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Cats, Big and Little
Photo of a jaguar's head  (Panthera onca) Photo of a house cat's head Photo of a cougar's head

"...and when the moon gets up and night comes, he is the Cat that walks by himself, and all places are alike to him."

-- Rudyard Kipling, from "The Cat That Walked by Himself"

The cat family, especially the big cats, are an endless source of fascination. There is no more perfect predator on Earth than a cat. They were also never the target of unreasoning hatred the way wolves and wild dogs have been, so for a lot of people the wild cats have come to symbolize the entire natural world. These are some of my books about cats:

General books about cats

These are books that survey the whole cat family, both living and extinct. For several million years Earth has hosted an impressive variety of wild cats, from the tiny desert cat to the mighty tiger. They live all over the world, in almost every climate. In most of the places where they live, they have no rivals for the role of top predator. For various reasons, they've also been the subject of more wildlife studies than any other group of predators.

  • AMERICA'S GREAT CATS
    Author: Turbak, Gary
    Copyright:1986
    Publisher: Northland Publishing
    ISBN: 0-87358-409-0
    Profiles of North America's major wild cats: the cougar, bobcat, and lynx. I recommend it more for the photography than the text. Alan Carey is a superb wildlife photographer, and this book contains some of his better work.
  • BIG CATS AND THEIR FOSSIL RELATIVES, THE
    Author: Turner, Alan
    Copyright:1997
    Publisher: Columbia Univ. Press
    ISBN: 0-231-10228-3
    A look at the paleontology of the cat family (Felidae), including a number of very good illustrations and a summary of all the fossil data known. The cat family has a long and rich fossil record, from the small and primitive Proailurus to the better-known Recent cats such as the sabertooths, and the modern big cats as well. This book also discusses more obscure cat-like fossil animals like the nimravids, which some palaeontologists believe are closely related to the true cats, while others place them in a separate family. The illustrations are by Mauricio Anton, a very fine artist with a special gift for taking fossil skulls and showing what they might have looked like when alive. It's striking how much less bizarre a sabertooth cat looks when most of the length of the long fangs is covered by flesh and skin.
  • GREAT CATS: MAJESTIC CREATURES OF THE WILD
    Author: Various
    Copyright:1991
    Publisher: Rodale Press
    ISBN: 0-87857-965-6
    Encyclopedic examination of the entire cat family, including modern cats and cat evolutionary history. Profiles all known wild cat species, focusing on the big cats but giving a lot of space to small cat species as well. I've found the "taxonomy" section, which gives a classification of all known cat species, invaluable on more than one occasion. Cat classification is in a state of flux right now; this book has a classification which is as good as any I've seen, and makes more sense than most.
  • KINGDOM OF MIGHT: THE WORLD'S BIG CATS
    Author: Brakefield, Tom
    Copyright:1993
    Publisher: Voyageur Press
    ISBN: 0-89658-210-8
    Another coffee-table book that contains a general look at the big cats -- lion, leopard, tiger, cheetah, etc. Like many cat books, this one is better on photos than text.
  • WILD CATS OF THE WORLD
    Author: Guggisberg, C. A. W.
    Copyright:1975
    Publisher: Taplinger
    ISBN:
    An overview of all well-known species of cat. Somewhat outdated now, because it was written in the early 1970s and based in large part on data that was a lot older. Still mildly interesting, though.

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Individual species studies

These are books that focus on one species of cat. Generally they're popular-science type books, with excellent photography. However, there have been a few formal studies of wild cats published in book form, and I have one or two of those as well. Most of these books focus on one of five species: cheetah, cougar, leopard, lion, or tiger.

