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The Tribe of Tiger: Cats and Their Culture

3.82  ·  Rating Details ·  574 Ratings  ·  61 Reviews
From the plains of Africa to her very own backyard, noted author and anthropologist Elizabeth Marshall Thomas explores the world of cats, both large and small in this classic bestseller. Inspired by her own feline's instinct to hunt and supported by her studies abroad, Thomas examines the life actions, as well as the similarities and differences of these majestic ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published June 1st 2001 by Gallery Books (first published 1994)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Athena
Sep 03, 2016 Athena rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those interested in cats, animal behavior
It's about time for me to reread this. Review below originally pub'd on Amazon in 1999:

This is a book that anyone interested in natural history and/or animal behavior ought to read. The author has a poet's command of the English language combined with a thorough understanding of the methodologies of the social and natural sciences. Her (radical?) contention that animals, particularly cats, have culture - a series of learned and transmissible behaviors - is demonstrated to the point where it shou
...more
Rachel
May 09, 2013 Rachel rated it really liked it
This book was not what I expected. I'd read The Hidden Life of Dogs but knew nothing else about the author. I expected a light, quick read, but this book is much more. The earlier parts about the history, anatomy, and types of cats didn't excite me, but I did learn a lot. And then, who knew? The author is a well-known anthropologist. She spent much of her youth in Africa, with at least one visit decades later. She was there in the 1950s, when people had not encroached much on the wilderness. She ...more
Leah Wohl-Pollack
Dec 26, 2007 Leah Wohl-Pollack rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the relationship between wild cats and house cats.
Thomas does a great job of synthesizing her personal experiences as a field anthropologist and cat owner with historical information gathered from various obscure but nevertheless educational sources. I do feel I have a better sense of the culture of my own house cats and how they behave as extensions of their wild ancestors. Her recollections of her work in Africa with hunter-gatherer communities and her interactions with wild lions and tigers put me even more in awe of large wild cats. It ...more
Ellen
Dec 04, 2009 Ellen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: cat lovers, nature lovers
Shelves: non-fiction
I read much of this book with my two pampered felines curled next to me, which is the best way to experience it (and many things in life), in my opinion. I loved the author's well-rendered anecdotes about the cats in her life, from housecats to pumas to lions. I would have liked to have heard more about domestic cats, but I did enjoy comparing my little lions to the much bigger ones Thomas described. The book was not purely scientific - Thomas made a lot of assumptions and guesses about why cats ...more
Fen
Jan 30, 2009 Fen rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure how to tag this one, since I haven't read it all... I finally decided it wasn't worth taking the time to try to finish it. The book started out pretty well, but it seems like the author couldn't quite make up her mind whether she wanted to write a scientifically based overview of the influence of evolution on the behavior of cats or just showcase her own anecdotal stories of cat behavior.

Obviously, the two could easily go hand in hand, but her "science" often ended up simply being r
...more
"KayFey"
Feb 28, 2015 "KayFey" rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've been an animal lover most of my life and have a fondness for cats. When I read "The Tribe of Tiger", this intellectual treatise and scholarly research on an animal we take for granted, it opened my eyes and mind to the possibilities of what I wanted to be able to write. I am a huge fan of Dr. Elizabeth Marshall Thomas' body of work and admire her many years of anthropological study often involving indigenous people in the African countries. I have a particular fondness for her books and her ...more
Rebecca
Aug 29, 2011 Rebecca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am getting used to this author's rambling writing style. She is very charming though and I love her mix of personal anecdotes, observations, and hard science weaved throughout her books. From lions, pumas, tigers, bobcats, to domestic cats, I certainly look at my own cats in a different light now. Especially now that I know why they bring me live baby birds and snakes! :-/
Nancy
Oct 10, 2014 Nancy rated it really liked it
Loved this, and also her book on dogs. Highly recommend
Nicole
Feb 28, 2012 Nicole rated it liked it
The begining section was very interesting and filled with awesome facts about cats, housecats, or wild cats. The middle section however, was very, very boring. I could care less about that tribe of people and most of it was about lions, and did not relate anything to housecats, which I was most interested in. The ending section slightly made up for it, but it was nothing compared to the first section.
LibraryCin
Jan 20, 2013 LibraryCin rated it really liked it
3.75 stars

This book looks at cat behavior, including big and small cats. There is also an extensive section on lions and their culture. There are a lot of anecdotes included in the book.

