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Puma vs. Cheetah: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on December 21, 2023
A puma is a large, solitary cat native to the Americas, known for its strength and agility, while a cheetah is the fastest land animal, native to Africa and parts of Iran, distinguished by its speed and spotted coat.

Key Differences

A puma, also known as a cougar or mountain lion, is known for its large size and powerful build, adept at climbing and leaping. In contrast, a cheetah is recognized for its incredible speed, capable of reaching up to 60-70 mph in short bursts.
The puma's coat is usually a uniform tan or light brown color, helping it blend into a variety of landscapes. The cheetah, on the other hand, has a distinctive spotted coat, which aids in camouflage in grassy savannas.
Pumas are more adaptable in terms of habitat, found in mountains, forests, and deserts. Cheetahs are primarily found in open landscapes like savannas and grasslands, where they can utilize their speed.
In hunting, pumas rely on strength and stealth, often ambushing their prey. Cheetahs use their extraordinary speed to outrun prey over short distances.
Pumas have a broader range, spanning from North to South America, while cheetahs are mostly confined to sub-Saharan Africa, with a small population in Iran.

Comparison Chart


Agile and strong, but not exceptionally fast
World's fastest land animal, up to 70 mph


Uniform tan or light brown
Distinctive black spots on golden coat


Mountains, forests, deserts
Open landscapes like savannas, grasslands

Hunting Strategy

Ambush predator, relies on stealth and power
Uses high speed to chase down prey

Geographical Range

North to South America
Mainly sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Iran

Puma and Cheetah Definitions


A puma is known for its agility and strength.
The puma leaped effortlessly onto the tree branch.


A cheetah has non-retractable claws for better grip.
The cheetah's claws gripped the ground, aiding in its high-speed pursuit.


A puma is a solitary and adaptable predator.
The puma roamed the vast forest, searching for its next meal.


A cheetah is known for its slender build and spotted coat.
The cheetah's spotted coat provided camouflage in the tall grass.


A puma is a large American wild cat.
The hiker spotted a puma in the distance, blending seamlessly with the rocky terrain.


A cheetah specializes in short, high-speed chases.
The cheetah used its burst of speed to outpace the antelope.


A puma is also called a cougar or mountain lion.
The cougar, another name for the puma, is a skilled hunter.


A cheetah is the fastest land animal.
The cheetah sprinted across the savanna, swiftly catching up to its prey.


A puma is a powerful cat with a broad range.
Pumas are found from the Canadian Rockies to the Andes in South America.


A cheetah is an African wild cat.
Cheetahs are a symbol of the wild beauty of the African plains.


See cougar.


A long-legged, swift-running wild cat (Acinonyx jubatus) of Africa and southwest Asia, having tawny, black-spotted fur and nonretractile claws. The cheetah, the fastest animal on land, can run for short distances at about 96 kilometers (60 miles) per hour.


A mountain lion or cougar (Puma concolor).


A distinctive member (Acinonyx jubatus) of the cat family, slightly smaller than the leopard, but with proportionately longer limbs and a smaller head; native to Africa and southeast Asia (where it is nearly extinct) and also credited with being the fastest terrestrial animal.


(by extension) Any feline belonging to the genus Puma.


A species of leopard (Cynælurus jubatus) tamed and used for hunting in India. The woolly cheetah of South Africa is Cynælurus laneus. It runs very fast in short spurts while hunting.


A large American carnivore (Felis concolor), found from Canada to Patagonia, especially among the mountains. Its color is tawny, or brownish yellow, without spots or stripes. Called also catamount, cougar, American lion, mountain lion, and panther or painter.


Long-legged spotted cat of Africa and southwestern Asia having nonretractile claws; the swiftest mammal; can be trained to run down game


Large American feline resembling a lion


Can pumas climb trees?

Yes, pumas are adept climbers.

Are pumas endangered?

Pumas are not currently endangered but face habitat threats.

What is the scientific name of a puma?

The scientific name is Puma concolor.

What is the average lifespan of a puma?

Pumas live approximately 8-13 years in the wild.

What do cheetahs eat?

Cheetahs primarily eat small to medium-sized ungulates.

Are cheetahs solitary animals?

Yes, except for mothers with cubs and some male coalitions.

How large can pumas grow?

Adult pumas can weigh between 115-220 pounds.

What type of habitat do pumas prefer?

Pumas are adaptable to a variety of habitats.

How fast can a cheetah run?

A cheetah can reach speeds of 60-70 mph.

What is the scientific name of a cheetah?

The scientific name is Acinonyx jubatus.

How are cheetahs different from other big cats?

Cheetahs have a slender build and are specialized for speed.

Do pumas have any natural predators?

Adult pumas have few natural predators but face threats from humans.

Do cheetahs climb trees?

Cheetahs are not typically tree climbers like some other cats.

How do cheetahs raise their young?

Cheetah mothers raise cubs alone, teaching them to hunt and survive.

How do pumas hunt?

Pumas use stealth and power to ambush prey.

What is the cheetah's role in the ecosystem?

Cheetahs help control prey populations and maintain balance.

Can pumas and cheetahs interbreed?

No, they are different species with different geographical ranges.

How do pumas communicate?

Pumas communicate through vocalizations, scent marking, and body language.

What challenges do cheetahs face in the wild?

Habitat loss, human conflict, and declining prey are major challenges.

Are pumas part of any cultural legends or stories?

Yes, pumas feature in many Native American myths and folklore.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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