  • TIGER: PORTRAIT OF A PREDATOR
    Author: Ziesler and Rathore
    Copyright:1986
    Publisher: Facts On File
    ISBN: 0-8160-1238-5
    A close-up look at the tiger: biology, habitat, habits, prey, etc.
  • CHEETAHS OF THE SERENGETI PLAINS
    Author: Caro, T. M.
    Copyright:1994
    Publisher: University of Chicago
    ISBN: 0-226-09434-0
    Cheetahs are unusual cats in a lot of ways. Unlike all other cats, the cheetah is a chase hunter. It doesn't have retractable claws, and it isn't strong enough to defend itself against attackers. The cheetah also has an unusual social life. This book is a scientific study of several cheetahs from the famous Serengeti Plains of East Africa: their lifestyle, prey, social lives, and so on. I don't recommend this for a casual reader, because it's a formal study with all the jargon you might expect in a formal study.
  • COUGAR: GHOST OF THE ROCKIES
    Author: McCall and Dutcher
    Copyright:1992
    Publisher: South Sea Int'l
    ISBN: 0-87156-564-1
    Another profile of the cougar, focusing mainly on a raised-in-captivity female cougar named Catrina and her kittens.
  • COUGAR: THE AMERICAN LION
    Author: Hansen, Kevin
    Copyright:1992
    Publisher: Northland Publishing
    ISBN: 0-87358-544-5
    A profile of the cougar in the wild: habits, physiology, prey, range, etc.
  • PUMA, THE: MYSTERIOUS AMERICAN CAT
    Author: Young, Stanley & Goldman, Edward
    Copyright:1946
    Publisher: Dover Books
    ISBN:
    Stanley Young and Ed Goldman's detailed look at the state of knowledge about the puma or cougar.
  • AFRICAN LEOPARD, THE: Ecology and Behavior of a Solitary Felid
    Author: Bailey, Theodore N.
    Copyright:1993
    Publisher: Columbia Univ. Press
    ISBN: 0-231-07872-2
    From 1973 to 1975, Theodore Bailey conducted a study of leopards in the wild environment of Kruger National Park, South Africa. This book is a lengthy and detailed report on what he found, mixed with plenty of other data on leopards from both before and after his own study.
  • LEOPARD
    Author: Hinde, Gerald
    Copyright:1992
    Publisher: HarperCollins
    ISBN: 0-00-219936-X
    Profile of leopards in the wild, focusing on five individual South African leopards.
  • LEOPARD'S TALE, THE
    Author: Scott, Jonathan
    Copyright:1985
    Publisher: Elm Tree
    ISBN: 0-241-11444-6
    Jonathan Scott is a wildlife photographer with many years' experience photographing African wildlife. His favorite place to work is the Masai Mara Game Preserve in southern Kenya, which is the northern half of the great wildebeest migration that begins on the Serengeti Plains in northern Tanzania. In this book he and his camera follow a specific leopard of the Masai Mara, named Chui, for an in-depth study of her two cubs which he named Light and Dark.
  • KINGDOM OF LIONS
    Author: Scott, Jonathan
    Copyright:1992
    Publisher: Rodale
    ISBN: 0-87596-550-4
    Jonathan Scott's back with his camera. Scott calls the Masai Mara "the Kingdom of Lions," after the half-dozen lion prides that dominate the preserve. This book is a collection of photo-essays with accompanying text. Some are about the lions of the Masai Mara. Others are about the other predators in the area: leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, and African wild dogs. Scott is a very good photographer, and many of these photos are just awesome.
  • MAN-EATERS OF TSAVO, THE
    Author: Patterson, J. H., Lt. Col.
    Copyright:1996
    Publisher: Pocket Books
    ISBN: 0-671-00306-2
    The real story behind the movie "The Ghost and the Darkness." In 1898, two lions (actually lionesses) terrorized a British rail project in Africa by making the rail workers their regular prey. Lt. Col. Patterson was the leader of the railway contruction unit, and eventually had to hunt down and kill the marauding lions.
  • HOW THE TIGER LOST ITS STRIPES
    Author: Meacham, Cory
    Copyright:1997
    Publisher: Harcourt Brace
    ISBN: 0-15-100279-7
    A look at the Indian tiger: its history, its interaction with humans, and its current plight. This book does for tigers what Barry Lopez's OF WOLVES AND MEN did for wolves.
  • MAN-EATERS OF KUMAON
    Author: Corbett, Jim
    Copyright:1946
    Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press
    ISBN:
    The Indian tiger is notorious for its tendency to turn man-eater. Jim Corbett was a white hunter in India in the middle of the 20th century. This book includes Corbett's memoirs of several man-eater tigers which he had to track and kill in the Kumaon province of India.
  • SPELL OF THE TIGER: The Man-eaters of Sundarbans
    Author: Montgomery, Sy
    Copyright:1995
    Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
    ISBN: 0-395-64169-1
    The vast mangrove swamp called Sundarbans, east of the mouth of the River Hooghly, is home to several thousand humans. It's also home to the only population of predators anywhere in the world who make humans a regular part of their diet. Sundarbans tigers are very creative in their methods of hunting humans, going as far as to use water for concealment. This book studies the tigers of Sundarbans, the people who share the tigers' world, and the relationship between them.

