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Virginia zoo cheetah cub paired with rescue puppy

By Ben Hooper
Animal pals Kumbali the cheetah and Kago the lab mix. Metro Richmond Zoo/YouTube video screenshot
Animal pals Kumbali the cheetah and Kago the lab mix. Metro Richmond Zoo/YouTube video screenshot

MOSELEY, Va., Oct. 7 (UPI) -- A Virginia zoo shared video of a hand-raised cheetah cub playing with his designated animal companion, a lab mix puppy from a rescue group.

The Metro Richmond Zoo, which posted the video to YouTube, said cheetah cub Kumbali was bottle fed and hand-raised after zookeepers determined his mother, Khari, was not producing enough milk to support all three of her cubs.

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The zoo said officials determined Kumbali needed animal companionship and decided to pair him with a puppy, an approach that has previously worked for hand-raised cheetah cubs at the San Diego Zoo and other locations.

"As the two grow up together, they create a bond that becomes almost inseparable, sibling-like," the zoo said.

"They provide companionship for each other. The dog has a calming influence because the cheetah will take behavioral cues from the dog -- learning not to fear his surroundings, but instead embracing them with confidence. The dog normally becomes the dominant figure in the relationship by becoming the protector and leader. The cheetah will not hurt or kill his friend."

The puppy, Kago, was adopted in July from rescue group The Art of Paws.

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Zookeepers said the two animals took an instant liking to each other and have since become constant companions -- separating only for brief periods at feeding times.

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