Kumbali and Kago, Cheetah Cub and Puppy Friendship

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Kumbali and Kago, Cheetah Cub and Puppy Friendship

Watch this YouTube video of Kumbali and his puppy friend, Kago.


Well, let us tell you more of their story.

But first, a little background information.

Kumbali is the son of Khari and Hatari.

When he was two weeks old, animal caretakers at the MRZ noticed that he wasn’t gaining weight. In fact, he was losing weight, making him the runt of his litter. We removed the cub to bottle-raise him, with the hope of being able to boost his weight, and then eventually reintroduce him to his family.

However, we discovered that his mom, Khari, was not producing enough milk for her three cubs. Only 2 of her 8 nipples were functioning, so zoo staff decided to keep hand-raising the cub to ensure his health and growth.

We instantly fell in love with him.


And we needed to find the perfect name. We searched for hours and hours, scouring our resources, in search of his name. We narrowed our list of names, one by one.


It just had a ring to it that we couldn’t ignore.

Kumbali has steadily gained weight since we had to pull him.

His motor skills have improved, and he loves to jump, run, lick, and play. Despite his young age, he has already demonstrated incredibly quick speeds.

When he was smaller, similar to a house cat, he liked to to use his caretakers like a piece of furniture. When he got tired, he would sprawl out on top of them until he found the most comfortable position for sleeping. We knew he was content when he made his loud purring noise.

Just like his siblings, he has had periodic veterinarian check-ups, and he is receiving his immunization shots.

Even though he is on a mostly meat diet now, we still can’t reintroduce him to his family. At this age, if we put him back with his mom and siblings, the mother would most likely consider him a threat.

Cheetahs are quite different from their cousins– the lions and tigers. They are inherently wired for “flight” instead of “fight”, making them incredibly fast scaredy cats. They are nervous and easily frightened animals.

Despite their anxious habits, male cheetahs are social animals. In the wild, they form coalitions with other males–usually their brothers. Kumbali was in need of a companion- and not of the human sorts. Man’s best friend would soon become cheetah’s, too.

Dogs have been used as companion animals to cheetahs for over thirty years. The San Diego Zoo pioneered this idea, and has had many successful cheetah-dog companionships. Other zoos have also initiated this practice.

This symbiotic relationship would never happen in the wild; however, we believe the positive outcomes outweigh any negative. As the two grow up together, they create a bond that becomes almost inseparable, sibling-like. They provide companionship for each other. The dog has a calming influence because the cheetah will take behavioral cues from the dog– learning not to fear his surroundings, but instead embracing them with confidence. The dog normally becomes the dominant figure  in the relationship by becoming the protector and leader. The cheetah will not hurt or kill his friend.

With this plan in mind, we obviously had something missing. The goodpuppyfood. We wanted to find a rescue animal– an animal that could be given a new meaning– a new home, a new friend, and a new life. But it had to be the right puppy. It needed to have a calming, yet fun-loving personality. Labs are well-known for these qualities, so we searched tirelessly trying to find the right lab mix puppy at the appropriate age.

We contacted many local (and not so local) rescues and shelters. Some of them flat out turned us down, too skeptical of this approach, because of a lack of understanding. Some of them wanted to help, but didn’t have any puppies. We started to get a little bit discouraged, until we received a call from The Art of Paws.

They were excited and willing to help us out. After showing us a picture and a video of one of their 10 week old puppies, we knew we had found him.



This organization graciously offered to donate him to us. We adopted him on Saturday, July 16th, 2015.

Kago is a lab mix puppy. The Art of Paws rescued him from a high kill shelter in Alabama. He was brought to Virginia, where we ultimately found him through a cooperating rescue organization, AWOL MUTTS.

We instantly fell in love with him, too. However,  Kumbali’s opinion of him was more important than our own. After slowly introducing the two, they quickly assumed the title of friends. Now Kumbali can jump, run, lick, and play with his pal Kago.

They don’t even seem to recognize their differences in species, size, or color. There is only acceptance. Maybe we, as humans, have some things to learn from these two?

Considering that their diets are completely different, feeding time can present a little bit of a challenge. They are feed at the same time, but briefly separated.