I quite liked this. Found it interesting, and there were some very nice illustrations. One thing that bothered me was her referring to mates as “husbands” and “wives”, though.
Larrirosser
Dec 22, 2008 Larrirosser rated it really liked it
I love EMT's intense observations and passionate descriptions. Without anthropomophizing, she grants animals (cats, in this case)a wide range of emotions and motivations, and delicately portrays their personal (felinal?) lives.
Christy
Nov 19, 2016 Christy rated it liked it
Although the book opens with invigorating conversation about her housecats and their activities as a pack, and then compare them to her experiences with lions in the wild.. this is about as far as it goes.. again, and again, I find the author calling back to various memories.. many not even related to felines, but to memories of witnessing the people of the tribe she once knew.. and then the next chapter will start off talking about cats again.. by the end of it, I found myself skipping most of ...more
Melle
Dec 08, 2014 Melle rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: people who don't like thinking critically about cats
This is an interesting little volume about cat social behaviors across the feline family spectrum, but I found a lot of this book to be unsatisfactory to what I was hoping to read. I was hoping for a well-research, well-documented book with less anecdotal information, a less anthropomorphic perspective, and with a little more professional, ethical judgement. The author observes and examines the social behaviors of her own housecats, but she is coming from the perspective of an anthropologist in ...more
Karen
Apr 30, 2013 Karen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Karen by: Vestermarks
This book is about the culture of cats--big cats as well as house cats, wild cats as well as domesticated cats. The author, who is an anthropologist and has also written books about dog and deer behavior, has many fascinating stories to tell about the behavior of house cats, lions and tigers in the wild and captivity, and American pumas. The book meanders a bit--it doesn't progress toward a central argument so much as give many examples of cats teaching/learning culture from different types of ...more
Jeff
Nov 17, 2011 Jeff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2011
Thomas's book contains plenty of intriguing info for cat lovers. I am definitely a cat lover and i was satisfied with this relatively plain fare.

Her writing style almost surely won't wow anybody, though in the final section of this book (pp 228-234) she exhibits high quality work previously unimaginable and she provides some text worth stopping to admire. If you don't read anything else in this book, give the last 5 pages a gander. (To apply Robert Frost's poetry-as-tennis metaphor, maybe Thomas
...more
Pat
Sep 07, 2014 Pat rated it it was amazing
Elizabeth Thomas acute observations of felines of every size and stripe adds much to our knowledge of feline behavior. A must for any serious cat lover who wants to better understand how cats think.

Ms. Thomas received a great deal of criticism for this book from professional animal behaviorists since her lifetime of observations and interactions with cats large and small as an anthropologist were not credited as valuable.

However, as a vet tech and cat consultant I found her ideas corresponded
...more
Awallens
Jan 01, 2010 Awallens rated it really liked it
From the plains of Africa to her very own backyard, noted author and anthropologist Elizabeth Marshall Thomas explores the world of cats, both large and
small in this classic bestseller. Inspired by her own feline's instinct to hunt and supported by her studies abroad, Thomas examines the life actions,
as well as the similarities and differences of these majestic creatures. Lions, tigers, pumas and housecats: Her observations shed light on their social
lives, thought processes, eating habits, and c
...more
George Ilsley
Interesting in places. Covers wild cats in Africa as well as house cats. Thomas does have some empathy blind spots. Her love for nature seems at times to start and stop with cats. When describing the hunting habits of her house cats, she mentions all the prey they bring into the house -- mice, voles, chipmunks, bats, birds, snakes (which are then discarded); however, there is no hint of concern for the wildlife which is being indiscriminately slaughtered by her pets. On the other hand, she is ...more
Michael
Mar 17, 2012 Michael rated it really liked it
Shelves: reference
A mostly personal observation on the real nature of cats, big and small, from a woman with a marvelous insight into their idiosyncratic yet most logical natures. Beginning with her associations and experiences with African lions and continuing through observations of mountain lions and house cats, she relates the feline nature and historical association with man from a truly unique perspective.

