Cheetah Facts for Kids

Amazing Cheetah Facts for Kids


Welcome, young adventurers, to the fascinating world of the cheetah! In this article, we’ll embark on a thrilling journey into the realm of cheetahs, uncovering amazing cheetah facts for kids and uncovering the secrets of these incredible creatures.

Get ready to sprint through the savannas of Africa as we explore the exciting world of cheetahs and discover what makes them truly extraordinary. Are you ready to pounce into the world of cheetah facts for kids? Let’s go!

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Cheetah Facts for Kids

What is a Cheetah?

The Cheetah is the fastest land animal on earth!  Cheetahs can reach speeds of 60 miles per hour within 3 seconds and ultimately reach speeds up to 75 miles per hour.  Just think about that: that is faster than the speed limit.

Cheetahs are mammals. They are not considered part of the big cat family, but they are part of their own subspecies of big cats called the genus Acinonyx. The scientific name is Acinonyx Jubatus- the name comes from the word Chita, meaning spotted one.

Both male and female cheetahs are called cheetahs, and babies are called cubs.

Cheetah running

What do Cheetah’s Look Like?

Cheetahs are smaller than cats in the large cat family, such as lions and tigers

Cheetahs are built for speed. In a single stride, a cheetah can cover 20 feet!  

They have narrow, slender bodies with an orange-like coat with spots.

Cheetahs have long black lines that run from their eyes to their mouth called “tear lines” or “tear marks.” These tear lines help protect the cheetah’s eyes from the sun. A cheetah has between 2,000-3,000 spots! Their spots help them blend into their habitat. 

Adult cheetahs are about 4 feet long and weigh between 90 and 140 pounds. They have a flexible spine that helps them change direction easily while running.  Their lean body helps them run fast.

Cheetahs have large nostrils that let air enter their body faster, which helps them breathe easily after running.  They also have large hearts and lungs so that they can get the oxygen they need for fast sprints. 

They have long, thin tails.  Their tail helps them balance when making sharp turns while running.  

A cheetah’s claws do not retract (pulled in) like other cats.  Their claws are very strong and help grip the ground while running.

Cheetahs also have long legs, small heads, and rounded ears.

Cheetahs have excellent eyesight.  They can see up to 3 miles away!  They use their excellent eyesight to look for prey and then sprint to pounce on them.

Cheetahs do not roar like lions or tigers. They let out a chirping noise when they feel threatened, and they purr if they feel happy.

Cheetah vs Leopard

Cheetahs are not Leopards

Cheetahs are sometimes mistaken for leopards, but the animals have significant differences. 

Leopards have thick, short tails; cheetahs have long, thin tails.

Leopards have a wider body than cheetahs.

Leopards do not have the “tear lines” or “tear marks” that cheetahs have. 

Cheetahs have smaller heads than leopards.  Click here for more facts about leopards and snow leopards.

Cheetah Habitat

A habitat is a place or environment in which an animal lives.

Most cheetahs live in southwestern, eastern, and southern Africa.  Very few are left living in Iran. 

You will also find many cheetahs living in captivity.  You can see them in many zoos across the country.

Cheetahs live in a variety of habitats, including savannas, grasslands, and mountains.  They need to live in places where there is a lot of space to run.

Cheetahs are considered a threatened species. It is believed that only  7,000-12,500 are left in the wild.

Cheetahs have become threatened due to loss of habitat and decreasing food sources.

Where do Cheetah’s Sleep?


Cheetahs are like the ultimate wanderers! Unlike other big cats, they don’t settle down in one spot. These sleek cats are always on the move, like little explorers, looking for their next meal and exciting adventures in the wild!

Cheetahs are smart snoozers! They like to find cozy spots to take a nap where they can keep an eye on everything around them. These spots could be under the shade of a tree, on top of a rock, or even in the tall grass.

Cheetahs are super alert, so even when sleeping, they’re always ready to leap into action if needed. Even though they’re super fast, they’re not the strongest animals in the savanna. They must always be alert against predators such as lions, hyenas, and leopards. So, finding a safe spot to rest is like their secret mission for survival in the wild!

