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Cheetahs 101: What Do Cheetahs Eat?

Updated on January 28, 2014

“Here, kitty kitty” is something you probably shouldn’t say if you spot a cheetah; as a matter of fact, you might want to hide! Running will do you no good because they can run up to 70 miles per hour, can you? Definitely not.

Hopefully the only time you see a cheetah will be in a zoo, or after it already ate a large meal. You should never attempt to pet a cheetah unless you are given instruction by the side of a trained professional.


About Cheetahs

These spotted, rather large felines are beautifully deceptive on the outside and pretty aggressive when hungry; not your typical house cat.

Native to Africa, it is no wonder why they have such a gorgeous, lustrous tan coat with black spots; it really helps them to blend in with their natural grassland surroundings!

Cheetahs are not only found in Africa, but are also commonly found in captivity in zoos all around the globe. In captivity, they can reach an age upwards around 20 years old versus the average lifespan of only seven short years in the wild; this definitely hasn’t helped them to stay off the endangered species list.

Together with becoming victim of fur trade, competition with other predators, and losing much of their habitat to human activity; all of this has led the cheetah population to become extinct in 18 countries as of 2008.

What Do Cheetahs Eat?

Cheetah’s are total carnivores which means they feed on meat. They are hunters, actively seeking out their prey and do not seem too picky when it comes to choosing their meals.

Asking a zookeeper ‘what do cheetahs eat?’, their answer will likely go something like this:

Though their favorite meal may be antelopes and gazelles, they will also hunt birds, zebras, impalas, warthogs, kudus, and many other African game animals.

This means if you try to feed it a can of wet cat food, it will most likely choose you instead!


What Makes Cheetahs Such Great Hunters?

Cheetahs will only kill when they are hungry, and this can be one to two times a day, or every couple of days, depending on the size of their last catch. Although the cats that we know typically hunt at night, the cheetah is rather different in this aspect, catching their food during the morning and afternoon.


Even though their hunting time differs from a typical cat, the manner in which they hunt is much the same, just on a larger, more aggressive scale. This cat is a true go-getter! Once they see an animal that tickles at their appetite, it will stalk its prey; once the timing is just right, it will pounce out, chase, and eventually take down their main entrée.


Patience is key, and the cheetah does not easily give up stalking its desired meal. It might stalk for just a few seconds before going in for the kill, or it might stalk for hours waiting for the perfect opportunity. This can mean that the cheetah stalks its prey for miles, can you imagine? Seems like a very exhausting task!


They depend mainly on their vision when hunting for food rather than scent, but this is no disadvantage for the cheetah as their eyesight is extraordinary! The outline of their eyes is black, helping to deter the glare of the sun from their sight; this, paired with the elongated shape of the retina, provide for super sharp, wide-range vision enabling cheetahs to catch sight of prey in the miles and miles of grassland.

And of course, Speed!

No mammal in Earth's history can top this fast feline! Once you've been targeted by a hungry cheetah, odds of outrunning him don't look favorably in your favor!

So when thinking to yourself ‘what do cheetahs eat?’ make sure you think about this when you are not near a cheetah as you might just become its next meal. Keep it safe and visit cheetahs in the zoo, not the Serengeti or you may be viewed as the purrrrfect meal!

Cheetah Fun Facts

  • A Cheetah at the Cincinnati Zoo, Sarah, currently holds the fastest recorded 100-meter dash time, setting the bar at just 5.95 seconds!

  • Cheetahs can accelerate faster than most luxury sports cars; 0 to 60 in just 3 seconds, in only 3 strides!

  • A running cheetah’s stride is an amazing 25 feet!

  • The largest cheetah ever weighed by man weighed in at 145 lbs!

  • Cheetahs are the only big cat that can’t let out a roar, but they have no problem purring like a motorboat!


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