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The Wild Cat Book

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Cats

With Photographs by Terry Whittaker
From the ancient Egyptian cat goddess, Bastet, to the prophet Muhammad’s favorite cat, Muezza, and our contemporary obsession with online cat videos, felines have long held a place of honor in their human counterparts’ homes and cultures. But the domestic cat is just one of many feline species, and in The Wild Cat Book cat experts Fiona and Mel Sunquist introduce us to the full panoply of the purring, roaring feline tribe.

Illustrated throughout with Terry Whittaker’s spectacular color photographs as well as unique photos from biologists in the field—some the highest quality images ever captured of exceptionally rare species—The Wild Cat Book not only tantalizes with the beauty of cats, but also serves as a valuable and accessible reference on cat behavior and conservation. Comprehensive entries for each of the thirty-seven cat species include color distribution maps and up-to-date information related to the species’ IUCN conservation and management statuses, while informative sidebars reveal why male lions have manes (and why dark manes are sexiest), how cats see with their whiskers, the truth behind our obsession with white lions and tigers, and why cats can’t be vegetarians. The Wild Cat Book also highlights the grave threats faced by the world’s wild cats—from habitat destruction to human persecution.

From the extraordinary acrobatics of the arboreal margay—able to cling to a tree branch by a single paw thanks to its unusually flexible ankles—to modern declines in African lion populations, The Wild Cat Book is an instructive and revealing ode to felines of every size and color. Combining science, behavioral observations, and stunning photography, this book will captivate cat fanciers the world over.

See sample pages from the book (PDF format) and photographs of rare cats.

280 pages | 137 color plates, 34 halftones, 1 line drawing | 8 x 10 | © 2014

Biological Sciences: Behavioral Biology, Conservation, Evolutionary Biology


“The cat family tree, DNA studies have shown, contains a total of thirty-seven species in eight related groups. All thirty-seven species are included here, complete with photos and maps showing the location of their natural habitats. Bizarrely, though, there’s no mention of lolcats. . .”

BBC Focus

“A definitive reference on the thirty-six species of wild cats of the world, some of which will be unfamiliar to many readers. The accounts of each species, accompanied by outstanding photographs and large distribution maps, are arranged in eight groups, from the largest cats in the oldest lineage, Panthera, through bay cat, caracal, ocelot, lynx, puma, leopard, and the most recent, the domestic cat lineages. Each account includes physical characteristics, range, habitat, social and hunting behavior, and other fascinating information not easily accessed elsewhere. Side boxes provide interesting insights into feline natural history outside of what is presented in the species accounts. An extensive bibliography for each species provides sources of additional information for interested readers. The clearly written text and attractive layout of photographs make this book a valuable resource for both academic and public libraries. . . . Highly recommended.”

R. L. Smith, West Virginia University | Choice

“The authors use a hyperabundance of color photographs to punctuate the pages of The Wild Cat Book. The images are bold, colorful, and large in size that result in a unique experience for readers and distinguish this volume from other treatments of the felids. The images are often incorporated into informational boxes within the account that address key topics, behaviors, or unique features of the species. For instance, the authors explore the significance of white tigers, why cats are obligate carnivores, the status of the jaguar in North America, and the use of livestock guard dogs to conserve cats. These half- to full-page insets explore an extremely diverse array of topics and provide great depth to the book and keep readers turning pages to see what topic will be included in the next species account. The Wild Cat Book appears at first glance to be a routine taxon-oriented treatment, but upon opening the volume, one is pleasantly surprised to find that it is more than a compilation of species accounts that serves solely as reference material. The text provides insight into what makes the Felidae unique and helps to explain our inordinate fondness with members of the family.”

John L. Koprowski, University of Arizona | Quarterly Review of Biology

“After reading dozens of books about these powerful predators over the last six months, my children have finally discovered the Bible of wild cats. Gorgeous photos accompany this 280 page in-depth discussion of these fascinating creatures. If you have a child who is ready to make the jump from wild cat fan to major enthusiast, this is the book.”

Hannah Holt | Lightbulb Books

“Domestic cats are family members in millions of homes. To what extent do they still reflect their wild ancestors, species that range in size from the majestic tiger to the diminutive sand cat? Read The Wild Cat Book and find out. It is the most authoritative source on every kind of cat.”

George B. Schaller, Panthera and the Wildlife Conservation Society | author of "The Serengeti Lion: A Study of Predator-Prey Relations"

"A beautifully illustrated and eminently readable book, The Wild Cat Book by Fiona and Mel Sunquist is the best primer out there to delve into the evolution, survival, and status of the world’s wild cats. Presenting the species according to their ancestral history, or lineages, the Sunquists share their extensive knowledge and experience to open up the remarkable and diverse world of cats in an interesting yet substantive manner. It is the rare book that could be used both as bedtime reading for a child, as well as a reference volume for a college student. This is such a book.”

Alan Rabinowitz, CEO of Panthera | author of "Life in the Valley of Death: The Fight to Save Tigers in a Land of Guns, Gold, and Greed"

Wild Cats of the World had been the sanctuary’s favorite resource book for all things feline, but after reading The Wild Cat Book by Fiona and Mel Sunquist, I know we have a new favorite resource. The images are so stunning that it was hard to put the book down, but where it really stands out, from all other books about exotic cat species, is in the depth of research and thought that went into covering such issues as white lions, white tigers, ligers, and hybrids. This is a book that we will use and enjoy for years to come.”

Carole Baskin | CEO of Big Cat Rescue

“The cats of the world are among the most captivating and charismatic of all creatures. From the mighty lion to the diminutive sand cat, each possesses the feline attributes of stealth, grace, and beauty. This marvelous book showcases the world’s cats in all their compelling diversity.”

Simon King ( | naturalist, broadcaster, and author

"While there are many books about cats, none are like this book. The Wild Cat Book is a pleasure to read. The authors’ enthusiasm and passion for cats comes through in almost every paragraph, and the book should appeal to the largest possible cross section of people. Enhanced with geographic distribution maps and many photographs, The Wild Cat Book is a comprehensive, interesting, enjoyable, and current review of all that we know about members of the great family of cats, the Felidae.”

James G. Sanderson, Small Wild Cat Conservation Foundation | coauthor of "Small Wild Cats: The Animal Answer Guide"

Table of Contents


Panthera Lineage




Snow Leopard


Clouded Leopard

Bay Cat Lineage

Bay Cat

Marbled Cat

Asiatic Golden Cat

Caracal Lineage



African Golden Cat

Ocelot Lineage



Geoffroy’s Cat


Andean Cat


Pampas Cat

Lynx Lineage

Eurasian Lynx

Iberian Lynx

Canada Lynx


Puma Lineage




Leopard Cat Lineage

Pallas’s Cat

Fishing Cat

Leopard Cat

Flat-Headed Cat

Rusty-Spotted Cat

Domestic Cat Lineage

Domestic Cat

Black-Footed Cat


Sand Cat

Jungle Cat



Additional Readings

Illustration Credits


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