Yes, cheetahs do climb trees but not as adeptly as leopards (the most skilled large cat climber). It has been said that their non-retractable claws are better suited to running and turning on the ground. In terms of tree climbing standards the cheetah is probably on a par with the lion.
Despite this slight obstacle to their climbing abilities their social organisation behaviour includes ‘a great interest in scent marks [by both sexes]’.
Both sexes frequently sniff tree trunks, stumps, termite mounds and elevated areas which have been sprayed with urine.
In Namibia and Botswana, certain easy-to-climb trees with sloping trunks and horizontal branches are focal scent marking points in cheetah home ranges. Locally known as ‘playtrees’ these scent marking stations are used as bait by farmers who want to trap cheetahs…
The picture on this page by Paul Goldstein shows a cheetah mother and her offspring using a playtree. It clearly indicates that cheetahs climb trees.
The video below shows a tree climbing cheetah. You can see that she is not completely comfortable with the exercise as she climbs rather clumsily compared to the fabulous climbing skills of the leopard. It seems that she sprays the tree where the major sloping branch forks outwards. The sloping branch which is easy to navigate probably attracted this cheetah.
Cheetah mothers with her cubs also frequently pause to look around. They may select a mound but perhaps on occasion they may climb an easy-to-climb tree to observe the surrounding landscape for predators.
Note: the quotes come from Wild Cats of the World by Mel and Fiona Sunquist.
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