The verdict is in on our 14-week-old cubs’ first snow experience! They are not fans.
The new year kicked off with a lot of snow at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia. Some of our adult cheetahs love the snow, others hate it, and some are just indifferent. Rosalie falls into the latter category. She seems unphased by the snow and cold. She takes after her mother, Sanurra, in this regard.
Rosalie’s cubs do not follow in their mom’s paw-steps. They seem to prefer hunkering down in the den rather than venturing out. Some of the cubs are a little more tolerant than others. During the snow in mid-January, two of the cubs refused to leave the den with the rest of the family. It took Rosalie calling and going back to get them before they finally came out.
Meanwhile, mealtime is getting crowded! A little over a month ago, Rosalie started insisting on eating with her cubs. This is common for cheetah moms and it usually happens around the time the cubs are 8 weeks old. In response to Rosalie’s insistence, the cubs got to try their first frozen-thawed rabbits!
These whole-prey items are cub-sized; they are smaller than the rabbits our adult cheetahs get. It’s always amusing to watch the cubs interact with a new food for the first time because some of the cubs aren’t sure what to do. Thankfully, Rosalie is an excellent mom and teacher. It didn’t take long for all the cubs to learn to dig in and enjoy!
Carcass feedings, like the rabbits, mimic what the cubs would experience in the wild and are important for their overall health. The skin, fur and bones are full of fiber and aid in the digestive process. Internal organs are also rich in nutrients, which help the cubs grow big and strong. Prey items also help strengthen their jaw muscles and keep their teeth healthy.
In the coming weeks, we will also introduce the cubs to horse bones. While the bones meet many of the same dietary needs as the rabbits, they are a larger item for the cubs to chow down on. We only get these bones in one size, so they’ll be getting the exact same thing as the adult cheetahs!