You probably already know that cheetahs are very fast cats, but did you know that there is some debate over whether or not they should be classified as “big cats”? Other big cats can roar, but cheetahs can’t, so there is a debate over whether or not they can be included in the group. But even though they can’t roar, they can purr as other cats do.1

Cheetahs are also different from other big cats because they have only semi-retractable claws, instead of fully retractable ones. This puts them into their own genus, which is called Acinonyx.1 When they chase after prey, they can reach speeds of over 60mph in a matter of seconds.2 They have a few adaptations that support this ability, such as having longer legs than other cat species and having a longer spine so they can take longer strides.3

They’ll go after ungulates, birds, or even small mammals. When they have finished their kill, they begin eating their prey quickly because other animals may try to steal it from them.2

Cheetahs are susceptible to extinction for several reasons. One is from human development taking over their usual habitats. They need large territories that are connected in order to avoid becoming isolated from other cheetahs. Human development tends to fragment their habitats.1 Today, there aren’t many cheetahs left. Africa is where most of them live currently, but they used to be found in North America, Europe, and Asia. They disappeared from those areas after the last ice age, but there is still a very small population in Iran.3

Another threat to them is their lack of genetic diversity, which is only made worse by fragmented populations. A lack of genetic diversity puts animals at risk, and cheetahs are especially at risk of diseases and infant mortality.3

Read more about genetic diversity and how it comes into play in conservation here!

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