Who didn’t grow up wishing that their favorite animal could be their best friend? And we’re not just talking about dogs and cats, but exotic animals like elephants or lions – the creatures that decorated our favorite books and seemed to only exist in a far off place. Well, for the children in this video who have two cheetahs as pets, this is their reality.

On the surface, it appears that the family is living in perfect harmony with these two cheetahs, who, as the video explains, were taken in by the children’s parents after they were abandoned by their mother. However, this video only serves to perpetuate many misconceptions that are fueling the exotic pet trade.

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Many believe that if you raise a wild animal from the time that they are born that they will be “domestic” and not exhibit any of the natural behaviors that they otherwise would if they were fighting for survival in the wild. As such, they believe that the animals will be docile and not have the urge to hunt if they are being fed at regular intervals. This, however, is a huge myth. The process of domestication can only happen over the course of thousands of years and it involves selective breeding to filter out traits that make wild animals, well, wild.

The cheetahs in this video might seem tame and they have learned to walk calmly on a leash, but there is no way to predict if they might one day become frustrated with their captive environment and act out in a way that is dangerous to both the humans they live with and themselves. Not to mention, cheetahs have evolved to thrive in wide-open spaces where they can run and reach up to speeds of 75 miles and hour and hunt live prey … that’s certainly not something that can be accomplished in a backyard. The video’s YouTube description jokes that a game of tag between the children and their pets could be deadly. This is not something that should be taken lightly.

Perhaps what is most troubling about this video, though, is the fact that many people will see it and think that keeping a big cat as a pet is a good idea. The illegal trade of exotic animals runs rampant across the world and thrives here in the U.S. The mere fact that there are currently more tigers residing in American backyards than there are in the wild indicates how powerful the impact of thinking a big cat would make a good pet can be. On a whole, the exotic pet trade generates around $1.5 billion annually. This enormous number translates into million of wild animals being pulled from their native habitat and forced into captivity in cages, tanks and other holding facilities to be cared for by humans.

We are quite literally decimating the world’s wild animal populations all for the sake of our novel entertainment. So, although this family and their cheetahs appear to live in harmony, we have to stop and ask ourselves, at what cost?

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