Cheetah Cubs Need Best Friends, Too

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Kris and Remus are starting to become buddies. Cincinnati Zoo

There's a long-held misconception that dogs and cats can't be friends. You'd be surprised at how well they can get along sometimes.

That's what keepers at the Cincinnati Zoo were hoping when cheetah cub Kris was recently introduced to a scruffy rescue puppy named Remus.

Kris was the only surviving cub to a first-time cheetah mom.
Kris was the only surviving cub to a first-time cheetah mom. Cincinnati Zoo

Kris was the only survivor of a litter of three cubs born at the zoo's breeding facility to first-time mom Neena. According to the zoo, cheetah mothers don't get enough stimulation from a single cub to produce enough milk, so the zoo's neonatal team took over care of the cub.

dog licks cheetah cub
Blakely gives Kris a hello lick. Cincinnati Zoo

Early on, 9-year-old Australian shepherd Blakely came out of retirement as a cheetah nanny to help take care of the tiny cub. Blakely kept Kris company and started teaching her social skills until the zoo could find Kris the perfect puppy of her own.

cheetah cub Kris with nanny Blakely
Kris plays with his temporary nanny. Cincinnati Zoo

Blakely acted like a nanny, says the zoo, snuggling her, playing with her, and disciplining her — doing all the things her mother would do.

In the meantime, the trainers in the zoo's Cat Ambassador Program went searching for a puppy. They have successfully picked out six puppies in the past to be with solo cheetah cubs, so they knew what they were looking for. According to the zoo, they were searching for an outgoing dog that would encourage the cub to play and be active. They also wanted a puppy that would grow to be big enough to play with the cheetah at least through her first year of life.

They found a sweet, playful pup with a local rescue group. After a quarantine period and a popular naming contest, Remus and Kris were slowly introduced. (And Blakely got to go back to retired life.)

"The two of them are slowly getting more used to being friends," Andie Haugen, one of Kris's trainers, tells MNN.

"Remus is much more interested in playing with her than she is with him at this stage. That is expected and understandable. He is a confident puppy and is respectful of Kris' space when she tells him to back down. Once Kris is more used to Remus, his high energy and gentle demeanor will be great for them to play and explore as they grow up together."

Getting cozier

Kris and Remus will even share the same bed and toys.
Kris and Remus will share the same bed and the same toys. Cincinnati Zoo

This type of out-of-the-ordinary friendship is becoming more common. Inspired by success at the San Diego Zoo, zoos all over the country have started raising cheetah cubs with puppies. The pairing helps focus all that feline energy while also reducing stress, points out National Geographic. Plus, well-chosen pups "are a calming influence and are tolerant of kitty play — including tooth and claw."

As for Kris and Remus, they're getting cozier by the day, reports the zoo. Fans on social media are eagerly following the budding BFFs, wanting to know how well they're bonding and how long they'll stay together.

The zoo says it depends on their individual personalities. The zoo's cheetah Donnie still hangs out with his dog pal, Moose, but cheetahs are solitary by nature. They typically head out on their own away from their siblings and mom around age 2, which is when they often part from their canine pals as well.

The zoo says, "We like to compare it to how we (humans) love our siblings and have fun growing up with them, but at a certain point we’d rather live on our own. Same goes for this duo, so for now, we’ll just have to wait and see!"