The prey of a cheetah varies from small guineafowl, hares and birds, to the bigger wildebeests, impalas and gazelles. A cheetah even preys upon ostriches and warthogs when the food is scarce.
Cheetahs are diurnal cats, meaning that they hunt during the day and sleep at night. It keeps them relatively safe from nocturnal big cats, such as leopards. While hunting, a cheetah stalks its prey, getting as close as possible before attaching. When it attacks, it accelerates to 45 miles per hour in less than three seconds, often enough time to bring down the animal. If not, it can chase the prey at 64 miles per hour for a short period of time. The actual chase usually lasts less than 20 seconds, resulting in a 50 percent kill rate. When the cheetah catches an animal, it clamps down on the prey's throat and strangles it to death.
Because the cheetah depends upon its camouflage and speed to get food, it lives in large open areas, such as the grasslands of Africa, where it can run easily and blend into the environment. This camouflage is also important when it comes to protecting its young from predators. Lions, leopards and eagles all prey on cheetah cubs.
Cheetahs are mainly found in the vast savannas of the sub-Saharan region in Africa. The other animals that inhabit this area often fall victim to the hunting prowess of these large felines.
Hoofed mammals that are less than 90 pounds are the preferred prey of cheetahs. Small antelopes, such as impalas, gazelles, springboks, duikers and steenboks, are fair game and easily tackled down and killed. However, cheetahs are also known to eat warthogs, roans, sables, kudus, hartebeests and oryxes.