Can You Own Cheetahs As Pets?

Can you keep cheetahs as pets? While it might be possible in some countries the answer should always be no! In the United States, it is illegal to own cheetahs. Additionally, most wild animals make terrible pets and it’s no different in cheetahs. Read on to learn more about the different aspects which make keeping them very difficult and also highly unethical.

Pet cheetah

I can understand people that want a special pet very well. Sadly most exotic pets are not a great fit and people lose interest fast when they recognize it.

Many animals end up spending the rest of their sad lives in a rescue shelter as they can’t be released anymore. Everyone who thinks about getting a special “pet” should consider this aspect of exotic pet care.

All animals which aren’t domesticated can live their full potential and best life only in their natural habitat.

Is It Legal To Own A Pet Cheetah?

No, in most countries it is highly illegal to keep cheetahs as pets. This is for the US, Canada and other western countries. Trading with cheetahs is prohibited and high penalties are the risk for people who embark on the illegal pet trade.

Only rescue shelters can get a license or permit. These feline predators are at risk and every individual should remain in the wild.

Most pet cheetahs live in the United Arab Emirates and are a status symbol for the rich in these countries. Their owners feel special about themselves when they can show everyone that they have control over one of these animals.

Instagram is the place where they show pictures and get attention. It’s a vicious circle as some people who see the fame that comes with owning exotic cats develops the desire of getting one for themselves.

However, gladly the government of the UAE banned pet cheetahs a few years ago which is a step in the right direction. Sadly that doesn’t stop people with enough money to buy cheetah kittens nonetheless.

Especially in Kuwait, it’s common to show the power a person has through ignoring the laws concerning pet trade.

For private persons, there is no way to get a license for keeping a pet cheetah.

The Unethical Aspects Of Pet Cheetahs

Fast running cheetah

As I mentioned before there are a lot of downsides to wanting a pet cheetah. The most important is the endangerment of the species. The most important threat is habitat loss and in the last century, the number of cheetahs in Africa and Asia declined from 100,000 down to under 7,000 individuals.

Although pet trade isn’t the main danger and appr. 300 cheetah babies that are taken from the wild doesn’t sound much, every individual counts.

A big problem is that cheetahs are hard to breed. Breeding happens pretty much never in captivity. So all pet cheetahs are taken from mother nature.

By this time the genetic pool of cheetahs in most parts of their natural environment is so small that inbreeding happens quite often. With that comes the problem of many diseases.

Another sad aspect is that the mother is often killed by hunters to take their kittens. As cheetahs are very sensitive to stress many die during shipping. Experts estimate that 4 out of 6 cubs die this way.

Most people that are about buying a cheetah don’t know how to take proper care. It might be obvious for most people that one should do the research but some are different.

Often pet cheetahs only live short lives for under a year. Malnourishment and wrong treatment lead to diseases that end fatally.

Can Cheetahs Be Domesticated?

No, cheetahs aren’t domesticated, nor can they be. When you see pictures of people with pet cheetahs on Instagram it looks like they are domesticated towards our needs. But nothing could be more wrong.

Of course, a cheetah is different compared to a lion, a puma or any other species of the big cat family. Cheetahs are more docile and often friendly towards humans.

Surprisingly the predators are often shy and keep a safe distance from humans. There are no reported attacks in the wild says an expert at the Florida conservation center.

That being said, attacks in captivity did happen and are often the consequence of behavior from humans. Never underestimate the power of wild animals and keep your distance.

In these situations lies also the difference between domestication and taming. While domestication describes the process of selective breeding and needs many generations to take place, taming is very possible.

Young cubs can be tamed by raising them from a very young age. They can be playful and affectionate. But you might have to deal with their wild instincts at any time.

The Temperament And Behavior Of Cheetahs

Cheetah laying tired in grass

As I’ve already said, cheetahs are more friendly or less dangerous for humans than other big cats. They are docile, playful and sometimes they like to cuddle.

Zoos and shelters often give cheetahs a dog as companion. Surprisingly this works very well and is good for enrichment although cheetahs are loners in their natural habitat.

As friendly as the cats can be as pets they will definitely mess up your house. Furniture and carpets will be sprayed and chewed on. Be prepared that everything you own will now belong to them.

As the fastest animal in the world cheetahs aren’t made for a life in a small enclosure. They have to run to stay healthy and therefore need much outside space. Think of one acre or more if you want something species-appropriate. 

Cheetahs Need A Special Diet

The diet of cheetahs is not as complicated as the one of anteaters for example. But people mess it up nonetheless.

These cats are strict carnivores so many tend to offer a chicken or other poultry day in day out. While this might be a good choice nothing could be more wrong if you learn more about the dietary needs of this animal.

In the wild, they hunt for antelopes, springboks, offspring of bigger mammals and even rabbits. They do go after different birds occasionally but nutritionwise they need the meat of mammals to stay healthy. You can learn more about the diet of cheetahs in the linked article.

How Much Is A Pet Cheetah?

Cheetah mother with kittens

Cheetahs are only for sale at the black market. Buying one of these animals as pets would be highly illegal. Therefore the price is usually high as sellers want a premium to compensate for their risk.

In the UAE I read from owners that they paid $3000 for a smuggled cheetah kitten. However, I think the prices per cub would be a lot higher in the US. Authorities take a closer look here and therefore traders need to ask for more money.

Have in mind that the costs of owning a pet cheetah don’t stop after the initial purchase. You would need to build an enclosure with much space to run. Costs for meat and veterinary care are also adding up quickly. 


Can You Ride A Cheetah?

No, you can’t ride a cheetah. I don’t actually know, why so many people are asking this. Cheetahs are too small to carry the weight of a human. The high weight would cause injuries of their back and spine.