Best friends: The two toddlers who've formed an extraordinary bond with a pair of cheetahs

Yahoo! News UK

Many parents like the thought of pet cats to help entertain their young children - but these animals are not your usual household companions.

Kim and Hein Schoeman have adopted two cheetah cubs in their South Africa home - and amazingly the deadly big cats have formed an extraordinary bond with the couple's two toddlers.

Tiny one-year-old Kayla and her brother, three-year-old Malan, have formed an unusual friendship with the two creatures, who are the world's fastest land animals.

The pair think nothing of sharing their toys with the two cheetahs - affectionately known as Wakuu and Skyla - and can often be found taking their feline friends out for a ride on the family quad bike.

Kim and Hein Schoeman, are also very close to the cats with Hein now even teaching the cheetahs to hunt for themselves in a bid not to alienate them from their natural environment - so they might be reintroduced into the wild one day.

The remarkable family friendship began a year ago when a wild cheetah living at the Garden Route Game Lodge in the Western Cape of South Africa gave birth to four cubs.

Managing Game Ranger, Hein, 29 and his wife Kim adopted two of the cubs.

The couple considered them to be vulnerable because a mother cheetah can usually only provide for half of her litter and mortality rates are highest during the first 16 weeks of life.


However, in the months that followed, Kim and Hein were stunned to see the extraordinary relationship that formed between the cats and their two young children - then just two years and three months old.

Kim, 29, said: 'I would be warming milk for babies and warming milk for cheetahs. I just kept feeding everyone.

'When I was working I would have them all in the office with me during the day and at night I would get up every two hours to feed them.

'They wanted to be close to us because they didn't have a mother and they were so much a part of our family that I would end up having the cheetahs and the kids in bed with me.

'The kids saw them as completely normal. There was no difference in the way they treated the dogs or the cheetahs. They cuddled them like big teddy bears.'

As Wakku and Skyla got older and bigger Kim and Hein created a new shelter for them in their back garden where they now live.

But the bond between the toddlers and the cats has remained strong as they have been bought up together - essentially as siblings.

The couple, not wanting to take any risks, also took special precautions - teaching their children how to play with the animals in a safe way.

Kim said: 'The kids were taught not to run anywhere near the cats and when they walk, they have to face them. They are not allowed to turn their backs on them.

'Our kids are small but they think they are dominant. If the cats jump or pounce, then they just push them down and say 'No, don't do that,' like other children might do to a dog.

'The cheetahs are wild animals and their instincts are there. The kids realise they can't just go into the enclosure to play with them whenever they want to.

'It's a lot of work in the beginning but it's worth it.'