What do cheetahs eat? The diet of the fastest land animal

Cheetah close-up portrait, eating meat from a fresh kill

The cheetah is a fascinating big cat species native to Africa and central Iran.

It’s the fastest land animal on earth and known for its speedy ability to take down prey.

With a slender body, impressive eyesight, and the ability to camouflage, they are natural hunters.

Cheetahs are intelligent and knowledgeable of their limitations.

Although they eat a wide variety of wildlife, they are strategic in how they hunt, and what they choose to go after.

This makes them one of the most successful African predators.

To learn more about their diet, tactful hunting approach, and need for speed, keep reading.

Where Do Cheetahs Live?

Two cheetahs on the African savanna in Kenya

Cheetahs mostly inhabit Africa, with small remote populations also found in southwestern Asia. The most abundant populations reside in African natural reserves and parks.

They camouflage themselves in tall grasses and mostly live and hunt in open grasslands and bushy areas.

Male cheetahs sometimes live in packs, called coalitions.

Female cheetahs are solitary unless raising cubs. Baby cheetahs will stay with their mother from 0 to 18 months.

A Cheetah’s Diet Consists of Fresh Meat

Cheetah chases a young wildebeest in the Masai Mara, Kenya

Like all other members of the cat family, the cheetah is carnivorous. They mainly hunt medium-sized antelope such as springbok, gazelles, impalas, and wildebeest. They will also prey on rabbits, birds, and warthogs.

They prefer fresh kill, and seldom scavenge animal remains they did not catch themselves.

When hunting, cheetahs have the highest success rate of catching Thomson’s gazelle. This suggests that this type of antelope is their favorite food source.

They do not eat vegetables, however, they may chew grass when experiencing stomach issues.

What do cheetahs drink?

Cheetahs drink water from rivers and water holes. Water is scarce in their natural habitat, therefore, they only drink once every three or four days. They also obtain water indirectly from their prey’s body fluid.

Do cheetahs eat giraffes?

Cheetah scanning the horizon for prey, with curious giraffes in the background

Due to a giraffe’s large size, cheetahs usually do not hunt them. A giraffe can injure or kill a cheetah by kicking it. The only possibility of a cheetah eating a giraffe is if it is young and without its mother.

Do cheetahs eat lions?

Cheetahs do not eat lions. Although the cheetah is faster, the lion is larger and stronger. If approached by a lion, a cheetah will likely run for its life.

Do cheetahs eat elephants?

Two cheetahs drink from a local waterhole, with a lone elephant watching close by

Elephants are very large in size, and it would be impossible for a cheetah to hunt them down, even when hunting in a pack. The only time a cheetah will consider eating an elephant is if it is already dead and other food sources are scarce.

Do cheetahs eat humans?

Cheetahs do not eat humans.

Although most people picture cheetahs as being strong predators, in reality, they have slender bodies built for speed, not power.

A human’s height will discourage them from approaching. An injured cheetah is a dead cheetah, so they don’t take risks.

The only instance where they might attack a human is when threatened, or in self-defense.

What do cheetahs eat and drink when they’re cubs?

Cheetah cubs and their mom, with remains of a fresh kill in her jaws

Cheetah cubs are blind at birth, which makes them fully dependent on their mother for food. Until the age of three to six months, the cubs drink their mother’s milk for nutrients. At three months of age, they will start to eat meat.

They learn to hunt from their mother starting around 1.5 months of age. By the time they are six months, the cubs will attempt to hunt young gazelles and hares. At 15 months old, they are normally prosperous hunters.

What animals eat cheetahs?

Although the cheetah is at the top of the food chain, a few more aggressive predators outrank it; mainly the lion, leopard, and hyena. Cubs are especially vulnerable, however, these animals will go after adult cheetahs as well.

How Much Does a Cheetah Eat?

A lone cheetah passes by four Thomson's gazelle on the alert

An adult cheetah can eat up to 10 kg of meat in a day. However, eating that much every day is uncommon. On average, they consume 2.8 kg of meat per day.

How often do cheetahs eat?

How often a cheetah eats depends on how successful it is at hunting. Typically, adult cheetahs eat once every two to five days. If a female cheetah has cubs, it will hunt daily to provide enough nourishment for itself and its cubs.

Where do cheetahs eat?

