Baby cheetahs are incredibly cute big cats. They have beautiful thick fur and a charming coat. They are soft, and when very young they don’t look like could turn into the exceptional predators that they are. They make noises that you would expect from a domestic cat and not a hunter.
But cute as they are, their lives in the wild can be anything but smooth for the cheetah as it navigates through it’s first few months and years.
In this post, we explore some amazing baby cheetah facts, as well as answer some of the most frequently asked questions.
6 Amazing Baby Cheetah Facts
Baby Cheetahs Are Called Cubs
Like the other big cats, new born baby cheetahs are called ‘cubs‘. They live is small families only while the female is raising her young. Once the cubs grow up and move on, females live a solitary live until they mate and breed again. When they grow up, males and females are usually referred to just as cheetahs with no separate term based on sex. The exception to this is that females may sometimes be referred to as ‘she-cheetah‘, but this is not commonly used.
A group of cheetahs is called a ‘coalition‘. A coalition of cheetahs typically consists of 2-3 members, but can have up to 6 individuals. The coalition are male cheetahs, usually made up of brothers who stay together to increase their chances of survival and success in the wild. There is no collective noun for a female and her cubs. Females are solitary animals once their cubs move on.
Baby Cheetahs Are Very Vulnerable And Dependant On Their Parent
Baby cheetahs are not able to look after themselves for the first few weeks after birth. For a start, similarly to baby tigers, baby cheetah are born blind. They have a membrane that covers their eyes for their first few days. Their eyes usually open around five to ten days after birth. During their first few weeks, they are largely helpless and rely on their mothers for everything. After around 4 months they are fully weaned.
They weigh as small as 0.2-0.4 kg at first, and they will stay in the birthing nest for the first six to eight weeks of their life. They will learn to crawl then walk during this time, but won’t leave their home. During this period they rely entirely on their mothers milk and their protection. For the first day the mother won’t leave them alone, but after that she needs to go out to hunt and this is when the cubs are at their most vulnerable.
Around 3 Out Of Every 4 Cheetahs Won’t Make It To Adulthood
It is sadly estimated that most cheetahs don’t make it passed the first three months of life. In the early weeks when mothers are out hunting, the cubs are particularly vulnerable to opportunistic predators. Mother cheetahs will more their nest around frequently to avoid predators but when young are spotted, there is nothing they can do when mother isn’t around.
It is other big cats such as lions and leopards, as well as hyenas that are the main predator for baby cheetahs. They may even try to attack adult cheetahs but will soon find themselves outrun by these incredibly fast cats if they do.
Other threats that wild cheetah cubs face are human influences such as habitat loss and hunting. They have a much higher survival rate when raised in captivity, out the way of the environmental pressures they face in the wild.
A Baby Cheetah’s Spots Are Unique
Just as we are born with fingerprints that are unique for every human being, a baby cheetah is born with a unique pattern of spots on its coat. The spots are with them from birth, and not something they develop later on. As they grow bigger the spots become larger and space out a bit, but they are all there from the minute they are born.
The coat of a baby cheetah is also very thick, with a long mantle that stretches down their entire back. This mantle helps to camouflage the baby cheetahs as a similar but much more challenging target, the honey badger. The mantle is present during the first few months, and grows out around three months of age as they prepare to leave the nest.
A Baby Cheetah Learns Through Play
Similarly to lions and tigers, baby cheetah learn much of their skills through play and imitation. They climb trees to learn about balancing skills and looking out for threats or prey. They playfight with siblings to learn hunting skills. They will stalk and chase each other, taking it in turns to be the chaser or the chased. By the time a cheetah turns one year old they will be ready to participate in the real thing with their mother.
Baby Cheetahs Meow
Unlike lions and tigers, cheetahs don’t roar. In fact they can’t roar. They don’t have the correct anatomy to allow them to create that big cat roar. A baby cheetah is more likely to be heard meowing and purring much like you would expect from a domestic cat. They will continue to make purring and meowing noises into adulthood, along with a series of other noises you probably wouldn’t expect from a big cat.
One of the most common cheetah noises is a ‘chirping’ sound, which they express when under threat or even when searching for a mate. Other noises include growling, gargling and hissing.
Baby Cheetah FAQs
Baby Cheetah Lifecycle
The gestation period for Cheetas is around 90-95 days. They rely on mothers milk alone for the first few weeks of life, substituting with meat around week six before being fully weaned around 4 months.
Cheetahs will start hunting around the turn of their first year, and generally leave home after 18 -24 months. After this time, females live very solitary lives until the mating season after which they may live with cubs again. Males are commonly found in groups called coalitions.
How Many Cheetahs Are Born In A Litter?
A litter of cheetahs usually has around 3 to 4 cubs, but there have been litters known to contain up to six. Most cheetah cubs won’t make it out of the breeding nest.
What Do Baby Cheetahs Eat?
Baby cheetahs survive on their mothers milk for the first few weeks of life. After this, they eat whatever meat their mother brings home for them. This may include ungulates such as antelope, springbok and gazelle, or other small or young animals including warthogs. They are even known to hunt small prey like rabbits.
How Quick Do Baby Cheetahs Grow?
It doesn’t take baby cheetahs long to grow. While they remain as youngsters for around the first 12-18 months, they will reach about half of their adult size in their first six months. They will lose the last of their baby teeth around 8 months of age, having a full set of adult teeth. Between 18-24 months they are stil considered to be adolescent but set out on their own at this time.
Where Do Baby Cheetahs Live?
Baby cheetahs live in their maternal nest until they are around 6-8 weeks old. The mother may move the nest around frequently to avoid predators. After this time, they will leave the nest with their mothers as she hunts and goes about her daily business.
In general, cheetahs live around the south and east of sub-Saharan Africa and spend much of their down time under shade during the hottest parts of the day.
Natural Predators Of Baby Cheetahs
Predators of baby cheetahs include lions, leopards, martial eagles and hyenas. Adult cheetahs can run up to 70 mph and can easily outrun any predators that they see coming.