Cheetahs are beautiful and fierce animals that belong to the Felidae family. They are the fastest land animals in the world and can reach speeds of 80 – 128 km/h. Cheetahs use their extreme speed to outrun their prey while they are hunting. They are not endurance runners but can maintain their high speeds for quite a long while.
These fast animals are not too big. They reach a max size of 94cm high at the shoulder and can weigh up to 65kg. Despite their smaller frame, they are quite deadly to all their prey including humans.
Cheetahs are carnivores. They need to consume lots of protein to survive and their digestive system cannot digest other foods such as plant matter. Cheetahs do however eat a variety of meat types like the following.
Cheetahs do need to drink water to survive. They will need more water during hot summers compared to cooler winter times.
They can however go for several days without drinking. A cheetah only needs to drink water every three to four days. They prefer to drink water from rivers or water holes.
Cheetahs eat all sorts of small animals. They often prefer small animals because these pose little threat to them. Cheetahs consume all sorts of small animals such as duiker, rabbits, hares, bat-eared foxes, cane rats, mole rats, and others.
The main food source of the cheetah is medium-sized animals. They enjoy hunting for gazelle, antelope, dik-diks, steenbok, springbok, onyx, reedbuck, waterbuck, bushbuck, impalas, and warthogs. These animals are easy prey for a single cheetah but preferred by larger packs of cheetah.
Their love of medium-sized animals makes the cheetah an extremely damaging animal when it comes to domesticated animals such as sheep and goats. A single cheetah can cause a lot of devastation when it is introduced to a herd of goats or sheep because they do tend to take down more than one animal even if they cannot consume all of that meat by themselves.
Large packs of cheetah will try to take down larger animals like baboons, buffalo, wildebeest, nyala, onyx, and kudu. But these foods are quite risky because larger animals can be dangerous to take down. Cheetahs usually prefer the young of larger animals such as young buffalo or young wildebeest.
These lightning-fast animals can also jump extremely high. A cheetah can easily catch birds like guinea fowl, ostriches, pigeons, and many others. Their camouflaged coats enable them to sneak up on birds before catching them as they take flight.
Cheetahs do not have any unusual eating habits. They will rather starve than consume foods that are not part of their natural diet. The only diet variation they have is that cheetahs in captivity can be taught to eat carrion meat. They usually do not return to a kill or eat carrion but might do so in extreme conditions or if they can take a kill from predatory species.
Cheetahs are best left alone in the wild where they can hunt for their own food. They do not eat carrion meat and are unlikely to visit a carcass. They enjoy the thrill of the chase and always feed on fresh meat.
In the wild, cheetahs will feed on any small or medium animal they can find. They will sneak up on prey and will then quickly race to catch their food. In the wild, they mainly feed on antelope, birds, gazelle, and other small animals. They will however attack larger animals when they travel as a group.
Captive cheetahs can be taught to feed on carrion meats. They are mainly fed on muscle meats and bony meat from domestic animals like cattle, donkeys, chicken, and other animals. Some enclosures do however hunt wild animals to feed their captive cheetahs.
Baby cheetahs are called cubs. When cubs are born, they are blind and depend fully on their mothers. Their eyes will only start to open from four weeks on. For the first 3 – 6 months, cubs will need to drink from their mother’s milk.
These mammals are usually weaned from 3 months old but they still cannot hunt for themselves until they are at least 6 months old. When they are weaned, they feed on the kill their mothers make and start to learn to hunt. They usually begin to hunt young deer and hares when they are about 6 months old.
Cheetahs usually reach adulthood at 15 months old and are then successful hunters who can thrive independently.
Cheetahs can fast for quite a while. When they do manage to make a kill, they will gorge and eat up to 10kg of meat in a single sitting. Cheetahs that have access to food more regularly usually only eat about 2.8kg of food per day.
Food can be scarce at times but this can be a good thing for the cheetah since they use their fasting times to digest foods they gorged on after a previous kill. They usually hunt for food about every 2 to 5 days. Female cheetahs do however hunt daily to provide food for her cubs.
No, cheetahs do not eat humans and when you do encounter one in the wild, they are more likely to run away than attack. They can however attack when they feel threatened or if you happen to get between a female and her cubs. In these cases, a cheetah can be deadly.
Typically, cheetahs do not feed on zebras because these animals are too large to take down by themselves. An adult zebra can be a tough kill even for a large pack of cheetahs. But cheetahs do catch and eat young zebra calves.
Cheetahs cannot kill an adult giraffe and even a young giraffe can be too dangerous to attack because a single kick can severely injure or even kill a cheetah. If a pack of cheetahs does find a giraffe calves without a mother in the area, they might however attack to make the kill.
No, cheetahs do not eat hyenas because these scavenging animals are about the same weight as the cheetah and they are very strong. In a fight between a cheetah and hyena, the cheetah is likely to flee because one bite from the powerful jaws of a hyena can be enough to cause injuries to the cheetah that can impair its ability to hunt.
No, cheetahs do not hunt elephants. Even calves are much too big and risky. The only time a cheetah might consume an elephant is in case it happens to find an elephant that has been freshly killed.