Authored by Rodney Southern in Nature and Wildlife
Published on 08-22-2009
Perhaps no animal on the planet is more fascinating than the Cheetah. This incredible member of the cat family is actually at a distinct disadvantage to the powerful cats they share their range with. While the leopard, lion, and occasionally even the occasional hyena will commonly steal a meal from weaker opposition, the cheetah has no such luck. The must hunt quickly, efficiently, and quietly. Once they do secure dinner, they must then drag it off to a shady hiding spot and try to eat as much as possible. The appearance of the predators mentioned above means a lost meal to the cheetah.
Fortunately, the cheetah is well equipped for the circumstances mentioned above. They are the fastest land mammals in the world. What is truly amazing is how fast they reach top speed. They can reach 60 mph in only 3 seconds! Imagine starting at a stand still, and reaching 60 mph in that fast a time. It would break our necks!
The cheetah is not only blessed with speed, as they also have incredible agility to go along with it. Even while moving at these insane speeds, the cheetah can move and change directions effectively. Because the cheetah eats fairly quick prey, this is a must for their survival. The cheetah will chase their prey and then attempt to knock them to the ground.
Another key to a cheetah eating well is their incredible ability to blend in with the grasslands they inhabit. They are spotted with black and they are often completely invisible to the impala and other prey items that they stalk. From a distance, the cheetah uses their razor sharp eyesight to zoom in on a group and find just the right victim. Once they have locked in on a potential meal, then they slowly move lower to the ground, and stalk as close as possible. Once the prey is within range, the cheetah leaps into action.
While the cheetah is not exactly small at around 140 pounds, they are nowhere near the incredible size of their fellow cats. Because of this, the cheetah has to be very accurate and quick with their attack. They will latch quickly onto the neck of their prey, and suffocate them efficiently.
The vast majority of cheetahs never live to see adulthood due to predators and the encroaching humanity on their habitat. As the habitat shrinks, so does the amount of food. The cheetah is not very high on the food chain in Africa.
The cheetah generally feed on impala, hares, and other smaller prey they happen upon in the wilds of the African grasslands. They will go after other large prey if the circumstances are right, and they are hungry enough. Because their grassland homes are shrinking every single year, the cheetah is considered to be endangered.