Are Cheetahs Friendly? [Not Quite – Keep Your Distance!]

Photo: Scott Canning / Shutterstock

When it comes to cheetahs, “friendly” is a subjective term that needs context. In human terms, it can mean going out of your way to help another.

With cheetahs, however, you have to view it from two angles: are the animals friendly (i.e., non-aggressive) to humans, and are they friendly (i.e., sociable) with other animals?

Cheetahs are not inherently aggressive animals, but they aren’t friendly, either. They are wild predators that will defend themselves if necessary. However, they are the friendliest of African big cats, and are not known for killing humans.

Cheetah Behavior Towards Humans

It is true that cheetahs are thought to be one of the friendliest of the big cat species. This is in spite of being less social among their species than other big cats.

Lions, for example, have prides ranging in size from 3 to 30 lions. Cheetahs tend to be solitary creatures, or only form small groups.

Leopards and tigers are also solitary but show more aggression than cheetahs. Tigers are well known to attack humans, killing between 50 and 250 people each year in the Sundarbans. 

Leopards also attack people, sometimes being called “man eaters”.

Lions are even known to kill smaller predators, including cheetahs, just for dominance. They also kill up to 100 humans per year in Tanzania. 

On the other hand, there is no documentation of a wild cheetah killing a human. 

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Cheetah’s Behavior (And Friendliness) In The Wild

Cheetahs are wild animals that prey on others. Learning more about the nature of wild cheetahs will help you better understand their temperament.

Their social structure and habitat demonstrate how and why they’re not overly aggressive. Their way of hunting, however, shows why they’re loners as well.


Cheetahs live mostly in the south of the Sahara, in the southern and eastern ranges of Africa. There are a few small populations of cheetahs in Iran and North Africa as well.

These big cats prefer open plains and grasslands. They tend to stay away from human populations, which shows that even if they aren’t aggressive, they’re not inclined to be friendly, either.


There’s a difference between the social behaviors of female and male cheetahs. Females are solitary animals, only joining a group when they have cubs. If friendliness implies sociability, female cheetahs are not that friendly.

Male cheetahs can also be found on their own, but they’re more likely to form small groups with their male relatives. These groups are called coalitions, and they are often made up of two siblings. 

Sometimes, however, the pairs of siblings will allow a third, unrelated cheetah to join their group. They often participate in “affiliative behavior,” such as grooming each other.

Additionally, aggression between groups of coalitions doesn’t happen often, either in the wild or in captivity. If two groups of cheetahs are evenly matched, they tend not to bother each other.

Cheetahs are neutral in terms of sociability and friendship; they will form small groups and care for each other, but these groups are familial and don’t include many outsiders.

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If a group comes into contact with another evenly matched group, they neither seek to combine nor be aggressive.

Hunting Methods

The main prey of cheetahs are different types of antelope, including the impala, duiker, and springbok. They will also eat smaller animals, as well as the young of larger antelope species and wildebeest.

Cheetahs prefer to stalk slowly after their prey, getting as close as possible before jumping up and chasing them down. Cheetahs can run up to between 65 and 75 miles per hour, making them the fastest land animals on earth.

There’s little need for other cheetahs in their hunting methods; they can take down single prey on their own and prefer not to share. Cheetahs will only eat fresh meat and have to consume their prey quickly before scavengers come along. 

They also don’t need to prey on captive livestock from farms, as they don’t like fatty meat. This is another reason they don’t have much desire to interact with humans. They have little to gain by being friendly with humans or even other cheetahs.


Cheetahs don’t go out of their way to be friendly towards humans. They are often solitary animals, or at best form very small groups with siblings.

Even so, cheetahs are not known for their aggression towards humans or other cheetahs. They are considered one of the most “friendly” species of big cats.

It’s important to note, however, that they are still wild animals. They have teeth and claws capable of inflicting damage to humans and other animals. They should be approached with caution, and they should never be kept as pets.

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James Ball

James has had a lifelong passion for animals and nature, tracing back to his childhood where he first began fostering intimate knowledge and connection with pet frogs and snakes. He has since honed this interest into a career as a trained Wildlife Biologist, specializing in Biogeography, sustainability and conservation. In addition to his professional pursuits, James maintains an active lifestyle, regularly indulging in outdoor activities such as hiking, and musical pursuits like playing piano and swimming.

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