Staff Photo

They’ve likely been to the zoo, but have they ever spent the day rubbing paws with a big cat? The Cheetah Connection is one of ten Wild Encounter experiences available at the Bronx Zoo. This 30- to 45-minute session offers you a chance to be in the same room with one of the zoo’s two resident cheetahs, plus learn about the species and its habitat. You may even meet a surprise guest or two.

The program definitely ranked high in the wow (and cool) factor. Our teens loved it (despite being coerced to get out of bed early for the 10:30 am session), and proudly showed off their selfies on Instagram.

Why we love it: It’s an awesome feeling to not only be in the same room as a big cat, but just a few feet from one. Plus, the kids learned some cool facts without even realizing. Cheetahs are incredibly catlike. Duh! While it’s an obvious statement, it’s still surprising that a cheetah’s mannerisms are just like Fluffy’s at home, only on a bigger scale—including its loud purr. This was a big highlight for one teen; if he hadn’t known better, he’d have sworn 4-year-old Triton (pictured) was growling!

What to expect: There are multiple Bronx Zoo handlers in the room at all times who are as entertaining as their animal counterparts and, of course, super alert. Leave coats, bags and other items in the secure vestibule so they don’t distract the cheetah. The biggest and most important rule? No food! Leave all snacks outside with your bags. The size of the group is approximately 20 people and you must stay in your seat. There’s no such thing as a bad seat in the room, though. No matter where you sit, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to take some awesome photos. Lastly, as much as you may really, really want to, you can’t pet the cheetah. But trust us, you’ll be so in awe of Triton’s (or Little Foot’s) presence, it won’t even cross your mind.

Good to know: This is strictly for ages 12 and up. No exceptions, so don’t ask! Cheetahs, even in captivity, are still wild animals, and have yet to desensitize to anything around them that resembles small, weak prey. If you have younger kids, ask about other animal encounters open to the whole family.


Ages 12 and up
Other encounters $49.95-$199.99/person; age restrictions vary
Special or member discounts may apply

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