Most cat lovers know the joy that can come from nighttime kitty cuddles. But this conservation volunteer is getting next-level feline feels.
man sleeping with 3 adult cheetahs
Credit: Courtesy of Dolph C. Volker

Recently, Dolph C. Volker, aka the Cheetah Whisperer, had a cuddle sesh that typical cat lovers could only dream of experiencing. The zoologist and volunteer with the Cheetah Experience Breeding Centre in Bloemfontein, South Africa, bedded down with a trio of cheetahs.

In an epic, and enviable, video Volker puts what he calls an "ancient question" to the test: Do cheetahs prefer to sleep on their own on cold, hard concrete or spend the night cuddling with a human pal and some pillows and blankets? And the results were pretty clear. Within a few hours all three cheetahs in the experiment were securely snuggled into a mound with Volker.

In the video, Volker explains that within male cheetah groupings there is typically one leader, who is often bolder and older than other group members. In his trial, Volker says the eldest cheetah made the first move, cozying into him much like your cat at home would. After that, the other two cheetahs managed to insinuate themselves into the snugglefest.

Volker explains in the video that many wild animals sleep together to conserve energy and keep warm. In this case, it's pretty obvious that Volker has been accepted into this cheetah coalition, the term for a group of male cheetahs.

Volker's video has been viewed more than 17.5 million times so far. On his YouTube channel, Volker stars in other big cat videos, including one demonstrating how cheetahs, servals, caracals, and leopards feel about catnip and another chronicling a heart-warming reunion between Volker and a cheetah named Gabriel.

Many people can attest to the calming, almost therapy-like effect of snuggling with a feline friend. Research has shown that cat-human contact also benefits cats, boosting their production of antibodies that fight upper respiratory infections.

But most of us will never get the chance to live out the same kind of feline-fantasy as Volker, thought it's nice to know that deep-down big cats have a lot in common with our own domestic kitties.

If you're really committed to spending the night with big cats, book yourself an overnight safari stay at The Big Cat Sanctuary in Kent, England, where you can sleep with lions or tigers just outside your window.