How Do Leopards Care for Their Young?

leopards-care-young Credit: Rob Bixby/CC-BY-2.0

Although nomadic by nature, a female leopard abandons her wandering for a time after the litter is born until the cubs are large enough to accompany her. She hides them for eight weeks, suckling them for three months or longer. She feeds them meat after week six or seven. Litters consist of two to three cubs.

Once the cubs are old enough to follow, the mother teaches them to hunt, allowing them to accompany her and observe her in her territory. She administers discipline with a slap or snarl, teaching them to remain quiet and to avoid danger. The cubs continue to suckle until they reach about 8 months of age, at which point their adult teeth start to grow, and the mother rejects their attempts to feed more often.

During hunts, they work together, with the cubs panicking prey towards the mother. The cubs also begin to go on individual hunts, focusing on small game such as hares and fowl. At about 18 months of age, the cubs are almost as large as their mother and are beginning to distance themselves from each other and from her. Although they may still share kills on occasion, by the time the cubs are 2 years old, they have moved on and established their own territories.