In an ideal world, baby big cats would learn social and behavioral skills from their mothers and from the other cubs in their litter.
But if their mother can't or won't engage, or they don't have siblings to play with, they can get a little help from people — and dogs.
"It may look rough, but this type of play is exactly what little Shanti needs to improve her coordination."
You see this the most with cheetahs, where zoos have stepped in and paired them with dogs for more than 30 years to help them thrive in captivity.
Individual cubs get companionship and a much-needed dose of confidence.
If they get sick or injured, they've got a familiar friend nearby to help with recovery.
And if they don't have parents, this way they've still got someone bigger to climb on — at least until they outgrow their friends.
This video includes clips from The Wildlife Docs / CC BY 3.0, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, National Geographic, the Metro Richmond Zoo and the San Diego Zoo. Music provided courtesy of APM Music.