Cheetah Cub
Cheetah Cub

Cubs 

Female cheetahs live alone.  Male cheetahs live in groups called coalitions.  Females and males only get together when mating. 

Female cheetahs are pregnant for around three months.  Then, they give birth to a litter of cubs.

A female cheetah usually gives birth to one to three cubs. However, up to nine can be born.  Cubs are born blind and totally dependent on their mother.  A cub’s eyes will open within 10 days of birth, and they will start crawling shortly after.

 A mother cheetah will care for her cubs in a den.  Mother cheetahs will often move her cubs around by carrying them in her mouth.

A cub has dark gray hair with longer hairs on their head and neck that resemble a mohawk to blend in with their habitat.   Their camouflage coats will protect them against predators such as lions or hyenas.

When cubs are about 2 months old, their baby hair starts to fall out and is replaced by the adult spotted coat. 

Cubs are playful. They wrestle and chase each other around. 

Mother cubs will start teaching their cubs how to hunt and avoid predators.  Cubs will practice hunting with their brothers and sisters.

The mother cheetah will stay with her cubs for 18 months.  At 18 months, she feels confident that she has taught her cubs to hunt and survive on their own.   She will leave them and go off to live on her own.

The cubs will stay together for another month.  After that, the females will go off on their own, and the males will stay together for life.

Hunting 

Cheetahs are carnivores.  Carnivores are animals that eat meat.

Cheetahs hunt in the morning or evening.  They don’t hunt in the afternoon due to the hot climate.  They spend the afternoons resting.

Cheetahs eat wildebeest, warthogs, birds, zebras, gazelles, deer, antelopes, and impalas.  

Cheetahs are always looking for food.  They will often look for young animals or even injured animals to catch.  Because cheetahs have excellent eyesight, they can spot prey up to 3 miles away.

Cheetahs will hide in the tall grass to sneak up on their prey.  You may think that hunting would be easy for cheetahs because they are so fast.  This is not the case.  Yes, cheetahs are extremely fast animals; however, they are fast for short distances.  Cheetahs are sprinters; they cannot maintain speed for a long time.

Cheetah in its habitat

Once the cheetah is within about 100 feet of their prey, they will sprint at it.   Then, use their front paw to reach out to the animal. Next, they will use their dewclaw (a sharp claw on the inside of the front leg) to trip the animal and bite its throat.

After cheetahs catch their prey, they will bring it to a shady hiding place so other animals don’t see it.  Cheetahs are usually too tired to eat after they catch their prey.  They will take a rest and then go back to eating later. 

Cheetahs do not like to fight.  They will give up their prey (food) if a larger, more aggressive animal approaches them to avoid a fight.

Threatened Species

Unfortunately, cheetahs are a threatened species.  A large problem for cheetahs is the loss of habitat, causing a lack of food.  Due to population expansion, a lot of cheetah habitats are turning into farms.  When cheetahs don’t have food to eat, they will sometimes eat livestock on the farms.  The farmers do not like this and will often kill the cheetahs.

Another problem cheetahs face is predators.  Many lions eat cheetah cubs, and often, hyenas are stealing their food.

Poachers are also a threat to the cheetah.  A poacher is a person who hunts an animal illegally.   Even though it is illegal to kill cheetahs for their fur, poachers still kill cheetahs to make rugs and coats.

Cheetahs have the shortest lifespan of any large cat.  They only usually live 7-10 in the wild.  Because they don’t live long, females in captivity are producing babies to keep the population going.  Cheetahs reach 16 years old when living in captivity.

Scientists believe that only a little more than 7,000 cheetahs live in the wild today.  There are conservation organizations in Africa to help save cheetahs.  Farmers are encouraged to use electric fences to keep cheetahs out instead of killing them.  There are also parks and reserves to keep cheetahs safe.  If everyone works together, it may save cheetahs from extinction.

mother cheetah and cubs

Cheetahs in History

Cheetahs have been beloved animals for thousands of years.  In Ancient Egypt, cheetahs were kept as pets.  They were often used to help with hunting.

In 1550 A.D., an Indian emperor named Akbar the Great used cheetahs to help hunt gazelles.

References

Cheetahs by Ann O. Squire

Cheetahs Laura Marsh- National Geographic Kids