What Do Cheetahs Eat? (Diet & Facts)

Do you know what’s the fastest land animal? If you guessed cheetah, you were right! Imagine being that fast, achieving speeds that even some cars fail to achieve!

Cheetahs have evolved precisely to be that fast, and each part of their body is dedicated to achieving high speeds when chasing prey. However, there are also many other interesting facts about these big cats, so let’s learn more!

Interesting Facts About Cheetahs


Cheetahs are native to Africa and Central Iran. Historically, their population covered a huge area from the African continent to the Indian subcontinent at one point, but habitat loss, climate change, poaching, and other factors caused cheetahs’ populations to dwindle and become dispersed into smaller groups.

Cheetahs also lived in Europe during prehistoric times, but they went extinct, probably because of the strong competition among lions. Nowadays, cheetahs can be found in savannas like Kalahari and Serengeti, arid mountain areas surrounding Sahara, and in the hilly desert terrains in Iran.


Cheetahs are lightly built when compared to some other big cats. This allows them to run faster than any other land animal. Cheetahs’ legs and tails are long, and their heads are rounded and small, with a short snout.

Cheetah has a dense tawny fur, which is covered in numerous narrowly spaced black dots. The fur on the cheetah’s tail is covered in several black rings, and the cheetah’s face has distinct black tear-like streaks.

Adult cheetahs usually reach a body length between 3 ft 7 in and 4 ft 11 in (1m-1.5m) and weight between 46 and 159 lb (21kg-72kg). The size and the weight depend on gender, subspecies, and age.


Female cheetahs can start to breed once they are 2-3 years old and they will ovulate once they are exposed to an external stimulus or prior to mating. Male cheetahs take a bit longer to mate because they need to acquire their own territory first.

Cheetahs don’t have some specific mating rituals. The male will approach the female, and they might chirp purr or yelp. Then the male will secure the nape of the female’s head and they will copulate. In the next 2-3 days, the pair will copulate 15-15 times, parting their ways afterward.

The pregnancy will last almost three months and one cheetah litter usually has 1 to 8 cheetah cubs. Cheetah cubs are born with their eyes closed, which will open in 4 to 11 days. The cubs will start to walk after 2 weeks, and their mother will keep them hidden in dense vegetation for the first 2 months, to protect them from predators.

At 2 months old, cubs will start to follow their mother around, slowly learning how to hunt. It will take them several months to learn how to catch their own prey, and at approximately 20 months, they will become independent.

Different Species Of Cheetahs

The cheetah population is classified as vulnerable due to its constant decline. Several species have gone extinct and as of today, there are four cheetah species.

Southeast African Cheetah

Southeast African cheetah 

Southeast African cheetah inhabits lowland areas and desserts of Kalahari, Kenya, Namibia, Botswana, grasslands in the Transvaal region, and savannas of the Okavango Delta. This cheetah species is a medium-sized cat with yellow or gold fur, slightly thicker than in other species.

Almost every South African cheetah has distinct brown mustache markings, and fur behind the tail. The tails might have black or white tips.

Asiatic Cheetah

Asiatic Cheetah

This cheetah species is critically endangered, and can only be found in Iran. Historically, the Asiatic cheetah lived in the Middle East, the Caucasus, the Arabian peninsula, India, and the Caspian region, but it was extirpated in the 20th century.

The Asiatic cheetah has a light brown to yellow color and its fur is shorter than in other cheetah species. Its tail is covered in black stripes.

Northeast African Cheetah

Northeast African
Image Credit: Wikipedia

Also known as Sudan cheetah, this species inhabits South Sudan, Ethiopia, and possibly Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, and Sudan.

Northeast African cheetah is quite a large cat with the largest head and thickest tail among cheetah species. It has a dense and coarse fur filled with black spots, without mustache markings.

Northwest African Cheetah

Northwest African
Image Credit: Animalia.bio

Another critically endangered cheetah species, the Northwest African cheetah inhabits Sahara and Sahel, in Chad, Central African Republic, Algeria, Mali, Benin, Burkina Faso, etc.

This cheetah species has a quite different appearance than other African cheetahs. It is almost white in color, and its fur spots fade from black on the spine to light brown on the legs. Tear stripes and facial spots are mostly missing.

