Cheetah Facts for Kids
The cheetah is the world’s fastest land animal. They can run 70 mph (or 110 kph), which is as fast as cars drive on the highway. The cheetah can reach its top speed in just 3 seconds!
Tail like a rudder
The cheetah has a long, muscular tail that has a flat shape. The tail almost functions like a rudder on a boat because they use it to help control their steering and keep their balance when running very fast.
Special cleat feet
The cheetah has “semi non-retractable” claws (almost like dog claws) that work like the cleats on a football shoe to give the cheetah a lot of traction when running. The pads of most cats’ paws are soft, but the cheetah’s pads are hard kind of like the rubber on a tire. This also helps them grip the ground when they are running so fast.
Like football players
Cheetahs have “tear marks” that run from the inside corners of their eyes down to the outside edges of their mouth. These marks help reflect the glare of the sun when they are hunting during the day. They work just like the black marks that football players put under their eyes during the games. These marks also work like the sights on a rifle, to help the cheetah “aim” and stay focused on their prey when they are hunting.
The cheetah’s fur is covered in solid black spots, and so is their skin! The black fur actually grows out of the black spots on their skin.
Almost like flying
When cheetahs are running full speed, their stride (length between steps) is 6-7 meters (21 feet). Their feet only touch the ground twice during each stride.
A cheetah’s favorite food
Cheetahs are carnivores, and feed mostly on smaller antelope like springbok, steenbok, Thomson’s gazelle, and duiker. They usually chase down their prey and then bite its throat, killing it by cutting off its air supply (suffocation).
Not just a funny haircut
Cheetah cubs have long tall hair that runs from their neck all the way down to the base of their tail, which is called the mantle. The mantle makes a cheetah cub look like a honey badger and makes them blend into tall grass, which helps keep them safe from threats like lions and hyenas.
A lot of kids
A mother cheetah usually cares for anywhere from 2 to 8 cubs per litter, but cubs are often the target of other predators and many do not survive past the first year.
Most endangered cat
There are only 10,000 cheetahs left in the wild, making the cheetah Africa’s most endangered big cat.
Read how kids are helping the cheetah