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Puma vs. Cheetah — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Updated on September 28, 2023
A Puma is a large, solitary cat predominantly found in the Americas, known for its strength and agility, while a Cheetah is a distinctive spotted cat native to Africa and parts of Iran, renowned for being the fastest land animal.
Puma vs. Cheetah — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Puma and Cheetah


Key Differences

Puma and Cheetah are two different species of large cats adapted to their unique lifestyles and environments. A Puma, also known as a cougar or mountain lion, is a versatile and adaptive cat primarily found in diverse habitats across the Americas. It is known for its agility, strength, and ability to adapt to various terrains, from mountains to forests. In contrast, a Cheetah is a specialized hunter native to the grasslands of Africa and some regions of Iran, distinguishable by its slender body, large nostrils, and distinctive black “tear marks” on its face, adapted to run at incredibly high speeds to catch prey.
The Puma is renowned for its powerful legs and strong muscular body, enabling it to be an excellent climber and jumper. It primarily preys on deer and smaller mammals, employing a mix of stealth and power to hunt. Unlike the puma, the cheetah has a light and aerodynamically built body, specialized for speed, capable of reaching speeds up to 58-64 miles per hour in pursuit of antelopes and gazelles. Its hunting strategy relies heavily on its extraordinary speed and keen eyesight during the day to spot and catch prey.
In appearance, the puma has a uniform tan or tawny coat without any significant markings, a compact face, and round pupils. On the other hand, the cheetah has a distinctive coat patterned with black spots, a small head with high-set eyes, and tear-like streaks on its face, with its physique optimized for speed over strength, and its pupils are small and vertically slit.
The lifestyle of a puma is highly adaptable, it can live in various habitats and is known for its solitary and territorial nature. It has the largest range of any wild terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere, extending from the Yukon in Canada to the Southern Andes in South America. Contrarily, cheetahs have a more specialized lifestyle, primarily inhabiting savannas and open areas, their populations are mainly found in sub-Saharan Africa, with a small, vulnerable population in Iran.
To sum up, while both the puma and cheetah are remarkable carnivores, they have adapted differently to their environments, the puma being a versatile, powerful predator capable of living in diverse habitats across the Americas, and the cheetah, a speed specialist with a distinctive appearance adapted to the open terrains of Africa and parts of Iran.

Comparison Chart


Found in diverse habitats across the Americas.
Native to African grasslands and parts of Iran.

Physical Attributes

Powerful, agile, muscular, and uniform coat.
Slender, aerodynamic, and spotted coat.

Hunting Style

Uses a mix of stealth and power, hunts day & night.
Relies on extraordinary speed, hunts primarily during the day.


Fast but not specialized for speed.
Fastest land animal, reaching up to 58-64 mph.


Round pupils.
Vertically slit pupils.

Compare with Definitions


Puma's primary prey are deer and smaller mammals.
The puma employs stealth and power in its hunting strategy.


A distinctive large cat known for being the fastest land animal, native to Africa and parts of Iran.
The cheetah can reach incredible speeds in pursuit of its prey.


A large, solitary cat, known for its strength and agility, found predominantly in the Americas.
The puma can easily adapt to various environments and terrains.


It has a slender, aerodynamically built body optimized for speed.
The cheetah's unique physique allows it to accelerate rapidly.


It has round pupils and a compact face.
The puma's muscular body is designed for strength and agility.


It primarily hunts during the day, relying on extraordinary speed and eyesight.
The cheetah is a specialized hunter, primarily preying on antelopes and gazelles.


Also known as a cougar or mountain lion, it has a uniform tan or tawny coat.
The puma's powerful limbs enable it to be an excellent jumper and climber.


Recognizable by its spotted coat and distinctive black “tear marks” on its face.
The cheetah uses its keen eyesight to spot prey from a distance.


It has a highly adaptable lifestyle, able to inhabit diverse habitats.
The range of the puma extends from Canada to the Southern Andes in South America.


The cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) is a large cat native to Africa and central Iran. It is the fastest land animal, estimated to be capable of running at 80 to 128 km/h (50 to 80 mph) with the fastest reliably recorded speeds being 93 and 98 km/h (58 and 61 mph), and as such has several adaptations for speed, including a light build, long thin legs and a long tail.


A German multinational corporation that designs and manufactures athletic and casual footwear, apparel and accessories


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 large American wild cat with a plain tawny to greyish coat, found from Canada to Patagonia.


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.


See cougar.


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 mountain lion or cougar (Puma concolor).


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


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


It inhabits savannas and open areas and is mostly found in sub-Saharan Africa.
Cheetah populations are vulnerable and are mainly confined to specific regions in Africa.


(slang) A woman in her 20s or 30s who seeks relationships with younger men; a younger cougar.


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.


Large American feline resembling a lion

Common Curiosities

Where is the puma predominantly found?

The puma is predominantly found in diverse habitats across the Americas.

What is the cheetah renowned for?

The cheetah is renowned for being the fastest land animal.

Is the cheetah’s coat pattern distinctive?

Yes, the cheetah has a distinctive coat patterned with black spots and unique “tear marks” on its face.

How does a cheetah primarily catch its prey?

The cheetah relies on its extraordinary speed and keen eyesight to catch prey, primarily during the day.

Is the puma also known by other names?

Yes, the puma is also known as a cougar or mountain lion.

Can pumas adapt to various environments?

Yes, pumas are highly adaptable and can inhabit a variety of environments and terrains.

What is the primary prey of pumas?

Pumas primarily prey on deer and smaller mammals.

Where are cheetahs mainly located?

Cheetahs are mainly located in sub-Saharan Africa and some parts of Iran.

How does the puma primarily hunt?

The puma employs a mix of stealth and power to hunt, active both during the day and night.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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