What are the plans for Kumbali and Kago?

Short-term- The two of them will continue to nurture and strengthen their bond. There could possibly be brief educational meetings supervised by Zoo Staff in a public exhibit. There will definitely be updates on our Facebook page.

Long-term- Kumbali will become an ambassador animal– one who represents his species for the benefit and encouragement of its conservation. Kumbali and Kago, will live out their lives together.


Update (4/29/2016) Kumbali and Kago can be seen at the Zoo throughout the day!

Come Visit Us!

We will be on exhibit in a temporary enclosure beside the kangaroos.


Cheryl Hoskins

October 6, 2015at 9:23 am

Well done MRZ! I am hoping to see Kumbali and Kago today while visiting the zoo. We will be honoring Lana’s first litters’ birthday! Thank you for all that you do!!!

Linda Cooper

October 6, 2015at 9:46 am

Kimbali and Kago are both adorable! I look forward to seeing them in person.


October 6, 2015at 2:33 pm

They are both great definitely great toward and for each other. I love this being shared! Thanks

Rebecca Fields

October 6, 2015at 4:31 pm

Oh my goodness…Mr. Andlin and caretakers of these cuties at MRZ….you have done it again! Gone ABOVE and beyond to assure a HAPPY, healthy and prosperous life for two would be “orphans” who NOW share the bond of “sibling love”! Learning of these two and watching the video…has made my day!! THANK YOU from the bottom of MY heart..for YOUR unwaivering love of animals!!

cathy boyer

October 7, 2015at 2:37 pm

how adorable .will look forward to seeing updates on their budding friendship


October 7, 2015at 3:07 pm

A great story with a happy ending for all..Thank you so much for all you do, please send me a link to your facebook page.


October 7, 2015at 5:36 pm

Thank you. Here is the link to our facebook page https://www.facebook.com/metrorichmondzoo

Daphne Macklin

October 7, 2015at 8:43 pm

Lovely story, Seems like things are working out for both Kambali and Kago.

R Skaggs

October 7, 2015at 9:29 pm

Wondering why Kumbali has a white tipped tail…Also how much bigger it Kago going to get. I understand the dog/cat relationships since I have an inside kitty which adopted a 2yr old rescue and gives the dog daily baths and sleeps on top of her.
Hope all goes well with Kumbali and Kago and hope their story will let us humans understand that if we want to work together and be friends…it is more than possible. Just look at Kumbali and Kago.


October 8, 2015at 12:50 am

kumbali and kago are the cutiest thing every


October 8, 2015at 1:02 am

I sincerely hope this stays happy for a long time. Cheeta may someday eat the dog. This is reality. Blessings to all…..

Dog Mom

October 8, 2015at 1:21 am

I love this story. I live in Richmond so I have followed the Cheetahs since the first cubs were born. I have heard of using dogs as companions for Cheetahs and other large cats and I am so glad you choose to adopt a puppy that needed a home. I can’t wait to see future updates on these two.

Richard Bernier Fuller

October 8, 2015at 4:24 pm

I have always loved all animals from Farm, to Pets to Wild. We currently have an oversize male Rhodesian Ridgeback of 65 Kilos and a small 4 Kilo dog that my son rescued from a highway. They are inseperable. I also have a long haired cat that adopted me and had a litter of kittens in my office. She basically lives in my office and the local fields using my lap or my computer case for sleeping during the day.

Hopefully you will have a future Video of these two youngsters as they grow older together.


October 26, 2015at 1:41 pm

they are so cute i want it


January 19, 2016at 2:04 am



January 21, 2016at 11:12 pm

How are they now? How big is each of them?

helen churchill

January 28, 2016at 6:04 pm

Kumbali and kago i love see you and all your friend s are the zoo thanks so much for sharing your posts. i enjoyed the strong friend ship in you to a really enjoy the day of fun in the snow .hope to see you all a gain.

Ronald J. Nehls

January 29, 2016at 3:30 am

This is one of the greatest stories I have read. Its amazing how two very different animals can become each other’s rock. God Bless you all in this endeavor.Keep this story running.I’m taken by it .

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