#CheetahCubdate 5: 2 Pounds of Cuteness per Cub

This update was written by cheetah biologist Adrienne Crosier.
Five cheetah cubs snuggle up together in a pile on hay under some tall grasses.
Rosalie moved her five cubs to a clump of tall grass on Oct. 21. Keepers added some hay to the area when they checked on the cubs on Sunday, Oct. 24, to provide some extra bedding and warmth. Rosalie moved the cubs back to an artificial den on Monday, Oct. 25.

It has been a busy week for Rosalie and her cubs, as they have moved back inside an artificial den — and are back on the Cheetah Cub Cam. Animal care staff were finally able weigh each cub! The cubs weighed between 2 and 2.6 pounds (930 grams to 1.2 kilograms), which is right on track for 2-week-old cubs.

We were also able to weigh Rosalie over the weekend. All our adult cheetahs are trained to step on a scale as part of their husbandry training, which allows them to voluntarily participate in their own health care. Rosalie weighed in around 95 pounds (43 kilograms), which is a fine weight for an adult female. She has been eating more regularly too, as compared to the first week after the cubs were born where she didn’t leave the den for more than two days.

Five cheetah cubs lay and sleep on hay inside a gray, plastic tub. The photo is taken looking down into the tub, birds-eye-view vantage point.

When Rosalie left the cubs to eat her breakfast, we had just enough time to quickly weigh each cub and shave a small bit of fur off. These shave marks allow us to quickly identify the cubs so we can keep track of the cubs’ weights and health while they are young.

We also think we were also able to determine whether each is male or female! We will know for sure when the cubs have their first full exam in late November. For now, we believe Rosalie has three boys and two girls! We shaved the assumed girls on their right side and the boys on their left. The shave marks should last at least a week, which is around the time we hope to weigh them again. There is a rainstorm predicted for this weekend and, in an abundance of caution, we do not want to do anything that may prompt Rosalie to move the cubs into the yard again.

Front Royal, Virginia — where the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute is located — is experiencing a lovely autumn, temperature-wise. I am not concerned about the cubs getting cold while they are inside the artificial den. While this den is not heated, we have placed a lot of hay to insulate it. The other den in Rosalie’s yard is heated, so she may choose to move the family into that den when the temperature dips.

In addition to the dens, cheetah cubs develop the ability to thermoregulate, or adjust their body temperature, overtime as they grow. While we do not know exactly when a cheetah can fully thermoregulate, we believe cubs older than a month can. Rosalie's cubs are just over 2 weeks old.

Two images collaged together. Both pictures are of a cheetah cub held by a latex-gloved keeper. The left image is of a female cub and the right is of a male.
Keepers think they were able to determine the sexes of each cub while they were weighing them. Pictured on the left is an assumed female and on the right is an assumed male. 

Cuddle puddles are still the best to watch, but I also enjoy watching Rosalie. She is one of our more reserved cheetahs. However, her personality does show a little on the webcam because she does not know we’re watching! She moves a lot more in her sleep compared to our other cheetahs. She will twitch and move her legs similar to a dreaming dog.

As viewers of the Cheetah Cub Cam may have noticed, the cubs are on the move! Just this week, I have noticed them starting to wander away from mom and explore the den before going back to her. Stay tuned, as we expect the cubs to start following Rosalie outside the den in the next few weeks.

Make sure to catch the cheetah cubs in action on the Cheetah Cub Cam and check out the previous updates.