Cheetah Cubdate #13: Falling for Cool Weather

As the season changes and the temperature drops in Front Royal, Virginia, cheetah Echo and her 6-month-old cubs will spend more time inside, snuggling up to stay warm. Cheetahs do well in colder temperatures and grow a thick winter coat. Heated dens—complete with a hefty helping of hay bedding—will help the family stay warm on chilly days.

In September, keepers presented the cubs with two new enrichment items. The first, a cube made of recycled firehose, is portable enough for them to play “keep away” with one another and durable enough to stand up to pouncing (not to mention claw and teeth marks). They seemed to enjoy chewing on it!

We also placed a bubble machine just outside their enclosure. They approached it quite cautiously and appeared to be intrigued by this odd device. They watched intently as the bubbles were carried off by the wind.

A five-month old cheetah cubs play with an enrichment ball in their habitat at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.
Two cubs play with an enrichment jolly ball. 

Husbandry training sessions are progressing nicely with all of the cubs. As we mentioned over the summer, female Amabala and males Jabari, Hasani and Erindi are learning behaviors that enable them to voluntarily participate in their own health care. If they choose to participate, they receive their favorite treats—beef blood and meatballs—as a reward.

Cheetah Echo and two of her 5-month-old cubs at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.
Cheetah Echo (foreground) is followed by two of her cubs as they peruse their habitat. 

The cubs are slowly acclimating to eating in the stall. It is important that they feel comfortable in this space, as it is where we weigh them, administer vaccines, collect blood samples and apply flea and tick medications. Recently, keepers successfully re-shaved the cubs’ ID marks while they ate. At their most recent weigh-in, the male cubs tipped the scales at around 40 pounds, and Amabala weighed about 35 pounds! Overall, we are very pleased with their growth and how far they have come along in mastering their training behaviors.   

A five-month old cheetah cubs explore their habitat at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.
SCBI's growing 6-month-old cheetah cubs now weigh about 35 to 40 pounds! 

If you’re looking for the cubs on the Cheetah Cub Cam, the best time to see them is early in the morning. They will likely spend more time in the den at night when it is cold or damp outside. You may even catch them cuddling!

Love cheetahs? Read previous updates on the cubs here and check them out on the Cheetah Cub Cam.