Cheetahs can’t mate with leopards because leopards attack and kill cheetahs in the wild and in captivity there have been no matings.
A question which asks if cheetahs can mate with leopards is indicative of human interest in hybrid wild cats. However, you won’t find any reference to one species of wild cat mating with another species in the great books on the wild cats. Scientifically it is of little interest. The interest comes from the public.
My research has to be online where there is one major source: Messybeast.com by Sarah Hartwell. She has a page on cheetah hybrids including a cheetah/leopard mating which would produce a ‘cheetapard’ kitten.
She writes that there have been ‘sporadic reports of a cheetapard..’ A cheetah with a leopard coat pattern. These would be purported sightings in the wild. A rather vague statement indicating to me that they don’t exist in the wild. The reason is obvious: the more aggressive and larger leopard is a threat to the adult cheetah. Leopards kill adult cheetahs. ‘The timid, retiring cheetah keeps its distance and maintains a careful lookout for these other predators’ (Wild Cats Of The World, page 24). Hard to imagine a female cheetah having sex with a male leopard, isn’t it?
In captivity she writes that ‘the two animals COULD be reared together and a mating arranged’ – I capitalised the word to emphasis it. The point I am making is that it has not happened. If there was a cheetapard in captivity we’d know about it. And if it was feasible it would have been tried in my opinion because there are thousands of private zoo owners in the US who love to mess with mating lions with tigers to create weird and wonderful hybrids.
My conclusion is that cheetahs cannot mate with leopards. Some say it is possible genetically while others say it is not because of the cheetahs very specialist body conformation designed for speed. To re-emphasis: if they could mate they would have by now in America in captivity because they’d be a great money maker for the private zoo owner.
If anyone can correct me I’d be delighted. Please leave a comment and I’ll add it to the article is it is good enough.