Cats have the ability to climb trees because of their sharp claws and flexible bodies. So considering a cheetah is a cat most would ask can cheetahs climb trees?
The short answer is not very well. Cheetahs don’t have the ability to climb trees like leopards who are the most comfortable climbing of all the big cats. Cheetahs don’t have the same level of strength in their legs and rear that leopards do. This gives leopards the extra power they need to pull themselves up a tree.
While cheetahs aren’t able to climb trees as effortlessly as leopards, that doesn’t mean they can’t do it at all. Cheetahs have been known to climb trees.
When Do Cheetahs Climb Trees?
Cheetahs have been known to climb trees mainly to have a better look at the surroundings and locate prey.
A cheetah’s favourite prey animal is the Thompsons gazelle. These gazelles tend to graze in the open savannah grass lands.
A cheetah’s hunting success depends on its ability to catch its prey. For a cheetah to achieve it’s top speed the ground must be relatively flat.
Cheetahs therefore are found in areas where the ground is relatively flat such as the Serengeti plains in Africa.
The cheetah will use its speed to run down its prey. However, before it can do this, it needs to be able to spot its prey.
In order to see over the long grass, a cheetah will often climb to the top of a termite mound or small tree. Once at the top, the cheetah can survey the area for potential prey.
If the cheetah sees its prey, it will then stalk the animal until it is close enough to make a dash for it.
So, while cheetahs don’t regularly climb trees, they will do so when it gives them a strategic advantage in hunting their prey.
Climbing trees also offers them an ability to spot predators like lions, hyenas, leopards who might ambush them during the hunt or even steal their kill.
When Escape Is Not An Option
Cheetahs just like other predators sometimes find themselves in situations where escape is not an option.
This can happen for example if a cheetah falls asleep on the ground and wakes up surrounded by a herd of buffalo. Here escape would not be an option as the buffalo would most likely charge at the cheetah and kill it.
In such a situation, the cheetah’s only hope would be to climb a tree.
Cheetahs Are Not Built To Climb Trees
While cheetahs can and do climb trees, it is not something they are built for.
Cheetahs are built for speed. They have a long, sleek body and elongated legs which help them to run at speeds of up to 70 miles per hour.
Their claws are also different to those of other cats. Cheetah claws are more like nails and are not retractable like the claws of other cats. This helps them to get a good grip on the ground when they are running at high speeds.
However, these same characteristics make it more difficult for cheetahs to climb trees.
Their nails are not well suited for climbing and their long, slender body makes it more difficult to maneuver around branches once they climb.
In addition, cheetahs are not as strong as other cats such as leopards. This means they don’t have the same level of strength in their legs and rear which is necessary for climbing.
Despite these difficulties, cheetahs are still able to climb trees as we have stated above. It just takes them a little more effort than other cats.
Do Baby Cheetahs Climb Trees?
Yes, baby cheetahs are known to climb trees. This behaviour has been observed in the wild as well as in captivity.
It is thought that baby cheetahs climb trees for several reasons. Firstly, it could be a way for them to gain a better view of their surroundings.
This is especially important for baby cheetahs as they need to be able to spot potential predators.
Climbing also seems to be a form of play for baby cheetahs. They have been known to chase each other up and down trees.
This play fighting is thought to be beneficial as it helps the baby cheetahs to learn hunting skills.
It is also easier for baby cheetahs to climb trees unlike adults because their bodies are more flexible.
As they grow older and their spine elongates and it also becomes harder for them to turn their front paws backwards which is how leopards grip the tree trunk.
Taking Prey Up The Tree
Of the big cats only the leopard is known to take its prey up the tree. Cheetahs don’t do this as they don’t have the strength to haul a large animal like an impala up a tree.
Leopards will often take their prey up a tree to keep it away from other predators like lions, hyenas or vultures.
How Do You Differentiate A Cheetah From A Leopard?
The easiest way to differentiate a cheetah from a leopard is by their spots. Cheetahs have round black spots on their coat while leopards have rosette patterns.
Another way to tell them apart is by their tail. Cheetah tails have black stripes running down them while leopard tails do not have stripes.
A cheetah has a slender built while a leopard is more muscular. Cheetahs are also taller than leopards when they stand on their hind legs.
Finally, cheetahs are generally smaller than leopards. Adult male cheetahs weigh between 77 and 143 pounds while adult male leopards can weigh up to 198 pounds.