A solid factual approach is about as common in the literature of cats as a snow leopard in a tropical rain forest. This book fills a notable gap: it covers some 35 extant relatives of Fells catus--big, small, and middle-sized--in an attractive and convenient format. Guggisberg, a conservationist and writer on wildlife, has lived extensively in East Africa and has studied the wild cats of Asia, Africa, North and South America, and even Europe--where the forest wildcat (Felis silvestris, about the size of a house cat) lingers on in several subspecies. Species by species, he describes the appearance, distribution, and habits of not only the familiar zoo denizens (lions, tigers, leopards) but also some rare, beautiful smaller cats which usually tend to be dismissed with tantalizingly brief references. There's the manul or Pallas' cat, Fells manul, a small, weird-looking animal from southern Soviet Asia, with long fur and almost invisible ears, which some think was an ancestor of the long-haired domestic species; the leopard cat, Prionailurus bengalensis, a wide-eyed spotted creature unrelated to its bigger namesake Panthera pardus; the fishing cat, Prionailurus viverrinus, an enterprising native of southeast Asia which will swim after its prey. Guggisberg patiently explains the jumble of feline taxonomy--many varieties of cat have recently been reclassified in the light of increased knowledge, so that the lion and tiger are now placed in the Panthera genus on the basis of how their pupils contract and the incompletely ossified hyoid which prevents them from purring like domestic cats. A fine book for browsing: along with scientific speculation that the American mountain lion evolved from a smaller species, you may find such engaging details as the fact that cheetahs always get their faces messy when they eat and jaguarundis when in a good mood chirp like birds. Extensive bibliography; unusually handsome black-and-white photographs. Well worth the price for those enamored of Mehitabel's many cousins.