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I spent 10 nights sleeping inside a Cheetah enclosure with two adults; setting up camp inside a concrete box in their territory. This was an experiment to see how Cheetah behavior differs from daylight activities and it turned out as one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I hope to make people rethink all their preconceptions about Cheetahs with my overall efforts. Things they won’t read in a book, or see visiting a zoo, or watching on Nat Geo Wild. It will take years.
These two females were bred and hand raised at this Cheetah Breeding facility called Cheetah Experience in South Africa. I spent four days getting to know them first and letting them get to know me before spending any nights inside their concrete Cheetah box. They were surprisingly nice; even more so at night than during the day. Cheetahs are diurnal rather than nocturnal which means they hunt during the day rather than night. As a result, their moods were relaxed. Their thoughts were not about food or hunger, but relaxation and rest.
During the next several Episodes, I highlight the activities of these Cheetahs as they come and go and interact with me and each other. I did discover some unique behaviors and will reveal them in the coming new Episodes of “Sleeping Inside A Cheetah Enclosure”.
My first night was almost a disappointment as they did not show up until 5 hours after I entered the box; after I fell asleep. I woke up with them already inside; laying next to me and grooming each other. It was cold this night… 39deg F (almost freezing) and why I think they came in to visit me. It was warmer with all the blankets I had inside.
Animals are clever and they soon realized when I brought blankets inside their enclosure… it was time to get comfy in the Cheetah box. Sometimes they tried getting in before I had the bed setup. I eventually had to close the sliding door behind me while inside the box; preparing the blankets to prevent them from getting inside before I was finished. They loved it that much. Just look at Eden’s face before laying her head down on my arm. It’s like beyond contentment. In subsequent nights, I show how happy she gets. Once she realized I was not afraid, she developed a routine of affection that remained consistent throughout.
Cats in general love soft bedding. The extra surface area serves to further insulate their bodies from heat loss. It’s a survival trait and why they seek out soft comfort; like laying in bedded tall grass. Friendly cats also like laying next to each other to further help reduce heat loss. These two Cheetahs were no different… snuggling up close to me and with each other for warmth but they also enjoyed the good company of me; especially Eden who just loves people. They both ended up really liking me and loved laying close. My relationship improved the more nights I spent with them. I noticed their friendlier moods carried over into the daytime hours as well. It’s the reason for the one viral video I posted of Eden taking a nap with me.
In the next night, I show them entering and exiting the Cheetah box. Stay tuned for it and you’ll see how they choose a location to lay. I also reveal another behavior I did not see during the day.
“Sleeping With The World— Two Animals At A Time” Dolph C. Volker
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