The girls already are 4 months and 6 months old. They're naturally curious, totally cute, love playing with plastic balls and burlap, and when good they get a special treat to eat: frozen baby chicks.
Laurel and Acacia are the two new female mountain lion cubs at the California Living Museum. They will be formally introduced to the public Saturday.
Friday, they loped around their 2,000-square-foot enclosure for the benefit of local media, climbing rocks, sniffing trees, and ignoring CALM officials and everyone else.
The addition of the two cubs means CALM now has three mountain lions -- Sage is 4 years old -- and five bobcats in its Cats of California exhibit. The two cubs are the first mountain lion additions since mountain lion Willow died last May.
The new animals, said Russ Bigler, president of the CALM Foundation board, will "continue to make CALM a destination" for local and out-of-town visitors.
Zoo officials estimate Laurel was born in October. She was found underneath a home's porch by state Department of Fish and Wildlife officials. Acacia, who's nickname is Casey, was found along a secondary road in the San Diego area in December.
Both were brought to CALM within a week of each other in January. At the time, Laurel weighed about 12 pounds, and Casey 7 pounds, and both suffered from multiple parasite problems.
Between the two, they now eat about 20 pounds of de-boned chicken a week, along with calcium supplements and vitamins. The frozen baby chick treats weigh about an ounce each. Laurel now weighs 25 pounds and Casey 18.
By comparison, Sage weighs 110 pounds and eats 40 pounds of chicken a week.
Don Richardson, CALM's curator, said the cubs have required an initiation before they were ready for their debut. They had to get used to their keepers, for one, since they weren't used to humans and kept running into chained link fences in an effort to escape. After that, it was getting accustomed to multiple people at once, and different voices, and sudden movements.
"It's amazing to get the opportunity to work with these cats when they're so young," said Bryan Adams, the cats' animal keeper. "Every interaction I have with these cats is a foundation. All of the principles zookeepers use when it comes to positive reinforcement are essentially the same technique" as parents use with children.
For the next year, however, the three mountain lions won't be appearing together. The cubs are too small and could be mistaken as prey by Sage. Instead, keepers will allow the cats to sniff each other through a wire barrier and then, over time, allow them to share the enclosure at the same time.
For now, visitors have the best chance of seeing the cubs in the morning or late afternoon, when the cooler temperatures enable them to explore the enclosure's rock formations, forage for hidden food items, hunt lizards and bugs, and play with their toys.