Cats and dogs are usually thought of as obvious enemies -- but for one young cheetah and his canine companion, life as friends has never been better.
Last year, visitors to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay were first introduced to an adorable pair of newborns -- a tiny cheetah cub named Kasi, and a yellow-lab puppy named Mtani. Although they shared little in common beyond the timing and circumstances of their birth, the bonds of friendship soon proved too strong to be diminished by their differences.
“They absolutely love each other,” said one zoo official.
In fact, 12 months on, the cheetah-puppy relationship seems destined to be a lifelong one yet.
For most of their young lives, Kasi and Mtani have resided together at Busch Gardens, playing and napping together in an unlikely display of cat-dog solidarity, much to the delight of park guests. But as inspiring as Kasi and Mtani's bond may be, the interspecies pairing was not arranged merely to soften hearts -- though they definitely do.
According to zoo officials, cheetahs are highly social animals and are want to form strong companionships with their peers. Absent another young cheetah at the facility, Kasi's keepers found him a friend in a equally loving yellow labrador -- and a year later, the pair is inseparable.
"This social bond will be a very similar relationship, and they will be together for life,” say zoo manager Tim Smith.
Cheetahs in the wild are listed as a threatened species, numbering in just the thousands, though Kasi and Mtani have done wonders to raise awareness of this fact, inspiring donations towards wildlife conservation from folks who might otherwise not think to help.
After all, who wouldn't be willing to lend a hand to a friend of a friend -- and of our best friend at that?