Spotted! We Found The Answer To Your Kid's Question, 'What Do Cheetahs Eat?'

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Cheetah chasing a gazelle — what do cheetahs eat.
Munish Palaniappan/500px/Getty Images

Kids ask a lot of questions. Many of them seem downright obscure and unnecessary. It’s hard when you’ve already had a long, hard day to find the energy to answer things like, “What do cheetahs eat?” and “How many colors do foxes come in?” Deep down, though, the minute we brush them off is the minute we feel guilty. We’re supposed to encourage their curiosity! It’s our jobs to make sure they grow up to be smart, contributing members of our society. And, no, there’s nothing wrong with repeating that classic Elmo line about what we do when we need to find an answer. (“Weeeeee look it up!”)

But what about when you want to show off that you’re just as smart and capable as Alexa? Teaching our kids to research properly is vital to their existence. (Lest we have yet another population of people who “do their own research.”) Sometimes, though, we want to be Mama Smarty Pants and answer our kids’ questions — even if they’re about cheetahs. Nothing gets us out of a slump faster than being able to help our kids.

So, if your kiddo seems especially interested in the digestive habits of cheetahs, fear not. We’ve got this covered.

What do cheetahs hunt? What do cheetahs eat?

Our spotted friend, the cheetah, isn’t just the fastest animal on land — it’s also one of the best camouflaged. While those bold spots may make you stand out on the sidewalk in your hometown, they do just the opposite in a cheetah’s natural habitat of grasslands, savannahs, and dense mountainous terrains. They need that camouflage, too, because cheetahs do a ton of hunting. But what do they hunt?

It turns out cheetahs have a pretty wide range of prey. They’re carnivores and survive on meat. In particular, they enjoy:

  • Duikers
  • Gazelle
  • Impala
  • Springbok
  • Steenbok
  • Other small antelopes

They also enjoy the small, younger members in the hartebeest, kudu, oryx, roan, sable, and warthog families. And like most big cats, they will, of course, snack on birds and rabbits. However, most animal researchers say that cheetahs like gazelle the best.

Do cheetahs eat zebras?

You may wonder if there is ever a battle of spots vs. stripes. Well, the answer is pretty complicated. Cheetahs aren’t actually as big as they seem. When hunting on their own, an adult zebra is usually too big for them to hunt and kill on their own. They will occasionally eat young zebra calves, though. And if a pack of cheetahs should get hungry enough and an opportunity arise, they might try to attack a zebra as a pack.

Another reason cheetahs don’t typically eat zebras? They prefer “fresh” meat. While some wild animals are considered “scavengers” and will eat leftover animal meat, cheetahs like to hunt, kill, and eat what they know they can finish. They rarely kill something, leave meat, and come back for it later.

OK… but do cheetahs eat humans?

If you’ve got a kid who is all about cheetahs, they’ve undoubtedly asked you this tricky question. Good news! You can let your little one know that we aren’t part of the cheetah’s usual food pyramid. These clever animals know when they’ve met their match and understand that, in most instances, they probably wouldn’t survive a fight with a human. That said, just like with all wild animals, if a cheetah feels threatened, the odds aren’t in your favor. If a cheetah senses that you’re a danger to it, it might choose fight over flight and attack. Moral of the story? If you’re ever in a cheetah’s natural habitat, respect their space.

What do captive cheetahs eat?

What about cheetahs in the zoo? Zoo team members obviously aren’t serving up their other grassland attractions to the cheetahs. Instead, captive cheetahs get fed leaner meats than domestic (or native) species. This includes meat from:

  • Chickens
  • Cows
  • Donkeys
  • Horses

Do cheetahs eat giraffes?

Giraffes aren’t really on a cheetah’s menu because they’re massive animals that are really hard for cheetahs to take down. They can also take a cheetah out just by kicking it, so cheetahs rarely go after them. But they may kill a vulnerable baby giraffe if they see an opportunity.

What do cheetahs eat in Minecraft?

Bet your cheetah-lovin’ kid has zinged this query at you too, huh? Let us help you be the hero, Mama. The first thing you should know is that you can’t actually find cheetahs in Minecraft. What your little one is probably referring to is ocelots, which are somewhat similar. Ocelots are in the jungle biome. Originally, you could feed them fish and tame them to make them pets. Now, however, Minecraft has added tameable cats, and ocelots stay wild. Within Minecraft, ocelots are considered a “passive mob.” That means they won’t attack players — but they might eat your chickens!

Do cheetahs eat vegetables?

Cheetahs aren’t big fans of vegetables because they’re carnivores. Their favorite meals include fresh meat like gazelles and antelopes. However, cheetahs and other big cats occasionally chew on grass when they’re experiencing stomach issues. Sometimes they have a hard time digesting the animals they eat, and the grass helps them pass the parts of their prey that aren’t indigestible, like fur or feathers.

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