Abnormal and stereotypic behaviors in captive cheetahs

The captive environment is characterized by relatively high population densities, limited space, readily available food at regular intervals and physical barriers that prevent dispersal and immigration (Newberry, 1995). Because of these characteristics, captive animals often have limited opportunities to exhibit their natural behaviors and thus lead to the development of abnormal and stereotypic behaviors.

What is abnormal behavior?

Abnormal behaviors may develop in animals housed in captivity if they cannot exhibit their natural behavior. Common abnormal behaviors that can be seen in captive animals may include self-mutilation, copraphagy, lethargy, and stereotypies (Meyer-Holzapfel, 1968).

What is stereotypic behavior?

Stereotypical behaviors in captive animals can be induced by either frustration or malfuction (Mason et al., 2007). Frustration-induced stereotypical behaviors can be driven by motivation frustration, fear or physical discomfort and malfunction-inducted stereotypical behaviors are products of central nervous system abnormality. Stereotypical behavior can be described as repetitive, unvarying and apparently functionless behavior (Mason, 1991). These behaviors are only seen in captive animals and not in their wild counterparts, and therefore are considered abnormal.

Examples of stereotypical behaviors in captive cheetahs include pacing, body-rocking, repetitive jumping and self-biting (Quirke et al., 2012).

Below is a video clip showing stereotypic pacing in captive cheetah.

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