Cheetahs are the fastest land animals in the world, capable of reaching speeds up to 70 mph 1. But when these magnificent predators aren’t busy hunting, where do they go to rest and sleep? Understanding where cheetahs sleep provides insight into their behavior and adaptations for surviving in the harsh African savannah.
Cheetahs are most active during the day, especially early mornings and late afternoons when temperatures are cooler. However, even the fastest animals on earth need to conserve their energy. Cheetahs spend much of their downtime sleeping and resting. But where do these elusive big cats actually sleep in the wild?
Cheetahs don’t establish permanent dens or nests. Instead, they seek out different temporary sleeping spots each day based on location, safety, and proximity to prey. Their sleeping habits are also influenced by whether they are solitary males or females with vulnerable cubs. Read on to learn more about where cheetahs prefer to sleep and rest while out on the African plains.
Ideal Sleeping Locations
Cheetahs require certain features for their sleeping spots to provide comfort, safety, and camouflage:
- Shade – Cheetahs sleep during the hottest parts of the day to avoid overheating. They prefer shady areas like under trees or bushes.
- Cover – Tall grasses, thickets, and other vegetation help conceal cheetahs from threats.
- Elevation – Termite mounds or tree branches allow cheetahs to survey their surroundings.
- Escape routes – Cheetahs choose spots with multiple quick exit paths in case they need to flee suddenly.
- Proximity to prey – Sleeping areas are often located near where prey animals graze.
Daytime Sleeping Habits
Cheetahs are diurnal, meaning they hunt and travel during daylight hours. However, they are not constantly on the move:
- Cheetahs spend 50-60% of the day resting, mostly during midday when temperatures peak.
- They take short catnaps lasting just minutes at a time, allowing them to remain alert to danger.
- Solo males move around more, while females with cubs tend to stay put longer.
- On cooler or rainy days, cheetahs are active for longer periods.
- Even while sleeping, cheetahs keep their eyes open to watch for threats.
At night, cheetahs mostly continue resting, but remain semi-alert:
- Their sleep is lighter and more easily disrupted compared to daytime.
- Cheetahs take brief multiple sleep sessions rather than deep prolonged sleep.
- Any unfamiliar noise will rouse a cheetah to check its surroundings.
- While less active at night, cheetahs will still get up to drink, groom, or move sleeping spots.
- Males are more likely to move around at night than females with cubs.
Mother Cheetahs and Cubs
Female cheetahs with dependent cubs have additional considerations when selecting sleeping areas:
- Hiding spots – Concealed thickets or tall grass to keep cubs safely hidden and away from predators.
- Nursery dens – For the first 6-8 weeks, mothers establish temporary dens for newborn cubs.
- Elevated perches – Allows mothers to stand guard over cubs while they rest below.
- Multiple escape routes – Mothers remain alert and ready to quickly move cubs to safety.
- Constant vigilance – Frequent waking to check on cubs and ensure their protection.
Several of the cheetah’s specialized adaptations relate to their sleeping habits and survival:
- Their speed allows them to escape threats quickly when resting in vulnerable positions.
- Their flexible spine and tail help them swiftly change directions when fleeing.
- Tear marks and facial markings may deter predators.
- Their spotted fur provides camouflage in grassy or bushy areas.
- Semiretractable claws provide traction when suddenly fleeing from slumber.
- Their large nostrils and lungs allow quick oxygen intake.
Comparison to Other Big Cats
Unlike other big cats, cheetahs don’t establish permanent territories or rest exclusively at night:
- Lions – Live in pride and sleep together at a communal den site at night. Males patrol territories and mark boundaries.
- Leopards – Lead solitary lives and rest during the day in trees or rocky areas. Have larger nocturnal ranges.
- Tigers – Occupy fixed territories. Mainly nocturnal and sleep in sheltered areas like caves, grass or forests during the day.
- Jaguars – Live alone and are primarily nocturnal. Rest during the day in sheltered thickets or dense undergrowth.
The cheetah’s adaptable, nomadic nature means it behaves differently than these other powerful felines.
A cheetah’s sleeping habits provide key insights into their specialized adaptations for life in the challenging African landscape. By seeking out certain locations and sleeping during the hottest parts of the day, cheetahs conserve their energy stores for pursuing prey. Their ability to remain vigilant and flee quickly from slumber is also critical for survival. Understanding where and how cheetahs sleep in the wild highlights the remarkable symbiosis between their behavior, physiology, and environment.
- The Cheetah’s Speed Limit, https://blog.wcs.org/