Can a dog and a cheetah get along? Well, an unlikely relationship budded between these two animals, after the cub was abandoned by his own mother.
In 2014, a seven-week-old cheetah named Ruuxa, was paired with an eight-week-old ridgeback puppy called Raina. Poor Ruuxa was abandoned by his mother as he was born without any siblings, and such individual cub is believed to have a low rate of survival.
The keepers in San Diego Safari Park decided to introduce Raina to act as his buddy, and also to calm and help the cat adapt to the surroundings. Since their introduction, the two animals play and wrestle among their toys, while visitors watch them through their nursery window.
The two animals are not the only duo that is paired together. There are a few other cheetahs in the park that are paired with dogs. But these two are the youngest.
Animal training manager, Janet Rose-Hinostroza, said in an interview with TODAY, “Ruuxa is less apprehensive than the other cheetahs that have met their dogs. It was our plan all along that he would just know Raina from his earliest memories, take it in stride, and hopefully feel more like she’s a sibling.”
“He recognizes her as another animal and recognizes her as a playmate. He seeks out playing with that dog, which is so funny … He’s very curious about her, very interested in her,” she added.
Rose-Hinostroza also said “In this relationship, the dog is always [assuming] the role of the older sibling. They’re actually the dominant animal in the relationship.”
Ruuxa was later diagnosed with chondrodysyplasia, a growth abnormality that caused his forelegs to bow inward, and had to undergo surgery, as advised by the zoo.
Raina stayed by his side after the surgery and was even careful of Ruuxa’s bandaged legs. The zoo said, “Raina definitely has been a great big sister to Ruuxa and provides him the feeling of having a “sibling” from his earliest memories. She gives him the confidence to face situations in which he may feel uncomfortable. Raina’s body language communicates to Ruuxa that there is nothing to fear in new or public surroundings, which relaxes and calms the cat.”
The park hopes to keep the two animals together for the rest of their lives.