A mother cheetah and her cubs

A mother cheetah and her cubs

A mother cheetah and her cubs.

There are three stages in the lifecycle of the cheetah: a cub’s life, adolescence, and adult life.

The gestation period for the cheetah is 93 days and litters range in size from one or two up to six cubs (the occasional litter of eight cubs has been recorded, but it is rare).

At birth, the cubs weigh 8.5 to 15 ounces (240-420 grams) and are blind and helpless, like a house cat’s kittens. Their mother will groom them patiently, purring quietly and providing them warmth and security.

After a day or so, the mother will leave the cubs to hunt for herself, so she can continue to care for the cubs. This is the most vulnerable time for the cubs, as they are left unprotected.

The cubs will live in a secluded nest for the next six to eight weeks, being regularly moved by their mother from nest to nest to avoid detection by predators. The mother will care for her cubs on her own for the next year and a half.

At about six weeks of age, the cubs begin following their mother on her daily travels as she is looking for prey. During these first few months, she cannot move far or fast and cub mortality is highest. Less than one in 10 will survive during this time, as they perish from predation by other large predators such as lions and hyenas, or from injuries. This is the time when life skills are taught. Their long mantle of hair on their backs serves the dual purpose of keeping them warm and helping hide them from predators who mistake them for the aggressive honey badger.

Between four to six months of age, cheetah cubs are very active and playful. Trees provide good observation points and allow for the development of skills in balancing. Cubs’ semi non-retractable claws are sharper at this age and help them grip the tall ‘playtrees’ they climb with their siblings.

Learning to hunt is the most critical survival skill that the cubs will develop. At one year of age, cheetah cubs participate in hunts with their mother. The hunt has several components. It includes prey detection, stalking, the chase, tripping (or prey capture), and killing by means of a suffocation bite.

At about 18 months of age, the mother and cubs will finally separate.Although not fully adept at hunting on their own, independent male and female cubs will stick together for a few more months to master their hunting skills. When the adolescent females begin cycling, dominant males will court them and drive their brothers away.

Image: PXHere

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