THE TRIBE OF TIGER: Cats and Their Culture by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas

THE TRIBE OF TIGER: Cats and Their Culture

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Following on the paws of the bestselling The Hidden Life of Dogs (1993), anthropologist/novelist Thomas now focuses her keen sense of observation on felines. She explores in depth the physical and behavioral ways of various members of the cat family, both domestic and wild. We learn of the evolution of the world's 30-odd cat species, and that there is really little difference among them except for size and coloration and methods of hunting prey. Cats are all territorial, including house cats, who not only mark the boundaries of their properties, but even mark their ""owners,"" using special scent glands along their lips, to claim them as their own. ""As a wild cat owns a territory and the rights to hunt the mice or the deer thereon,"" says Thomas, ""so a house cat owns a human dwelling and the rights to the people. People are not prey...but we provide food even more readily than would a mouse population."" According to Thomas, who has made long-term studies of pumas, tigers, and lions -- her first study of African lions in the Kalahari dates back to the 1950s -- cats aren't, as has been long believed, strictly solitary animals, but rather live in elaborate cat societies. Rather than a hierarchy, she explains, their system ""is more like a wheel, with a high-ranking cat on the hub and the others arranged around the rim, all reluctantly acknowledging the superiority of the despot but not necessarily measuring themselves against each other."" On another note, Thomas acknowledges the important role of zoos in preserving endangered cat species, but contends that tigers, at least, would fare better in circuses, where, as performers, they could lead a more stimulating life. Given the sometimes horrendous conditions in circuses, there may be many who disagree. A thoroughly engaging and deeply insightful study of the cat world.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1994
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster