CINCINNATI -- Linda Castañeda has lived with cats since the age of four. Now as an adult, she has two black cats at home to care for in addition to six cheetahs at work.
Castañeda started her career as an animal trainer with the Cincinnati Zoo's Cat Ambassador program in 2005. As the lead trainer and coordinator of the program, Castañeda oversees all daily activities regarding the cats from cleaning their living spaces and prepping specialized meals to runs in the yard.
"All of our cats are hand-raised. Some of them come to us because the mother can't raise them," said Castañeda. "Ambassador cats are those that we handle in close contact that can share their message with the public. “
Currently the zoo has three male and three female cheetahs as part of the program.
When the zoo's youngest cheetah, Savanna, arrived at the zoo in 2012, Castañeda was one of the staff members that helped raise her from the bottle.
“I love the relationship that you build with a wild animal, getting to know them from the beginning of their life to the end of their life cycle, and how their personality changes. And to be able to provide a good life for them, as well," said Castañeda.
Castañeda is the subject of WCPO's next installment of "FACES with Emily Maxwell." This series uses photos, audio and video to tell the stories of everyday people in the Greater Cincinnati area.
Below is a sneak peek of the WCPO Insider video that features Castañeda talking about her passion for working with cheetahs. WCPO Insiders can watch the full version.