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Unlikely friends: Cheetah cub befriends puppy at Virginia zoo

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CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. — Friends come in all shapes and sizes — Kumbali and Kago are living proof of that.

The Metro Richmond Zoo released a video documenting the unlikely friendship between cheetah cub, Kumbali, and lab mix puppy, Kago.

Kumbali was born in May and struggled to gain weight, zoo officials told WTVR.

Officials discovered that Kumbali’s mother wasn’t producing enough milk to feed all of her cubs so they began bottle feeding him.

“We then decided to continue hand-raising the baby, to ensure his health and growth. We instantly fell in love with him, but Kumbali was in need of a companion,” zoo staff explained in the video.

That companion turned out to be Kago, a lab mix puppy that was adopted from a pet rescue organization when he was 10 weeks old.

“Kago and Kumbali were introduced to each other. After a thorough inspection and some uncertainty, the two quickly became pals,” zoo staff explained in the video. “Initially, they were raised together inside a zookeeper’s home to provide close monitoring and care. As Kumbali and Kago grew older, they were moved to an outdoor enclosure.”

Although they may seem like a strange pair, the zoo staff said dogs have been used as companions for cheetahs in zoos for more than 30 years.

“The dog provides a calming influence for the cheetah by giving him behavioral cues. Dogs are less fearful of new surroundings and embrace them with confidence,” zoo staff said. “That calmness helps the cheetah remain calm as well. Their bond has become brother like and the two are inseparable.”