Cheetahs

People love kitty cats.  They were among the original darlings of internet culture.  Their peculiar expressions and oblique demeanor trended them towards the very unique and memorable–that combined with their fairly impressive problem-solving skills and undaunted hunting instinct.  Dogs have never really received the same status.  They’re not very independent and altogether predictable in their behavior; this makes them bad television.  And while it seems that most households prefer to have dogs than cats, the internet has a much differently pronounced opinion.

Canines and felines compose fairly large families under the mammalian umbrella constituted in a great number of species, indicating the success of the model, but I would argue that canines are nevertheless more diverse in their physical form and behavior intended for different hunting and reproductive strategies.  A cat, however, is just a cat.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a house-cat or a lion; they are all cats, and they all speak cat.  In fact, if you’re familiar with the physical cues and vocalizations of house-cats, you could probably read the very same with good accuracy in any species of cat under the sun.

It used to make me wonder why the other cats were never domesticated, sometimes never even tamed.  Sometimes I think that my own cats would eat me if they were only larger.  They’re ambush predators, and simply turning the back induces a powerful hunting instinct in this case only mollified by their small size, but if you tried the same thing with a tiger, no matter how much you might know that tiger, you might not live to regret it.

Now I mentioned that cats, in general, are ambush predators.  This means they try to get up real close to their prey and ideally pounced before their prey has the time to react, ensuring a clean and quick kill minus all the running and screaming.  This is why turning the back induces this hunting instinct, even if the animal might be completely sated.

Now Cheetahs are similar, but in a way they aren’t.  They certainly prefer to slink up to their prey and close the distance before being noticed, but thanks to their magnificent velocity, they don’t have to catch their prey unawares; they can just chase him down.  You might more appropriately call them chase predators.  So the interesting thing is, with a tamed cheetah, turning the back won’t induce a hunting response, meaning you can largely trust the animal when your focus is distracted.  Combine this with the fact that cheetahs often form social units of their own for mutual hunting, and you have an interesting animal.

Thanks to their sociability and hunting style, they can be tamed very successfully.  In the past, they’ve been used as prized hunting animals by kings in far off lands in activities that would simply be too dangerous with a tiger or lion.  And this has made me wonder, “Could they be domesticated?”  The most limiting factor I can think of is the cheetah’s requirement for a wide prowling area, about eight hundred square kilometers, which hardly any handler or enclosure could provide.