Big Cats And Little Cats - Part I
Ours is an uneasy friendship or kinship, depending upon the day. She makes me cry. She makes me sneeze and itch. She gets under my literal skin as we battle for turf, especially when she gets up on my new dining room table or decides to take a nap on top of my contact lens stuff. Then there is the race to the door, to keep her from running out and losing her life.
The whole mess is a host of other issues, like the dead frogs she keeps gifting me with. The hurling herself at my bedroom door, and screaming like a banshee every time she thinks she's alone while she runs around with her security blanket of a stuffed animal.
I am, of course, talking about the resident cat who lives in my home. Not my pet, not my friend most days, and not particularly loved by me thanks to my allergy to her. I am resigned and obligated by the bonds of my love for my daughter and granddaughter to spend my days with the beast -- the one they even agree might be evil. The worst, is the fact that she adores me more than any human on the planet. I am hers, like it or not!
Looking At Some Wild Members Of Her Cat Family
The cat family is one of the most magnificent orders in the scale of nature. For fierce and insolent beauty, for grace, strength, speed and audacity, there is no living thing to excel these animals.
In the wild, a long process in the refining of wits, of the sharpening of natural weapons, has brought these carnivores -- to the highest pitch of efficiency in the capture and killing of other animals. However, we must remember that they kill only for food. Some of these carnivores also eat plant life.
The cat family has many members. They are at home on every continent naturally except Australia. And although they differ widely, all have certain characteristics that mark them as cats.
Like other Carnivora, they have hooked claws, not nails, and teeth which tear and chop or shear like scissors, but do not masticate (chew). The claws of most cats can be retracted, or drawn back, at the will of the animal.
The cats choose to hunt their prey by night and the eyes of the animals are specially adapted to this habit.
Their tongues have a special interest, for they are covered with small curved prickles which help to clean the flesh of their animal-food from the bones.
Most of the cats climb with grace and strength. The lion, the tiger, and the cheetah cannot climb, nor can the serval, and perhaps some other cats -- so as always there are exceptions to the norm.
Most have tails which serve as a balance when the animal makes a sudden spring. Their bodies are flexible, with powerful muscles, especially the muscles of the jaws and limbs.
At the head of the family of cats is the lion, king of beasts. It is at home in Africa and in some parts of Asia. The majestic appearance of the male lion is crowned by a great mane, sometimes black, but always darker than the tawny skin. Not all male lions have manes, however.
Added to that it has the most stupendous voice in nature. Its ground-shaking roars unnerve animals so that they are often incapable of fleeing.
This is the lion's armament:
- They have teeth which can crush at one bite the bones of a small buffalo's, and eland's, or a zebra's neck;
- They have claws like grapnels of yellow horn, which can hold a horse from its gallop and strip the flesh from its flanks;
- They have a gape which admits a man's head into its mouth;
- They have strength which enables them to leap a fence when hauling a dead goat in its mouth; and
- They have speed which makes them, for a short distance, a kind of flesh-and-bone thunderbolt.
The horny prickles on the lions tongue are strong. There is often a horny spine at the tip of the tail which is concealed by a tuft of hair.
The male lion usually measures from nine to ten feet from nose to end of the tail. The lioness is generally about nine feet long.
Two to four young cubs at a birth are the rule. The babies are tenderly cared for by the mother, though she may leave them in a hidden place to go hunting for food.
She has the entire care of the cubs, and in fact, would fiercely resist if the father tried to go near them.
The young have brown bands or other markings, but these usually disappear before the animal is fully grown.
The mane of the male does not attain its glory until the animal is five to seven years old.
Man Eaters? You Be The Judge!
As a rule, the lion does not attack man. Now and then there is a lion that eats only human flesh. Sometimes it takes man or beast by turns. In general the lion gains its food by its stealth and power rather than by its agility.
This huge cat sometimes goes about by day but it is chiefly active at night. At that time, it goes to some favorite lurking place near a spring or by the side of a river. Concealed among the brushwood, it lies in wait for the animals coming to drink.
A single powerful leap generally lands it upon its prey. The weight of the first blow crushes the animal's neck. The lion then sinks its teeth into the next of the prey at the same time pulling the head around with its strong paw.
It may make a meal on the spot, or may drag the "catch" to some quiet place where it can feast in quiet peace. Lions may hunt singly, in pairs, or even in parties.
While it is rarer for lions in the wild to be man eaters, I can't help but remember the true story that was told around the campfire on a safari years ago. This is what I wrote down of the story in my travel diary:
"The two most notorious lions in all African history began their public career by raiding the sheep and goats collected for the workers who will building the Uganda Railway. Then, they invaded the camp of men at Tsavo, and for nine months caused a reign of terror there."
"Night after night they crept from the jungle into the little city of tents. As darkness fell the beasts would be heard roaring a cry in the forest. Silence would follow, then a cry of anguish would ring out, "Beware brothers! Satan is here!" and all knew that another poor native had gone to make a ravening lion's supper, prey of a dreaded beast."
"Now, the resources of the British Empire were behind the building of that railway, but the slaughter by the two lions became so terrible that at last panic paralyzed the undertaking, and all work ceased for about a month. Finally, a Colonel Patterson shot the two brutes, and the railway again marched forward."
