Developed at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, the robot is the fastest in its category of small quadruped robots under 65 pounds, its developers said.
During tests, it was able to run nearly seven times its body length in 1 second, they said.
The scientists based the design of the robot on the meticulous observation and faithful reproduction of the feline leg, with the number of segments -- three on each leg -- and their proportions the same as they are on a cat.
"This morphology gives the robot the mechanical properties from which cats benefit, that's to say a marked running ability and elasticity in the right spots, to ensure stability," Alexander Sprowitz of EPFL's Biorobotics Laboratory said.
The robot is extremely light, compact and robust, and can be assembled from inexpensive, readily available materials, researchers said.
"It's still in the experimental stages, but the long-term goal of the cheetah-cub robot is to be able to develop fast, agile, ground-hugging machines for use in exploration, for example for search and rescue in natural disaster situations," program director Auke Ijspeert said.