What Do Cheetahs Eat?

Cheetahs are carnivores that evolved to run really fast in order to chase and catch their prey. They are capable of catching prey twice their size. Once they catch the prey, cheetahs drag it to their hiding place and eat it there, to avoid their food being taken away by larger predators.

What Do Cheetahs Eat In The Wild?

The majority of cheetahs’ diet consists of medium-sized animals such as Thomson’s gazelle, Grant’s gazelle, antelopes, impalas, waterbuck, reedbuck, bushbuck, nyala, buffalo, gemsbok, as well as smaller animals such as cane rats, mole rats, warthogs, young zebras, rabbits, hares, and even game birds.

Cheetahs will eat approximately 10-15 pounds of meat every day. They will even feed on other cats such as tigers and leopards. Also, they will hunt jackals, wildebeest, duikers, springbok, steenbok, ostrich, foxes, etc.

In general, cheetahs have a varied diet and they will eat anything they can catch and kill. However, their diet will be influenced by their habitat and the prey that lives in their surroundings.


For example, the Southeast African cheetah that mostly lives in the Kalahari region feeds on springbok, steenbok, impala, red hartebeest, puku, cape hare, oribi, warthog, and gemsbok. In Kenya, cheetahs mostly feed on Grants gazelle.

Northwest African cheetahs feed on addax, Rhim gazelle, and dama gazelle. In Tanzania, in Kruger National Park, cheetahs feed on Thomsons gazelle 90% of the time, but they will occasionally eat guinea fowl, impala, hares waterbuck, gerenuk, Grants gazelle, etc.


In Iran, Asiatic cheetahs eat wild sheep, desert hare, ibex, goitered gazelle, and chinkara.

What Do Cheetahs Eat In The Captivity?

Cheetahs living in zoos and other closed enclosures are usually fed meat from domestic animals, but some zoos/enclosures will hunt wild animals and feed cheetahs with that meat.

Zoo cheetahs mostly eat muscle meat and bony meat, such as horse meat, chicken meat, rabbit meat, beef, and other cattle meat.

Eating Habits Of Baby Cheetahs

After birth, baby cheetahs eat their mother’s milk. At the age of 2-3 months, they will start to occasionally feed on the meat their mother catches. At 4-6 months, cubs will be weaned off and they will adopt the feeding habits of the adult cheetahs.

How Do Cheetahs Hunt?

How Do Cheetahs Hunt

Cheetahs slowly stalk and approach their prey until they are close enough. Then they start a high-speed chase and trip their prey. They kill the prey with a strong stranglehold on the neck.

Once the prey is killed, cheetahs will try to eat it as fast as possible, and they will even drag it into tall grasses where they can eat without fearing larger predators stealing their food.

What Are The Predators Of Cheetahs?

Although being vicious predators, cheetahs are still the smallest among the big cats, and that makes them vulnerable to possible predators. Some of the animals that feed on cheetahs are hyenas, lions, leopards, and eagles.

Cheetah cubs are especially vulnerable, and although their mothers do everything in their power to hide and protect them, only 15% of cheetah cubs survive into adulthood.

Another threat to cheetahs comes from humans. Humans have been hunting cheetahs for their fur for generations, but they were also hunted because they were considered a threat to domestic animals and pets.

Also, the expansion of farmlands often resulted in the loss of habitat for cheetahs, so instead of covering vast areas, cheetahs are now reduced to small and secluded areas.

Are Cheetahs Dangerous For Humans?

Generally speaking, humans are too big to be considered suitable prey for cheetahs. Cheetahs will avoid contact with humans whenever possible, so they don’t really pose a danger to humans.

However, just like with any other wild animals, once they feel threatened and without the possibility to run away, cheetahs could attack humans in self-defense, especially if they feel their cubs are in danger.

Final Words

The best known for their speed, cheetahs are interesting animals that are vital to food chains in their habitats. They feed on gazelles, antelopes, hares, birds, impalas, warthogs, and many other animals.

They are also an important food source for other predators, such as lions, leopards, eagles, etc. However, their numbers are dwindling, and unless the conservation efforts succeed in their goals, cheetahs might go extinct in the not-so-distant future.

Have you ever seen a cheetah in person? Where did you see it? How did you feel about the encounter? Write in the comments!

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