Even though I knew that the story came from a true event that happened in 1898, that little after dinner tidbit, left me with so much food for thought sleeping in a tent, that I didn't get one moment's rest.
Later, when I returned home I would read more about the whole sordid affair and would watch the movie, The Ghost and The Darkness, in which actor Val Kilmer played the Colonel. The real story was even more frightening than the campfire version.
Regardless of their man-eating, they are critically endangered in some parts of the world, and have completely disappeared from other parts of their natural habitats. These are a very vulnerable species.
The reality of man eating tigers is something that still happens today. Tigers still kill more than a hundred people as year as people go at night to draw water from rivers and wells. That tiger may in time be slain by the natives, but another creature of the same species sometimes appears in the old beat, and the remnants of a village's population, terrorized beyond endurance, flee at last.
Some of the the tiger tribe live in Manchukuo, monsters, huge of bone and muscle, long of fur, at home in the snow and rigors of a bitter climate. However, there have been specimens of the Indian tiger as large or larger.
Probably the Manchukuon tiger is, however, larger than the average Indian tiger which is about ten feet long and up to five hundred and fifty pounds in weight. With its ability to live in swamps, in reeds, grasses, in caves or rocks, in old buildings and deserted cities, it has a wider range than the lion.
The tiger is a beautiful beast, bright tawny yellow in color with dark stripes around the body. Chest and undersides verge toward white. All white 9albino) and all-black tigers are not unknown, but these are very rare in nature.
The tiger is even more agile than the lion and shows more cunning. It does not seek to terrify its prey by roaring, as the lion does, but stealthily prowls through underbrush, keeping well out of sight until the moment it is ready to spring. The striped coat blends with the background and helps to conceal the animal.
Despite this, of the nine species of tigers found in modern times, three (two depending upon the source) have become extinct, and the rest are very much endangered.
Why Is A Tiger Striped?
The stripes on the tiger's coat are useful to him in a very special way. If tigers had not been so marked they would probably have died out long ago.
As the beast glides through the jungle in search of smaller animals for food, its stripes blend with the grasses and stems of other plants, concealing it from its prey until it is ready to pounce. The protective coloring also hides the tiger from the eyes of its own enemies.
Of course, if an animal cannot obtain food or has no protection against its enemies, it soon dies. So we have tigers today because nature gave them striped coats.
The Tiglon And Ligers
A very rare in nature and interesting animal is the tiglon or liger, which is a cross between the tiger and the lion. The offspring of a male tiger and a lioness is the tigon. The offspring of a male lion and a female tiger is a liger.
This occurrence is far too common, however, in captivity than it should be. The practice of cross-breeding often results in life long health problems for the resulting hybrid of species.
The tiglon has the tawny color of the lion, but like the tiger it is striped, though the strips are faint. Usually they are smaller than both their parents.
Second only to the tiger as a terror in India is the the leopard. Some five thousand leopards a year were to have been killed in India at one time and that was because on average, three hundred and fifty Indians were being killed in the same time.
In a sense, the leopard were more feared than the lions and tigers, for, while these two can not climb trees, leopards climb superbly, either to catch a fugitive or to lurk in hiding ready to pounce down on one. In Africa, the leopard was also viewed with special abhorrence for this reason.
There are twenty-seven subspecies of leopards and as big cats go, leopards are holding their own when it comes to declining populations and are among the largest populations of wild cats still found throughout much of their world.
Lifestyles of Leopards
All of these great cats mentioned above are extremely difficult to kill for they charge an enemy fiercely even when severely wounded. It seems as if they do not experience pain, was a common belief of the past.
The prey of cats, strangely, seem also not to feel fear or pain, as you have observed for yourself if you have ever seen a house cat play with a mouse. The mouse seems to be in sort of a stupor, or state of denial dreaminess in which no sense of terror or pain is felt.
Lions and Tigers Of Big Cat Rescue
If You'd Like To Know More!
- African Lions, African Lion Pictures, African Lion Facts - National Geographic
Learn all you wanted to know about African lions with pictures, videos, photos, facts, and news from National Geographic.
- AWF: Wildlife: Lion
- LEOPARD -- Kids\' Planet -- Defenders of Wildlife
- Lions, Lion Safaris, Pictures of Lions in the Wild
- San Diego Zoo\'s Animal Bytes: Leopard
Get fun and interesting leopard facts in an easy-to-read style from the San Diego Zoo's Animal Bytes. Buy tickets online and plan a visit to the Zoo or Wild Animal Park. Enjoy games, animal cams and videos, and online shopping.
- Tiger - Panthera tigris - facts and sound - Defenders of Wildlife
Get the facts on tigers. Endangered Species Act (ESA): Tigers are listed as endangered. Take action and help save tigers.
- Tiger Pictures & Facts
Tiger pictures with fun facts and wallpaper.
- Why Tigers Matter
Unaccredited Zoo Practices
More by this Author
In the land of where the deer and the antelope play, something is wrong with that word picture -- antelopes are not native to North America. What we call an antelope, is really another form of deer.
There are over ninety-one different types of antelopes (most of which are native to Africa), however, what many people don't realize is that the giraffe, okapi, and prong-horned antelope -- are all not related to true...
There are bee charmers and horse whisperers, and then there are those who can tame a rooster. From the very moment I met the rooster tamer, I was both jealous and in awe. Admittedly, I tend to be a...