Cheetah symbolism and meanings include speed, adaptability, grace, beauty, vulnerability, and other special qualities. Native to Africa, cheetahs are revered for their beauty, grace, and speed. Their special qualities make them among the most revered wild cats to people around the world. So, naturally, they have deep symbolic meaning to many people.
In this post, we’ll explore cheetah symbolism and meaning, including their spiritual meanings, as well as the cheetah spirit animal, cheetah folklore, and more.
Table of Contents
What does the cheetah symbolize?
Here are some of the special qualities that the cheetah embodies. We’ll go into more detail on these attributes and how their symbolic meanings might be applied to your own life.
- Elegant Beauty
Cheetah Symbolism: Speed
One of the traits the cheetah is most famous for is their unmatched speed. In fact, the cheetah is the world’s fastest land animal, capable of reaching speeds of up to 70 miles per hour (113 km).1
Indeed, speed is the cheetah’s not-so-secret sauce. So, the cheetah spirit animal is a powerful reminder that life moves more quickly than you might realize. Don’t put things off, or the world might pass you by. If you have goals and dreams, focus on them and pursue them with intensity and speed. At every moment, something sacred is at stake.
The cheetah is known to hunt during the day, which is unusual behavior for most cats. The reason for this is that the cheetah has been forced to adapt due to competition. With their fellow African wild cats the lion and the leopard hunting at night, the cheetah has taken over the day shift in an intelligent move to maximize their success rate.
As well, the cheetah’s beautiful spotted fur is another adaptation. The cheetah’s black, tan, and ivory coat helps them to blend into surroundings. This helps them to be stealthy as they hunt. It also protects them from predators when they’re cubs.
The cheetah’s ability to adapt has been their saving grace in a very competitive and even hostile environment.
So, if a cheetah makes themselves known to you, whether in real life, the media, or elsewhere, it can be a sign to adjust or adapt your tactics in order to achieve better outcomes. The cheetah doesn’t say, “Oh, this is just too hard, too competitive, too dangerous…” No, the cheetah says – “Adapt or die!”
Though they are incredibly fast and adept hunters, the cheetah is among the world’s most endangered cats. The main reason for this is a shrinking of their natural habitat as well as poaching. In addition, cheetah cubs are extremely vulnerable to predation by lions and hyenas.
This vulnerability inspired an African folktale about the cheetah’s cubs, which you can read about in the mythology section below.
So, on a symbolic level, the cheetah represents the importance of self-care and protecting yourself, those you love, and your boundaries.
If a cheetah comes into your purview, it can be a sign that even if you feel on top of things and capable of handling all that life throws your way, remember your own vulnerabilities and be sure to protect yourself and those who are important to you.
Cheetah Meaning: Grace and Elegance
In addition to their incredible speed, cheetahs are known for their graceful movements. These sleek and agile cats move with a fluidity that is unmatched by most other animals. Their long, slender bodies and powerful legs allow them to move effortlessly, and their tails serve as a counterbalance to help them make sharp turns at high speeds.
The grace of the cheetah is not just physical, however. These cats also possess a quiet confidence and poise that is evident in the way they carry themselves. They’re calm and deliberate, never wasting energy on unnecessary movements or actions. This has led to the cheetah becoming a symbol of grace and elegance.
If you are drawn to the cheetah, you might consider how you can embrace a more graceful and elegant way of moving through your own life. In a way, the cheetah embodies the idea of being in flow.
The cheetah may be reminding you to pay more attention to how you carry yourself. This quality can extend beyond physical movements to how you express yourself and even how you approach challenges. Envision doing so with the grace of the cheetah.
Cheetahs are arguably one of the world’s most beautiful cats. From their Cleopatra-like “eyeliner” around their eyes to the gorgeous coats and graceful movements, the cheetah is a stunner.
The cheetah reminds us to appreciate the beauty in our lives. This could mean walking in nature, making or enjoying art and music, beautifying our home, or cherishing beautiful moments with friends and family. Without beauty, the world would be a dreary place.
Nurturing and Protection
Cheetah mothers are incredibly devoted to and protective of their cubs. In fact, cheetah cubs stay with their mothers until they are nearly two years old. Cheetah cubs are incredibly vulnerable to predation by hyenas and lions, so cheetah mothers must be intensely vigilant about protecting them.
So, if a cheetah makes themselves known to you, it can be an affirmation that your protective and nurturing instincts are on target. Or, it could be a gentle reminder to exert more care and protection over those you love and that which you hold dear.
