The purpose of the current study was to investigate the factors which influence the prevalence of stereotypical behaviour in captive cheetahs, An information theory approach highlighted that the most optimal model was the controllable husbandry factors model with the size of enclosures, group membership, feeding regime and the ability to view other cheetahs in adjacent enclosures being the significant factors within the model which determined the occurrence of stereotypical behaviour. Increasing size of enclosure decreased this behaviour, whilst being solitary, being fed on a predictable feeding regime and having the ability to view other cheetahs in adjacent enclosures increased levels of stereotypical behaviour. These findings allow zoological institutions to focus on these factors in order to reduce the occurrence of stereotypical behaviour in captive cheetahs. Although cheetahs were used as the subject animal in this study, this type of research can be utilised for any captive species in order to understand unwanted behaviours or behaviours that zoological institutions wish to promote, so a behaviourally healthy captive population can be exhibited, reproduced and subsequently conserved. (C) 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.