#CheetahCubdate 15: Playful Personalities

This update was written by cheetah biologist Adrienne Crosier.

Rosalie’s 6-month-old cheetah cubs are growing well and are ready to play!

As the weather gets warmer, all our cheetahs become more active and spend more time outside. In their yards, keepers provide a variety of enrichment items from “furniture” to toys. Our cheetah cubs experienced some of these items for the first time recently!

Two 6-month-old cheetah cubs play outside in the grass with black Kong toys. The cub on the left is laying down with a Kong in between it's front legs and under its chin. The cub on the right is approaching the other cub.

Toys, like the Kongs pictured above, are mostly for playing. The cats will chew, carry and bat at them. The strong rubber material is tough and may help strengthen their jaw muscles, but that’s not the main reason we provide them. Kongs are just a fun item for the cheetahs to engage with! And, as you can see in the photo below of Rosalie playing too, cheetahs of all ages like them.

Female cheetah, Rosalie, and three of her 6-month-old cubs play with black Kong toys in the grass. Rosalie crouches next to a Kong and two cubs to her right with their noses to the toy. The third cubs is laying with its back to the camera to the right.

Other fun toys are the jolly balls! We’ve been throwing balls for the cubs to chase for a while now, and recently the cubs figured out how to keep the fun going. Previously, we would throw the ball and the cubs would chase after it but not know what to do once it stopped moving. Now they know if they hit the ball with their feet, it will keep rolling!

“Furniture” can also be a form of enrichment. Adding or moving structures in the cats’ yard can encourage them to explore their habitat in a new way. Most recently, we introduced the cubs to a hammock bed made of woven fire hose. These beds give the cheetahs some height, so they can see out a bit farther. To help Rosalie’s cubs get up onto the bed and to provide another thing for the cubs to climb on, we also gave the cubs a giant wooden spool that’s set on its side.

As you can see in the photo below, the cubs have taken to sitting on both the new bed and spool. As we know from our other cats, the beds also provide a comfortable place to lay in the sun and relax in the shade underneath on hot days. 

Five 6-month-old cheetah cubs sit and lay on furniture in their outdoor yard. One cub sits on a large wooden spool turned on its side. The spool is to the left of the wooden frame with a firehose bed. The other four cubs lay on the bed.
Please excuse the fuzzy photo — we didn’t want you to miss this adorable moment of the cubs on their new “furniture”!

During the winter, cheetahs burn a lot of calories to keep themselves warm. Now that they no longer need to do this, many cats put on weight. For our adults, we know each individual’s target weight and will adjust their diet to ensure they maintain it. Our males weigh between 88 and 105 pounds (40 and 48 kilograms) and our females range from 75 to 97 pounds (34 to 44 kilograms). Rosalie is average, weighing just under 86 pounds (39 kilograms).

But with the cubs it’s different. We want them to gain weight during the summer because they’re still growing. We weigh the cubs every week. As long as everyone gains weight each week, which they have been, we know they are all doing well! If a cub doesn’t gain, we increase the amount of food we’re giving them.

At the cubs’ latest weigh-in, male Kushoma was the largest weighing 40 pounds (almost 18 kilograms)! His siblings all weigh around the same: between 31.2 and 34.7 pounds (14.1 and 15.7 kilograms). Compared to past litters with multiple cubs, all five of Rosalie’s cubs are in line for their age.

A 6-month-old cheetah cub lays in the grass with four black Kong toys spread out in the grass in front of them.
Toys like Kongs are a fun enrichment item for the cheetahs to engage with.

Before wrapping this cubdate up, I wanted to share a little about each cub’s personality.

Both girls are super smart. Zura knows better than any of them that if she sits on the scale, she will get a treat. She will frequently hop right up on the scale and sit there, always ready to be weighed!

Kuki is the most shy. But you wouldn’t know from watching her with her family! During training sessions, she seems to understand what we’re asking her to do but is a little more hesitant. She takes her time to fulfill a request.

Kushoma is the most independent and we often see him exploring on his own. 3D is the smallest and most feisty. And Kuba is the sweetest, always seeking food and attention from us. If we aren’t feeding or working with him, he reminds us he’s there!

Cheetah mom Rosalie and her four of her 6-month-old cubs gather in their den on the Cheetah Cub Cam. Three of the cubs are curls up together in the back left of the den. Rosalie lays across the middle with the fourth cub on her left, licking her face.
For now, Rosalie and the cubs are still sleeping in their dens at night. As the weather warms, they will spend more time in their yard.

As the cubs get older, their milestones become fewer and farther between. For this reason, our #CheetahCubdates may be less frequent moving forward. Right now, Rosalie and the cubs are still sleeping in their dens at night and may take shelter in them when the weather is bad. As we head into summer, we expect the family to spend more time in their yard and they may not be on the Cheetah Cub Cam as much.

Stay tuned for more updates in the coming months!

Hoping to spot Rosalie and the cubs in their den? Keep an eye on the Cheetah Cub Cam! Plus, catch up on previous #CheetahCubdates here.