Cheetah with baby Thomson's gazelle kill

After a cheetah makes its kill, it assesses the terrain. Other African predators will attempt to drive a cheetah away from its kill, so it must be on the constant lookout to avoid detection.

They will yield their catch to a larger animal to avoid confrontation. A cheetah relies on its speed to hunt prey, and it will starve if injured.

If it doesn’t see an impending threat, it might rest for 20 to 30 minutes to catch its breath before eating. It will either eat its prey where it made the kill or drag it to a shaded hiding spot.

How Do Cheetahs Hunt?

The way that cheetahs hunt is quite spectacular. They rely on their speed and agility. How fast does a cheetah run? Their top speed is around 120 km/h and they can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in just three seconds.

To select their prey, they rely on their impeccable eyesight. Once they spot their target, they quietly sneak up on it.

Then, they chase after the animal and trip it using their curved dewclaw.

Lastly, they drive their canine teeth into the throat to suffocate it.

To escape the heat of the day, morning and early afternoon is the cheetah’s favorite time to hunt.

Do cheetahs hunt in packs?

Brother coalition of five cheetah on the move

Male cheetahs sometimes hunt in packs, while female cheetahs hunt solo unless accompanied by her cubs. When hunting solo, cheetahs go after medium-sized animals that weigh no more than 56 kg.

About 50 percent of a cheetah’s diet consists of younger prey. A pack of male cheetahs can tackle larger prey and will sometimes go after adult animals.

What Do Different Cheetahs Eat?

Cheetahs eat the animals that roam in their habitat. Therefore, their diet depends on the food sources they have available to them.

There are four subspecies of cheetahs in the world. Three live in Africa, while one, the Asiatic cheetah, lives in Iran.

What do South African cheetahs eat?

Mother cheetah looks back as her four subadult cubs follow close behind, Mashatu

The Southeast African cheetah is native to east and southern African countries. They are currently the most common subspecies. Namibia contains the largest population of wild cheetahs in the world, followed by Botswana.

The South African cheetah mostly preys on antelopes. Their preferred species is springbok and nyala.

They also hunt duiker, impala, puku, oribi, kudu, gemsbok, wildebeest, and steenbok.

Small fast animals, such as Cape hares, make up their diet as well.

What do Northwest African cheetahs eat?

The Northwest African cheetah, also known as the Saharan cheetah, is native to the Sahara and the Sahel.

Their appearance is quite different from other African cheetahs.

Their coat is almost white in color and shorter in length, while their face has few or no spots.

They prey on the antelope species in their habitat, which includes the addax, dorcas gazelle, rhim gazelle, and dama gazelle. They also hunt smaller mammals, like hares.

What do Tanzanian cheetahs eat?

Cheetah chasing a family of banded mongoose, probably for fun

The Tanzanian cheetah, also called the East African cheetah, resides in Tanzania, Kenya, Somalia, and Uganda.

While it used to be classified as a distinct cheetah subspecies, since 2017 it has been subsumed to the Southeast African subspecies (Acinonyx jubatus jubatus).

The majority of the population lives in the Serengeti and the Maasai Mara National Reserve. They are the oldest and the largest in size of the four cheetah subspecies.

Their diet mainly includes Thomson’s gazelle and Grant’s gazelle. On occasion, they will also hunt hares and small rodents.

Packs of males will go after larger animals, like impalas, wildebeests, and topi antelopes. Solo female cheetahs prefer to hunt smaller antelopes.

What do Sudan cheetahs eat?

The Sudan cheetah, also called the Northeast African cheetah, lives in South Sudan and Ethiopia. They have the darkest colored fur of all subspecies and the largest sized heads.

They prey on Grant’s gazelles, Soemmerring’s gazelles, hartebeests, Barbary ostrich, guineafowl, Cape hare, and plains zebra.

What do cheetahs eat in zoos?

A cheetah’s food source changes when living in captivity. In zoos, they eat horse meat, chicken, beef, rabbit, and meat-based feed specifically designed for their diet. If separated from their mother, cheetah cubs will drink cow’s milk.

Cheetahs – Africa’s Speedy and Agile Hunters

The cheetah is a truly magnificent creature with a body uniquely adapted for speed. With long limbs, a narrow build, and a flexible spine, they are lightning fast.

What makes them more spectacular is their ability to practice risk assessment and know their limits.

They are constantly in tune with their environment and always on the lookout. You can keep your eyes open for these incredible animals too by booking an African safari.

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