Cheetah #Cubdate 5: Back, Bigger and with a Bite!

This update was written by Cheetah Biologist Adrienne Crosier.

Great news: Echo moved her four cubs back into the den with a live webcam on Mother’s Day! So what have the cubs been up to? Read on for more.

What are some of the most exciting things going on with the cubs this week?

The cubs are on the move! They were finally big enough to crawl out of the den, and that’s why we think Echo moved them. It’s even possible they will move between the two dens. And when it’s warm, they will start to sleep outside.

The cubs’ teeth are also starting come in. This is a big developmental milestone, because it means they will soon be able to eat meat. We usually see cheetah cubs eat meat around 6 weeks old. The cubs are 5 weeks old, so they are perfectly on schedule.

How do you start offering the cubs meat?

We will wait and see if Echo brings them to her food dish. If she does, they might eat meat there. But more likely, we will start to put a plate of food, usually a specially formulated ground beef, outside the den. In the past, some cubs have eaten meat right away, while others have been more skeptical. The cubs will still continue to nurse until they are 3-4 months old, so we don’t worry if they take a little while to warm up to their carnivorous cravings. 

Now that the cubs are out of the den, what should we expect to see on the webcam?

The cubs don’t venture far from their den, but they are spending more and more time outside exploring, especially when the weather is nice — which means less time in the den where the webcam is.

For now, you will see the cubs getting so big, so fast. And that means they are more mobile, more playful and more active overall. But they still need naps, snuggle time with mom and to nurse. That’s what you will probably see on the webcam — and it’s cuter than ever.

Echo’s communication with her cubs might be more obvious over the webcam as well. There are still a lot of mysteries in mom/cub communication, but it’s clear that they follow her “direction” to stay put when she leaves the den or to venture out when she “says” to.

How is Echo doing as a first-time mom?

We are all so impressed with Echo. She’s doing a great job. When the first cub left the den, she wasn’t panicky at all. She leaped into action teaching the others to venture out, too. It was like she had done it a million times before.

Some cheetah moms appear nervous at this stage and can even harm their cubs accidentally by picking them up by the scruff too much and too hard. Instead, Echo seems great at communicating with her cubs and directing them appropriately.

What comes next for the cubs?

Next week the cubs will have their first veterinary exam. They will receive their first vaccines, and vets will listen to their hearts and lungs. For now though, we just continue to weigh them. Check out the video from this week's weighing!