a day in the life

Diet & Hunting Patterns:

Cheetahs are diurnal carnivores meaning that they rely on daylight to spot their prey. Because of this, cheetahs must do most of their hunting during morning hours in order to utilize optimal lighting while avoiding higher, mid-day temperatures. Cheetahs hunt a variety of animals from rabbits to small or young antelope. To account for their lack of strength, the cheetah employs a special hunting strategy to acquire prey, a practice that becomes especially necessary when hunting larger prey such as antelope. The cheetah stalks its target closely until it is able to swiftly collide with the target by springing into full-speed and strategically throwing a front paw in front of the target, allowing the cheetah just enough time to catch the target animal's throat in its jaw, capture and, strangle it. After killing its prey, the cheetah will often quickly seek hiding in order to avoid predators that might take advantage of the cheetah's relative lack of strength and steal their catch before they are able to consume it.

the cheetah in its natural habitat

Cheetahs can accelerate from 0 to 60mph in only 3 seconds making them the fastest wild cat species as well as the fastest animal

Family life & Mating:

Cheetahs typically live in small groups but have also been known to live and travel alone. At around 20 months, female cheetahs sexually mature and can begin the reproduction process. After mating, a period which usually lasts between a day and a week, the female cheetah experiences a 90-95 day gestation period before giving birth. When a female cheetah is ready to give birth, she will find a relatively protected area such as a low tree or rocky terrain in an attempt to protect herself and her cubs during the birthing and nursing period. Cheetah mothers usually have litters of three cubs at a time and stay with each litter for around 2 years.

Cheetah cubs are born blind but develop rapidly. In less than 10 days, cheetah cubs will open their eyes and begin crawling. In just 6 short months, the cheetah cubs will grow to reach their full potential size. Despite their rapid development, cheetah cubs have a 90% mortality rate in the wild (and an even higher mortality rate in captivity). This high mortality rate is due to relative physical weakness of the cheetah species and the inability for cheetah mothers to utilize their own best survival asset, their speed, to protect her cubs. She is unable to reach typical high speeds in order to escape predators while transporting her cubs in her mouth or scooting them with her paws.

Cubs of the same litter will often stay together until the female cubs reach sexual maturity. At this time, the females will separate and pursue the mating process while the male cubs will form a coalition. A coalition is a group of male cheetahs that travel and prey together and serves as an additional survival mechanism. Even after the male cheetahs reach sexual maturity between 2-3 years of age they will remain a part of this coalition, periodically separating to engage in mating before once again rejoining the group.

Behavior & Communication:

In order to utilize their eyesight, cheetahs do most of their hunting and roaming during the day and are generally significantly less active at night. The cheetah is the only wild cat that is not able to roar. Within their small groups, cheetahs communicate using vocal sounds such as hisses, purrs and high-pitched chirping sounds.

Enrichment:

One of the best forms of enrichment for cheetahs both wild and captive is running and walking. Cheetahs in general tend to enjoy running, however it is especially important that captive cheetahs be encouraged to engage in running exercises regularly in order to maintain their endurance, regardless of their natural speed advantage over other animals. Captive cheetahs are often provided with a track space to run in and are prompted to run using treats, stimulating scents and prey simulations such as mops carried by handlers. Other common cheetah enrichment tools are balls, which stimulates curiosity and also provides a source of exercise and cardboard boxes which cheetahs tend to take pleasure in tearing apart and carrying around in a similar way that a wild cheetah might play with leaves or branches.