Karma Cats

  • CHEETAHS – Acinonyx JubatusCHEETAHS – Acinonyx Jubatus
  • CHEETAHS – Acinonyx JubatusCHEETAHS – Acinonyx Jubatus

CHEETAHS – Acinonyx jubatus

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Distribution and Status

Scientific Name Distribution Status

African Cheetah

Acinonyx jubatus hecki Northwest Africa

Critically Endangered

Acinonyx jubatus fearsoni East Africa


Acinonyx jubatus jubatus Southern Africa


Acinonyx jubatus soemmerringi Northeast Africa


Asiatic Cheetah    
Acinonyx jubatus venaticus Iran

Critically Endangered



African Cheetah    7,500 -10,000
Asiatic Cheetah    60 -100


Big Cat or Small

Due to their physical size, cheetahs are often referred to as big cats but they actually belong in a grouping of their own.  They are separated from big cats and small cats due to unique physical differences including the fact that they can purr but can not roar (this it typical of the small cat family not the big cats).



  • Cheetahs are slim and lanky compared to the other big cats that are extremely muscular
  • Deep chest and large thigh muscles on thin legs – a body of a runner
  • Coat is yellow / tawny with solid black spots, the belly and throat are white
  • Cheek whiskers are shorter and finer than other big cats
  • Have a black “tear” mark running from inside corner of eye to the mouth
  • Back of the ears are black
  • Markings are individual
  • Slight mane of longer hair on neck and shoulders
  • King cheetahs carry a recessive gene where the spots along the cats back join up to stripes
  • Compared to other big cats, they have shortened faces and smaller canines
  • No sheaths on their claws so you can still see them when retracted


Head and body length: 1.1 m – 1.4 m     
Tail length: 60cm – 85 cm        
Weight: 25 kg - 65 kgs


Life Span

Wild: 5 – 12 years (average 6 years)
Captivity: 12 – 17 years



Male Sexual maturity 13 – 16 months
Female Sexual maturity 13 – 16 months
Gestation 90 – 95 days  (3 months)
Oestrus Cycle

Seasonally polyestrous (December – February)
Come into heat every 10 – 20 days during this period


Mating lasts approximately 1 minute
Male holds the female by the back of the neck
Are induced ovulators


2 – 8 (average 3 - 4) cubs per litter
Weigh 150 – 300 grams at birth
Cubs are born blind with eyes opening at 4 – 10 days
Weaned at 3 – 4 months
Start eating meat at 5 weeks
Have adult teeth at 8 months
Have long, fine, silver fur over back and neck to help with camouflage
Cub mortality is extremely high (lion predation is the main cause)


Separate from mum at around 14 – 18 months
Mother starts teaching cubs to hunt at around 3 - 4 months by bringing back live prey for them to practice on


  • Mothers keep their cubs in a den for the first 10 days then move them every 5 – 6 days
  • Females who lose a litter are able to breed again in 2 – 3 weeks

Diet & Hunting

  • Gazelle and antelope e.g. impala, Thomson’s gazelle, springbok, kudu etc.. under 40 kgs are the cheetah’s main diet, but they will also eat smaller prey such as warthogs and hares
  • Hunt mainly during the day to avoid larger predators such as lions and leopards.  If it is too hot, will hunt at night
  • Can run at 110 kms per hour over a short distance
  • Can reach 75km per hour in 2 secs
  • Will use cover where available to get as close to prey as possible
  • While chasing prey they use their dew-claw to trip their prey off balance and fall over
  • Kill with a bite to the throat
  • If shelter is close, will drag the kill there
  • Lose approximately 10% of their kills to other predators such as lions, leopards and hyena


  • Savannah
  • Grasslands
  • Open Woodlands
  • Scrub
  • Semi-desert

Social System & Territories

  • Female cheetahs are solitary unless have young
  • Males are either solitary or form bachelor groups (2 or 3 cats) which increases their chance of survival against predators such as hyenas, lions and leopards
  • Territories are prey density dependant ranging from 30 km2 to 1500 km2
  • Some females follow the migratory patterns of their prey so travel great distances
  • Urine with scent gland secretions are sprayed on rocks, trees, bushes etc to make territories
  • Faeces are left in prominent positions that will notify intruders
  • Flehmen – allows olfactory & chemical clues to pass over naso-vomeral organ positioned in the roof of the mouth
  • Vocalisations include growls, snarls, hiss, yelp (high pithed “yowl”), churrs, gurgles, moans and chirps
  • Cheetahs are the only big cat that can purr but can not roar


  • Lions
  • Leopards
  • Hyenas
  • Trophy hunting
  • Poaching
  • Prey depletion
  • Loss of habitat
  • Human conflict when taking livestock
  • Full CITES (Appendix I) protection
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