How Do Cheetahs Raise Their Young?

cheetahs-raise-young Credit: Tambako The Jaguar/CC-BY-2.0

Cheetahs are solitary animals, and the mother is usually found either alone or with her cubs. For six weeks after their birth, she keeps them hidden in a den while she hunts; after that, the cubs are old enough to follow her. Cubs can begin to eat meat after three weeks but continue to suckle for two to three months. The male is not involved with the rearing process.

During their first two years, cheetah cubs observe their mother by following her on hunts and learning how to survive. By 18 months of age, they start to hunt independently. Early attempts at hunting resemble play behavior more than true aggression, with the cubs stalking, chasing and wrestling each other in lieu of other targets. Some cubs chase after prey they know they cannot catch. Until they grow more skilled and confident, the mother returns to the den with easy live prey, such as a newborn antelope, for the cubs and lets them practice chasing and catching.

Most cubs do not successfully hunt and kill before 14 months of age due to the subtleties involved in prey choice and strategy. The cheetah's natural predators include lions and hyenas. Humans have been known to kill big cats, so most cubs learn to fear them.