What Do Cheetahs Eat?


Mainly distributed throughout Africa and with a smaller population in Iran, Cheetahs exist in four different subspecies. All the subspecies look pretty similar, but genetically, they are quite different, and the differences are so prominent to consider them scientifically distinct. Cheetahs require a bit of space, good grassland, savannah habitat, and limited numbers of other predator species to live and thrive. Unlike lions, cheetahs do not live in prides. Male siblings form coalitions that usually stay together for as long as they live. Female cheetahs live and wander on their own except for the time when they are caring for their cubs. Let’s move on to the eating habits of cheetahs and answer the question, what do cheetahs eat?

What do Cheetahs Eat: Cheetahs and Their Eating Habits

What do cheetahs eat is quite an intriguing question. Cheetahs are apex predators in their regions. They are pure carnivores so they eat only meat. Their diet consists of small to medium-sized mammals, rabbits, gazelle, antelope, and young herd animals like wildebeest. Now you know what do cheetahs eat.

Sick, young, and slow animals are most likely to be captured by cheetahs. This also helps to eliminate weaker animals from the herd so the stronger ones can prevail. Cheetahs are extremely good at hunting their prey. However, they are not as well-built for defending it. As a result, this offers food for other animals, particularly scavengers.

This act of limiting the savannah grazing animal populations plays a vital role in maintaining a larger savannah ecosystem. If cheetahs and other predators were to go extinct, these ecosystems would function very differently from how they operate at present.

What do Cheetahs Eat: How Often Do They Need to Eat?

The Great Migration in Eastern Africa includes remarkable numbers of antelope, wildebeest, and zebra. As seasons change, they follow food and water with the season change. The predators, including cheetahs, also follow along. Cheetahs are highly resourceful and use rocks and termite mounds to achieve a better vantage point of the landscape while searching for prey.

One of the most incredible traits of cheetahs is that they need to make speed-defying hunts every couple of days. Even if they catch an adequate medium-sized animal like a young wildebeest, the cheetah will be looking lean and hungry within a span of a few days. Thus, it needs to hunt again very quickly. Lone adult cheetahs hunt every two to five days, and female cheetahs with a cub hunt every day. An adult cheetah eats approximately 2.8 kgs of meat per day.

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What do Cheetahs Eat: How Do They Hunt?

Cheetahs are the fastest land animals to exist, reaching speeds of up to 60 miles per hour in a matter of seconds. However, this speed is short-lived, meaning their hunting techniques need to be spot-on if they successfully aim to capture their prey. Their stalking abilities are what offer them a distinctive edge. Cheetahs crouch and lie, waiting for their game to avert its eyes. That’s when a cheetah moves steadily towards the prey. Albeit lean and fast, cheetahs are not typically strong. When it kills its target, it aims to subdue it by latching on to the throat and suffocating the animal.

Unlike other cats, cheetahs move with their prey. Many people intrigued about a cheetah’s hunting habits wonder what do cheetahs eat and how do they attack? Surprisingly, they do not ambush or attack within springing distance. They either spot the target within seconds or stalk it for hours. Once the cheetah is within 70 to 100 meters of the prey, it begins to chase. Usually, the chase lasts for around 20 seconds and sometimes exceeds a minute. The distance covered is 170 meters, and sometimes it may continue pursuit for 500 meters. If a cheetah is more than 200 meters away from the prey, chances are it won’t attempt an attack.

When cheetahs are in a fast spring mode, their four paws do not touch the ground when the legs are contracted fully under the body. Cheetahs can cover 7 meters in a single stride, which is almost equal to the distance covered by a large racehorse in a full stride. When the acceleration is at its maximum, the cheetah runs about 3.5 strides in a second.

Cheetahs usually attempt to first drag a kill to a hiding spot before they begin eating. Unlike other predators, they rarely scavenge remains they did not kill themselves. Vultures, hyenas, and lions aim to drive cheetahs away from their kills, so cheetahs try to eat quickly or flee to avoid such situations.

We now know the answer to what do cheetahs eat and how often they eat. Now comes the question, how often do they drink? Cheetahs rarely drink. Sometimes they drink more than once every four days, and at times they go without drinking for up to 10 days.

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Some Lesser Known Facts About Cheetahs

People who ponder the question what do cheetahs eat would be interested in learning a couple of interesting facts about cheetahs.

The Fastest Land Animals With Less Stamina

Cheetah chases usually last less than a full minute, covering 200-300 meters. At its maximum speed, a cheetah takes three strides per second and covers 7 meters per stride. At this speed, they tire quickly and conserve energy most of the time. A study found out that cheetahs spend only 12% of their day moving around. This shows that cheetahs are not big on energy and speed is their forte.

They Can Accelerate Faster Than Sports Cars

The most admirable characteristic of cheetahs is they can go from zero to 60 mph in just three seconds. Their claws work like studs on football boots and offer them extra grip when they spring. Their muscular tails act as a rudder and help them make sharp turns while chasing fast prey like hares or antelope.

Unique Social Life Among Cats

We know what do cheetahs eat, and their prey is often captured by other predators if they are not fast enough. That’s why the male cheetahs live together in prides. However, females raise their cubs alone, hiding in dens, and teach them hunting skills as they grow. Male cheetahs form coalitions to defend their territories and catch their prey.

Cheetahs Hunt During the Day

Are you fascinated by cheetahs hunting habits, and what do cheetahs eat? Well, you would be surprised to learn that, unlike most cats, they hunt during the day. Their eyesight is far keener compared to humans, and they can pick out prey from a distance. The tear marks running across their eyes help them reflect the sun’s glare. Hunting during the day also minimizes the risk of losing their kill to other predators such as hyenas, vultures, and lions.

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Cheetahs Don’t Roar

It’s fascinating to learn all the lesser know facts about cheetahs, what do cheetahs eat, and how they survive. What’s more fascinating is they cannot roar. The two-piece bone present in lions’ throats that allows them to roar is missing in cheetahs. However, they can growl, purr, hiss, and chirp.

Cheetahs Need Their Space

Although cheetahs live in coalitions in small 30 km square territories, some cheetahs prefer to roam a vast range of up to 3000 square kilometers. They mostly prefer areas where prey animals are lesser in numbers to avoid competing with stronger predators. Loss of habitat due to human expansion has deprived cheetahs of their space, and the areas that were once home to thousands of cheetahs now only have a handful. This has also resulted in a constant threat to wildlife and the existence of various cheetah species.

Illegal Wildlife Trade is a Threatening Situation

Cheetahs’ looks and reputation have fueled the threat to their survival. Illegal trade and demand for cheetahs as pets means they are often captured from the wild as cubs, and only one in six cubs survive the trafficking. Although law enforcement is tackling these occurrences, cub trafficking is still skyrocketing now more than ever.

Cheetahs Prefer a Particular Diet

To elaborate further on the question what do cheetahs eat: they do not like fatty meals, and they do not like to eat livestock either. Often, farmlands can form a part of their territory. However, since they are primarily active during the day, it puts them in danger of being trapped, shot, or poisoned on farmlands.

Final Thoughts

That being said, cheetahs are a remarkable species. Apart from learning all the interesting facts about them, what do cheetahs eat, and their lifestyle, we must pay attention to the fact that cheetahs are now found in only 9% of their historic range. Over 90% of the species has disappeared since the 1900s, and the global cheetah population is estimated at a mere 8000. Cheetahs could sprint towards extinction if specific measures to preserve the wildlife aren’t taken in due time.

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