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Cheetah Cubdate #14: Weighing in with New Sights

Two young cheetahs stand on top of the roof of their small den inside the grassy yard of their habitat at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

Echo's 6.5-month-old cheetah cubs' have recently learned to jump on top of their den, giving them a new vantage point over their yard.

Echo’s 6.5-month-old cheetah cubs’ world is growing, just as they are all growing stronger and larger too! Most recently, the cubs have learned to jump on top of their permanent den, showing off their size and agility.

This is something many of our cheetahs do, because the structure provides them with a high vantage point over their yard and their neighbors’ yards. It's kind of like how wild cheetahs would sit on a termite mound.

A 6.5-month-old cheetah cub enjoys a horse knuckle bone for the first time!

The cubs enjoyed chewing on horse knuckle bones for the first time in October.

In October, the cubs experienced a new food. We gave them horse knuckle bones for the first time, which were a huge hit. As we have mentioned in previous updates, carcass feedings like these are a key component to the cubs’ health, as they help strengthen their jaw muscles and aid in the digestive process. These feedings are also part of our nutrition and enrichment programs. The cubs really enjoyed chewing on the horse knuckle bones and were kept busy for quite a while. 

We are working with the cubs to get consistent, weekly weights to monitor their growth and development. At their most recent weigh-in, males Jabari and Hasani tipped the scales between 46 and 48 pounds, while male Erindi and female Amabala weighed in around 44 pounds.  

As part of our positive reinforcement program, the cubs receive their favorite foods — beef blood and meatballs — as a reward for participating in voluntary training sessions with keepers. This enables them to take part in their own health care and build relationships with their keepers. Since our update over the summer, the cubs have learned that they will get a treat for getting on the scale. Now, they are learning to get off the scale.

Cheetah, Echo and her four cubs enjoy horse knuckle bones in their yard.

One thing that has been useful in teaching the cubs to get off the scale is the empty yard next door to the cub’s main yard. We are teaching the cubs to recognize the word “out”’ as a cue to leave the building, which is followed by a food reward. We also use the word "door" to let them know a door will be opening or to get them to look at the door. Since the goal is to have one cub on the scale at a time, the extra yard gives keepers an additional option to shift the cubs in and out of the building with the scale.

For the cubs, the new yard brings new sights! The yard has a view of some of our other cheetah yards. This is the first big opportunity the cubs have had to see that there are other cats in the world. It’s fun to see them realize this.

The other cats are curious about the cubs when they see them, too. Some of our female cheetahs will vocalize to the cubs and try to play with them through the fence. Those females who have had cubs get it. They know what small cheetahs are, while some of the cats who have not had cubs will pace and try to understand what the cubs are.

As the weather gets colder, you may be able to catch the cubs cuddling on the Cheetah Cub Cam! Love these cheetah cubs? Read previous updates on the cubs here.