I really enjoyed reading this book, and gained an insight to cats which I hadn't appreciated before.
Margaret
Jun 10, 2012 Margaret added it
Shelves: 2012
Interesting reading - there were some things I knew about cats but I learned a lot more. Liked reading her observations about wild cat behavior in the Bushman desert home in Africa. Also like how she related and compared wild cat behavior with domestic housecats - there are more similarities than you would think. The last chapters regarding zoo cats and circus cats were also informative.

I read this book in memory of my friend Holly Marie Hill - it was on her TBR list.
Anna
Aug 19, 2008 Anna rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfic
A look into the minds of cats, big and small--with an acknowledgement that cats are inherently too alien to ever fully understand. It opens with a story about the author's 7 pound cat stalking a full grown deer...his size making absolutely no difference in what the cat thought possible. Filled with anecdotal stories along with cat facts, this is a great read for folks who like cats and even folks who don't.
Angie
Sep 06, 2016 Angie rated it liked it
Lots of interesting info and personal anecdotes about ALL KINDS of cats. Much more emphasis on wild cats than I had expected, so it was a different book then I had planned to read but not a bad one!
LibraryCin
3.75 stars

This book looks at cat behavior, including big and small cats. There is also an extensive section on lions and their culture. There are a lot of anecdotes included in the book.

I quite liked this. Found it interesting, and there were some very nice illustrations. One thing that bothered me was her referring to mates as “husbands” and “wives”, though.
Maria Beltrami
"La tribù della tigre" viene considerato un testo fondamentale da parte di chi studia l'etologia felina, e in effetti lo è, anche se, dal punto di vista della mia più che ventennale convivenza con una comunità di gatti non indifferente (oggi sono 16, ma sono stati anche di più), trovo non condivisibili alcune osservazioni
Betsy
Dec 06, 2011 Betsy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Couldn't finish this book. It was not what I was expecting. It seems to be more about big cats than housecats. Also writing is somewhat scattered; doesn't seem to follow a progression that made sense to me. And when she started talking about how and why lions in Africa declined, it got too depressing for me.
Mina
Feb 12, 2009 Mina rated it it was ok
Shelves: dont-own
My roommate suggested I read this book after I got my cat Caspian. Although it was a facinating read it didn't quite go into a lot of depth concerning urban housecats. Still, a good overview of the nature of the species as a whole, not to mention some really beautiful descriptions of African lions.
Harvey Smith
Jul 11, 2016 Harvey Smith rated it really liked it
Interesting look at how cats, and a lot of other animals behave in their individual cultures.

Even more striking is how much we really don't know about the motivations and observed behaviors of animals.

This book give you another look at wild animals, and the domestic animals we live with. It brought me empathy for domestic animal behavior.
Carr3ie
I started this book a few years back and never finished it. I'm not usually a nonfiction reader, but I thought I'd take some time to better understand the creatures who outnumber the humans in this household.
Aspasia
Jan 11, 2010 Aspasia rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Thomas is an anthropologist who used her field studies in Africa and at home to write this book about the culture of lions and housecats. The last third of the book is almost exclusively about pumas which I found fascinating.
Chris
Feb 18, 2016 Chris added it
I wanted to learn more about house cats. The book is about all types of cats their ancestry their geography how they live on and on. It was just more than I really wanted. The writing was okay very wordy and a little academic.
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Elizabeth Marshall Thomas is the author of The Harmless People, a non fiction work about the Kung Bushmen of southwestern Africa, and of Reindeer Moon, a novel about the paleolithic hunter gatherers of Siberia, both of which were tremendous international successes. She lives in New Hampshire.
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