Cheetah Symbolism: Traction
The cheetah has an unusual characteristic that is different from other cats: Their claws don’t retract. The reason for this is that the cheetah’s claws give them traction when they run at super-fast speeds. Without this traction, at such a high speed, the cheetah would fall on their face!
Also, because cheetah’s jaws are not as strong as that of a jaguar or lion (who use their powerful jaws when attacking prey), the cheetah instead relies on stretching out a long limb and tripping their prey!2
As a symbol for traction, the cheetah embodies the idea of not giving up. Even if you feel like you repeat certain mistakes in life, the cheetah reminds you that you know more now than you ever have before. So, learn your lessons and keep moving forward. This is how you use the traction you’ve gained in life. As the saying goes, “Net worth equals what you do with what you have.”
The cheetah reminds you that life experience gives you traction, and this can propel you forward. Your unique experiences are what set you apart from the crowd.
Cheetahs use a variety of vocalizations to communicate with each other, including chirping, growling, hissing, and purring.
So, if the cheetah is one of your spirit animals, you are likely a person who is very expressive, whether it’s talking, singing, or even with animated hand gestures! You’re also probably a good mimic.
But if you feel like you’re not being heard or you’re not getting your point access, the cheetah says to adjust your tone! Sometimes that could be talking in a whisper. Other times it could mean using fewer words or even repeating what the other person says so you’re on the same page.
Cheetah Mythology and Folklore
As a wild cat who is native to the African continent, the cheetah is the subject in a number of folkloric tales from the continent. Here are a couple of those stories:
Zulu Cheetah Folktale
The Zulu have a tale about how the cheetah got the black lines that run down their face from their eyes. According to the tale, a lazy hunter was jealous of how well the cheetah hunted. He would spy on her to try to understand her techniques.
One day, after she had caught a gazelle, the hunter saw her bring the carcass back to the tall grass where she fed her three hungry cubs.
He decided he would steal one of the cubs and raise her to hunt for him and his family.
So, when the mother cheetah went to the river to get a drink of water, the hunter snuck up to steal the cub. However, feeling greedy, instead of one cub, he stole all three.
Upon seeing her cubs kidnapped, the mother cheetah wailed, crying so much that the tears running down her face made black marks.
Hearing her cries, a village elder came to ask her what had happened. When the cheetah told her tale, it enraged him. So, the elder returned to the village to gather his warriors who set out to rescue the cubs.
The lazy hunter was expelled from the village and the cheetah’s cubs were returned. However, the tear stains remained permanently on the cheetah’s face because of the trauma she had gone through.3
How the Cheetah Got His Speed
Another tale, told by the Bush People of southern Africa, explains how the cheetah got their speed. According to the tale, the Creator wanted to see which of his animals was the fastest. So, he set up a race that all could enter.
The cheetah entered, but at that time, he did not have claws on his feet, and he knew he would not be able to run without them. So, the wild dog, who did not feel like racing, gave the cheetah his feet.
The race started and soon a small antelope took the lead, with the cheetah coming in second. However, the antelope stumbled on a rock and fell, injuring his leg.
The cheetah could have taken advantage of the situation, eating the antelope and then winning the race. However, instead, he helped his opponent to the finish line.
The Creator was so impressed with the cheetah’s good nature, that he let him be the fastest animal and allowed him to keep his dog feet.4
3 Cheetah Spiritual Meanings
As a powerful being, the cheetah has some important spiritual meanings. Here are three:
1. Nurture your spiritual development. Just as the cheetah is dedicated to nurturing and protecting her cubs, on a spiritual level, the cheetah represents the importance of nurturing your own spiritual development and growth. Protect yourself from cynicism and know there are powerful spiritual forces at work in the Universe.
In addition, though you may have a naturally strong faith, it’s important to maintain spiritual curiosity and to continue learning about other faiths and belief systems, as well as from revered spiritual teachers, both those who have passed and those who are alive today.
2. Acknowledge the vulnerabilities in others. The cheetah is an incredibly fast and skilled hunter. However, they are also extremely vulnerable animals. As you become more spiritually enlightened, your awareness and understanding of what others are experiencing in their lives will expand.
So, on a spiritual level, the cheetah teaches you to look beyond the surface and to know that every one of us has life challenges, insecurities, and vulnerabilities. Having compassion for others is the mark of an enlightened soul.