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Domestic Cats

Cats make good pets for people who can't have a dog, for whatever reason. These are books that focus on domestic cats: breeds, care and feeding, that sort of thing.

  • ALL MY PATIENTS ARE UNDER THE BED: Memoirs of a Cat Doctor
    Author: Camuti, Louis J.
    Copyright:1985
    Publisher: Fireside Books
    ISBN: 0-671-55450-6
    Louis Camuti spent sixty years as a cats-only veterinarian in a very cat-unfriendly place: Manhattan. Toward the end of his life, he wrote this book of reminiscences about his experiences as a cat doctor.
  • BOOK OF THE CAT, THE
    Author: Various
    Copyright:1980
    Publisher: New Leaf Books
    ISBN: 0-671-41624-3
    A detailed examination of the domestic cat: physiology, psychology, ancestry, cat breeds, disease, caring for a cat, etc. An invaluable resource for anyone who has a cat.
  • THIS IS THE MAINE COON CAT
    Author: Bass, Sharyn P.
    Copyright:1983
    Publisher: T.F.H. Publications
    ISBN: 0-86622-096-8
    A guide to the breed of cat called the Maine Coon Cat.

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George and Joy Adamson

Finally, a special place is set aside on my cat-books shelf for a cluster of books by Joy and George Adamson. Joy Adamson was made famous by her work with Elsa the lioness, but Elsa was not the only big cat she raised and returned to the wild. She also worked with a cheetah and a leopard, while George kept working with lions. Between them they wrote seven books about their work with African big cats.

  • BORN FREE: A LIONESS OF TWO WORLDS
    Author: Adamson, Joy
    Copyright:1960
    Publisher: Pantheon Books
    ISBN:
    Joy Adamson's first book, the story of how she and her husband raised, retrained, and eventually released into the wild a female lion cub. Adamson indulges in some pretty obvious anthropomorphism, but at the same time she manages not to lose sight of what Elsa was: a lioness, a wild animal, not a pet and not a human. I don't know how big a role this book played in sparking the environmental movement, but it had to be significant. BORN FREE has been printed many times in many formats: hardcover, trade-paperback, mass-market paperback. The link takes you to a new 40th-anniversary reprinting of this milestone book.
  • LIVING FREE: THE STORY OF ELSA AND HER CUBS
    Author: Adamson, Joy
    Copyright:1961
    Publisher: Harcourt, Brace, & World
    ISBN:
    Adamson's story of Elsa and her cubs, from the end of BORN FREE to the point in time when they were ordered to move Elsa and her cubs to a new location. Elsa's ability to fend for herself in the wild, to mate with a wild lion, and successfully birth and raise a litter of cubs, marked the complete success of Adamson's experiment with "rehabilitating" Elsa.
  • FOREVER FREE
    Author: Adamson, Joy
    Copyright:1962
    Publisher: Harcourt, Brace & World
    ISBN: 0006375898
    The third and last book in the story of Elsa and her cubs. This one tells of how Elsa died of an infection, and the cubs were eventually moved and released in the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania.
  • QUEEN OF SHABA: THE STORY OF AN AFRICAN LEOPARD
    Author: Adamson, Joy
    Copyright:1980
    Publisher: Elsa Limited
    ISBN: 0-15-175651-1
    Joy Adamson's last book, an account of raising a female leopard
  • SPOTTED SPHINX, THE
    Author: Adamson, Joy
    Copyright:1969
    Publisher: Harcourt, Brace, & World
    ISBN:
    Joy Adamson's account of raising Pippa, a female cheetah cub.
  • PIPPA'S CHALLENGE
    Author: Adamson, Joy
    Copyright:1972
    Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich
    ISBN: 0-15-171980-2
    Sequel to The Spotted Sphinx, about Pippa's later life.
  • MY PRIDE AND JOY: An Autobiography
    Author: Adamson, George
    Copyright:1987
    Publisher: Simon and Schuster
    ISBN: 0-671-62497-0
    George Adamson's autobiography, about his life as a game warden, his relationship with Joy Adamson, and his work after retiring, raising and rehabilitating lions for release into the wild.

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