1. Don’t fall prey to stereotypes – The cheetah, or Acinonyx jubatus, is not the cheetah you think you know. Yes, she is a killer of the highest order. Yes, she is the fastest land animal, reaching speeds of 75 mph in short bursts. Yes, she is breathtaking. But she is not what you’ve seen on Animal Planet. She is not only that perfect bounding stride, that flash of gold tracking the jinking gazelle through the Serengeti. She is also a quartet of semi-retractable claws that struggles to climb, a one-piece hyoid that cannot roar.
2. Speak the language – A cheetah may learn to speak. She may become adept at writing poetry and telling dirty jokes. She may even come to suppress the feline accent in her voice. Do not let her forget her native tongue. Chirp and hiss and growl and bleat. Purr so that she knows the song of her species.
3. Consider living in a familiar area – The cheetah’s natural range can be found in Africa and the Middle East. It is not the 10,000 lakes of Minnesota or Fort Greene, NY. Given the opportunity, the cheetah will seek out a savannah, sub-desert, or steppe with grass and vegetation sufficient enough to hide within. With her spotted coat, she will blend into this environment, and her heart will be at ease. No more curious stares. No more nakedness. She will cease to be a cheetah and ascend to a state of pure consciousness.
4. Prepare dishes from the cheetah’s culture – Food is the salve of the universe, and as such, there is no better way to welcome your cheetah than with her native fare. This may include freshly disposed hares, impalas, and gazelles. But be sure to take care in your preparation. The cheetah has exceedingly clean eating habits. Unlike man, she will not deign to eat offal or marrow or cracklings; carrion is an insult.
5. Remember: a cheetah is a cheetah – Repeat this to yourself: a cheetah is a cheetah. When you’re in the shower, driving to work, playing softball, chant this like a mantra. When instead of walking she prowls the streets beside you, remember. When she wears your clothes, when you clasp your mother’s pearls around her neck, remember: a cheetah is a cheetah. Despite your best intentions, this will always be true. Even if she wishes to be like you with all her feline heart, there on her body will be spots, there a striped tail, and on her face the black tear marks will never fade. With such differences between you, it will never be normal—a cheetah is a cheetah. But do not fret. This does not mean she won’t love you.
Sam Katz was born in Korea and grew up outside of Philadelphia. His short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Bluestem, Boston Literary Magazine, The Good Men Project, Grey Sparrow Journal, and Kartika Review. He earned an MFA from The New School, and now reads for One Story and teaches at La Salle University.