Growth rates and energy intake of hand-reared cheetah cubs (Acinonyx jubatus) in South Africa


K. M. Bell, Cheetah Outreach Trust, PO Box 116, Lynedoch, 7603, Cape Town, South Africa. Tel: +44 (0)75 300 40919; E-mail:


Growth rate is an important factor in neonatal survival. The aim of this study was to determine growth rates in hand-reared cheetah cubs in South Africa fed a prescribed energy intake, calculated for growth in the domestic cat. Growth was then compared with previously published data from hand-reared cubs in North America and the relationship between growth and energy intake explored. Daily body weight (BW) gain, feed and energy intake data was collected from 18 hand-reared cheetah cubs up to 120 days of age. The average pre-weaning growth rate was 32 g/day, which is lower than reported in mother-reared cubs and hand-reared cubs in North American facilities. However, post-weaning growth increased to an average of 55 g/day. Growth was approximately linear prior to weaning, but over the entire age range it exhibited a sigmoidal shape with an asymptotic plateau averaging 57 kg. Energy intake associated with pre-weaning growth was 481 kJ ME/kg BW0.75. Regression analysis described the relationship between metabolic BW, metabolisable energy (ME) intake, and hence daily weight gain. This relationship may be useful in predicting energy intake required to achieve growth rates in hand-reared cheetah cubs similar to those observed for their mother-reared counterparts.