Acinonyx jubatus

Order: Carnivora

Husbandry Information

Housing Requirements

  • Cheetahs are not great jumpers or climbers, but the enclosure should either have high walls or be fully enclosed. They like to lie on shelves or rocks that are elevated off the ground so that they can look around. Cheetahs should not be exhibited or housed in a pit-type grotto, but should have a view and be able to look out at things. They need heat in cool to cold weather, and shelter from inclement weather.
  • Male cheetahs especially will urinate on everything, including the walls, so be prepared if you give towels or bedding. Females will also urinate on bedding but do not spray.

Diet Requirements

  • Carnivore diet. Can be given beef femur bones to chew on.

Veterinary Concerns

  • Cheetahs can be prone to bloat and other digestive issues. The best way to prevent these problems is to feed several meals per day and make sure the cheetah gets plenty of exercise, whether this be walks or coursing after a lure.

Notes on Enrichment & Training

  • One of the best ways to train cheetahs is to raise and work them with a companion dog. The dog is preferably medium-large, outgoing, dominant but not aggressive, friendly to people, and a few months older than the cheetah. They should be introduced when the cheetah is 3-6 months old, although introductions up to one year are known to be successful. The dog lives with the cheetah and gives it confidence in strange situations, helps keep it calm, and makes guests want to find out more about them.

Programmatic Information

Tips on Presentation

Tips on Handling

  • Cheetahs should be reinforced for calmness, sitting still, and ignoring strange sights and noises. They should walk calmly on leash.
  • Trainers need to learn and watch out for stimuli that excite or scare the cheetah, such as small children, strollers, golf carts, umbrellas, costume characters, stuffed animals, people wearing tiger masks or face paint

Potential Messaging

  • Cheetahs are an endangered species. They are not usually aggressive to humans, but will take livestock. For this reason they are hunted in many parts of Africa. The Cheetah Conservation Fund works to educate farmers and herders about the cheetah’s role, and provides Anatolian shepherd dogs to guard the flocks.

Acquisition Information


Natural History Information

Range and Habitat

Mostly grasslands of Africa; a small group lives in Iran.

Physical Description

Cheetahs are beautiful cats weighing between 80-140 pounds in captivity. They are slender and muscular, with a small, bullet-shaped head, flaring nostrils, semi-retractable claws which are dull, and a long, stiff tail. They have a coarse, short, yellow or beige coat with black spots. They are the only large cats with polka-dots all over, as opposed to rosettes or stripes, and black malar “tear” stripes running from the inside corner of the eye, down past the nose, to the outer corner of the mouth. The tail can appear ringed, sometimes with a white tip, and there is white fur under the chin and on the belly.

With the mountain lion, cheetahs are the only large-sized cats that purr. They have a very rough tongue.

Life Cycle


Threats and Conservation Status

Cheetahs are listed as vulnerable by the IUCN (1), with 7,000-10,000 in the wild (of which 70-100 are in Iran), and 1,015 in zoos. (2) Threats include hunting by farmers and ranchers to reduce loss of livestock, and hunting for their pelts. Cheetah cubs being taken from the wild to be used as pets is a threat in some areas.

Climate change: Desert and Dryland species have specific adaptations for the temperature and water availability in their natural habitat and may not be able to adjust to the drying effects of climate change. Hotter conditions promote wildfires. More extreme drought conditions kill plants that hold the soil in place and occasional extreme rain events wash that soil away preventing them from growing back in a process called desertification. Greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels contributes to climate change by trapping heat in the atmosphere. Please ask guests to walk, bike, or take public transportation when possible and to reduce their use of fossil fuels when they do drive by buying a fuel economic car, carpooling, combining errands, and keeping vehicles properly tuned up and their tires properly inflated. At home and work, purchase Energy Star appliances, turn off lights when they are not in use, and use heaters and air conditioners sparingly. The principles of reduce, reuse, and recycle will also help by decreasing greenhouse gas emissions involved with the manufacture and disposal of unnecessary goods.

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Contributors and Citations

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  • Activity Schedule: diurnal, nocturnal, crepuscular
  • Continent of Origin
  • Diet Requirements: carnivore, herbivore, omnivore, etc.
  • General Habitat/Biome: deserts, forests, mountains, etc.