A typical adult cheetah weighs between 80 and 140 pounds, and eats about six pounds of meat per day. They rarely drink more than once every four to ten days.
Cheetahs live on medium-sized prey (usually up to about 85 lbs), such as gazelles, impala, wildebeest calves, and even hares. Typically, they will stalk their prey until they are within about 100 feet before they launch their attack. Because of their lightning-fast acceleration, the actual chase at the end of a hunt averages about 550 feet and lasts only 20 seconds.
Cheetahs are easily recognized by the black "teardrop" markings down the sides of their faces (not found on leopards or jaguars). Additionally, they stand out by being the only member of the cat family whose claws don't retract into a protective sheath, but remain exposed to help with traction. Cheetahs are the largest member of the "small cat" classification, distinguished from the "large cats" by the fact that they can purr, but cannot roar.
Native to Africa and southern Asia, this majestic animal has been relentlessly hunted for its coat, and has been forced onto the endangered species list. There are now probably fewer than 25,000 cheetahs in all of Africa.