Dominic is now 2 months old! After becoming orphaned at under a week old he had to be taken into the care of the staff here at CCF. He was bottle fed every 3 hours initially, around the clock until he became stronger and able to start eating meat. Even though he had a rough start being separated from his mother, by causes we are still unsure of, he has come on in leaps and bounds. As he became stronger he started exploring his “nursery” which was a quarantine area set up for him until he was vaccinated. His favourite toy was a simple feather on the end of a string, which he chased around the room and pounced on. After his first vaccinations at 4 weeks old he began exploring the great outdoors! He was introduced to the three house dogs first so that he had some animal friends, as being a young cheetah without any siblings or a cheetah mother can be very lonely. His best friend is a very large Anatolian shepherd named Hercules. They bonded very quickly and Hercules grooms him the way that his mother would to keep him clean. He also has a smaller Anatolian dog friend named Isha and a border collie named Finn.
Dominic spends most of his days with the dogs when he’s not sleeping, and they provide him with company whilst exploring outside. It has been shown that dogs can provide good company during these younger stages of life, giving Dominic more stability and help him grow and mature properly without becoming too accustomed to humans. You can see from the photos Hercules keeping watch over him whilst he climbs a termite mound to get a better view of the garden. Everything is new and exciting being a baby cheetah, he’s smelling all kinds of new things, experiencing new animals such as birds and venturing through jungles of plants (even the spiky ones that he is still learning to avoid!). He always has a keeper supervising him and teaching him about life just like a mother cheetah would.
Although he has dog friends to play with, it is important that he meets other cheetahs too as eventually he will live with his own kind. Unfortunately, he needs to be bigger and tougher before we can introduce him to any. He is currently too small to play with any of our other cheetahs so when he does meet them it is always through a fence. He has met our Ambassador cheetahs so far (7 Years Old), and some of our younger females who are 1.5 years and 10 months. They were all a little unsure of what he was at the beginning, until he started to chirp at them or make cheetah noises and they all realised quite quickly he was one of them but a smaller version! We try and interact with other cheetahs everyday so that he can become accustomed to how he should behave and become friends with them for future introductions.
At around 4 weeks old we started introducing him to meat! He started with nicely ground meat that was easy to chew and digest, he figured out quickly how delicious it was and began asking for more and more each feeding! At 6 weeks we gave him his first bone to try, with the help of his keepers he managed to pull the meat off the bone and chew on it after, just like he would in the wild. Now that he is 2 months old, his meat is increasing rapidly, and we are starting to wean him off his milk a little. It’s still important for him to get the nutrients from the milk for a while as he needs all the help he can get whilst growing.
He has a nice solid routine now which is important for cheetahs. They don’t like too much change and enjoy structure in their lives. He wakes up in the morning and has a big breakfast, then will spend most of the day playing outside or with his keepers. In the afternoon he enjoys taking a short nap in the sun after his lunchtime feed but is then up and running around again until bedtime. It’s very important he gets lots of exercise at this age, so his body can develop properly, in the late afternoons when it is cooler he is taken for a walk with his keepers to stretch his legs and start building the muscle he will need growing up. It is also a very good mental stimulation for him as the outside world changes constantly and he always has new things to sniff and see!