed upon in the wild by lions and hyenas.