New-born baby cheetah have very dark fur, with the spots almost blending and barely visible. During the first few weeks a thick yellowish-grey coat, called a mantle, grows along the cub’s back. The dark color helps to camouflage the cub by blending into the shadows, and causes it to resemble a honey badger; honey badgers are ferocious small predators, and so are usually left alone by other animals. The mantle is also thought to help regulate the cubs’ temperature against rain and the heat of the sun.
The mantle starts to disappear at around four and a half, five months old, but the last traces of it are still present at over two years of age.
Cheetah cubs grow rapidly and have reached half their adult size at six months of age. By the time they are eight months old they have lost the last of their milk teeth, and they start trying to stalk and hunt, though these are usually clumsy and unsuccessful attempts. Cubs learn how to hunt from their mothers, but they also learn from play fighting with their siblings. They will stalk, chase and wrestle each other and this helps to refine their technique. They will stalk anything they see, and through this they learn what is not suitable prey, such as the larger antelope species.
Males will often form coalitions or partnerships with their brothers, or other unrelated males, as it is easier for them to hunt larger prey together. It also enables them to better hold their territories against other rival cheetahs. Females are always solitary, except when with cubs.