For the first weeks of its life, a lion cub’s life includes only its mother, and likely a few siblings, in a hideaway place. Cubs are born with spots and rosettes on their golden coats that fade as they grow. Few-week-old cubs are then moved into a crèche, or a nursery of pride cubs, where they are raised side-by-side with their cousins until two years of age. Lions are the only cats to rear their young in such a manner.
When a group of lionesses give birth within a few months of each other, a nursery group is formed, and pride females provide mutual protection and even nurse each other’s cubs. When a hunt is on, one or two females stay behind to guard the nursery. This social behavior of lionesses pooling their cubs together is mainly a defensive tactic from hyenas and threats made by outside male lions seeking to claim control of the pride.