3. Be gracious. The grace and beauty of the cheetah is emblematic of spiritual grace. As you bring more grace into your thoughts, your actions, and words, you will bring more positive energy to the world.
In addition, an aspect of grace is graciousness. Remember to be grateful for even the simplest aspects of life, such as that you can breathe and that you have the capacity to do better going forward. Also, be sure to show others that you appreciate them.
Cheetah Spirit Animal
If a cheetah makes themselves known to you in real life, art, literature, the media, or elsewhere, pay attention. There are no coincidences. Your spirit animal serves as a guide, bringing you messages from the Universe to help guide you on your soul’s journey.
The cheetah spirit animal is a sublime guide to have on your side. The cheetah is a powerful symbol of spiritual protection and adaptability.
Cheetah people are known to “get things” very fast. You pick up on social cues and shifting sentiments much faster than the average person.
When the cheetah is your spirit animal, you are also a person who is willing to react quickly, adapt, and change course if things don’t go the way you want. Handling changes with finesse, speed, and grace is one of your most valuable traits.
In addition, with the cheetah on your side, you are a person who simply has to set a goal and get started. Because once you do, you accelerate quickly, gaining traction, and no one can beat you!
If you’re curious about other animals who might be your spirit guides, you can take UniGuide’s spirit animal quiz in my general post about spirit animals.
Cheetah Totem Animal
An animal totem encapsulates the protective powers of the animal it represents. Thus, the cheetah totem animal is a protective symbol for bringing more speed and efficiency into your life, while also handling challenges with grace and adaptability.
Indeed, the cheetah totem animal is a protective symbol for yourself or those in your life who are more vulnerable and who depend on you.
Of course, the cheetah totem animal is a good luck symbol for setting goals, gaining traction, and manifesting something that is built to last!
Cheetah Power Animal
As the name suggests, a power animal can empower you with their most dynamic traits. So, if you want to transform an area of your life, consider the attributes that your power animal represents. For example, you can summon the cheetah power animal when you:
- Need to move with great speed and agility to overcome obstacles and achieve your goals.
- Want to be able to handle changes with more grace and finesse.
- Are feeling vulnerable and need to summon your inner strength and fortify your instincts for self-protection.
- Want to gain traction and make progress as you pursue your goals.
- Need to communicate effectively and assertively to get your message across.
- Want to feel more beautiful and elegant. Summon your inner cheetah!
Cheetah Dream Meaning
Undoubtedly, dreaming about a cheetah is a very riveting dream. These extraordinarily felines most likely leave a lasting impression.
Dreams are personal to each dreamer, so how you interpret your dream will depend on the emotions you felt in your dream as well as your personal views about cheetahs. However, applying some of the symbolic meanings associated with cheetahs can bring added insights.
For example, dreaming of a cheetah running at full speed might be a sign of the intensity and impatience that you feel about going after something in your wakeful life.
By the same token, if you dream of a cheetah chasing you, it can be a sign that you feel like you can’t keep up with aspects of your life. Your cheetah dream could be telling you to take a break and calmly assess how you can reprioritize so don’t feel so overwhelmed.
On the other hand, dreaming of a cheetah in a vulnerable state could be a sign that you need to focus on self-care and nurturing yourself better or those you love.
It’s also important to keep in mind that if you dream of a cheetah who is in distress, it could be a sign that you are especially sensitive and tuned into these animals. So, you might consider ways you can help protect them, such as supporting organizations that are working on cheetah conservation.
Cheetah Tattoo Meaning
A cheetah tattoo is a beautiful symbol that can denote a number of powerful qualities. For one, it shows the world that you value these beautiful animals and their exceptional qualities, including their speed, beauty, and grace.
Another cheetah tattoo meaning could be that you are a person who is nurturing your personal and spiritual growth – and you’re not wasting any time doing it!
Along these lines, the cheetah is a powerful symbol that implies you are gaining traction as you pursue your goals.
Of course, tattoos are personal to the one whose skin they adorn. But hopefully learning more about cheetah symbolism will bring added meaning to your tattoo.
How You Can Help Cheetahs
Sadly, wild cheetahs are in grave danger of going extinct. Climate change, hunting, and habitat destruction are all playing a role in lowering vulnerable cheetah populations.5 If you care about these exquisite wild cats, please do what you can to protect them. Here are some organizations that are working on cheetah protection and conservation: