What was your inspiration behind the book?
Andrew: People love domestic cats but typically know very little about their wild cousins. Most folks are familiar with lions, tigers and cheetahs, but there are 36 feline species, from the shy, tiny, rusty-spotted cat to the rare, mountain-dwelling snow leopard. We wanted to introduce cat lovers to these incredible species and the conservation challenges they face, including poaching and habitat destruction. By showcasing kittens and cubs, we hope to show the sweeter side of these elusive species and build awareness of their plight.
What was the most rewarding part about writing the book?
Andrew: Two of the species we feature, the Iriomote cat and the guiña (also called a kodkod), have never before had kitten pictures published as far as we can tell. The idea that we are sharing these exceptionally rare kittens with the public for the first time is very gratifying and hopefully exciting for our readers. It’s the first glimpse of these kittens!
What was the most difficult part about writing the book?
Andrew: Many of these species are not exhibited at zoos, and wild populations are critically endangered with less than 200 individuals remaining. Tracking down photos of these species at all, let alone as kittens, was very challenging. We were very lucky to have the help of Julia Chosy, Ph.D., a biologist and feline fanatic who connected with scientists researching wild cats in far flung corners of the world, including Malaysia, Thailand, Bolivia and Uruguay.
There are, without a doubt, many feline cuties that appear in the book. Which featured cat species is your favorite?
Chris: I am partial to Ocelots, and for this book, I had the honor of photographing one at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo. For such a tiny kitten, she packed a real punch! The vets at Beardsley needed to examine her and determine her sex, so it was an opportunity for the press to get the first photos. No one likes to get a check up, and this little kitten was no exception! It was clear that this little one was a wild cat!
Has working on the book changed your viewpoint/understanding of the feline world in any way?
Chris: The variety of shapes, colors and sizes of all these species was astounding once they were all lined up in the book. When you see them collectively, you get a sense of the tremendous creativity of nature.
Do you share your home with any cats or other pets? Tell us about them!
Andrew: I grew up with five feline friends, including Ronald, Fluffy, Rotten Ralph, Doofus and Lulu. I don’t currently have cats, but Chris and I dedicated ZooBorns: Cats! to the past and present cats in our lives.
Chris: Georgie, my 5-year-old, is my loyal sidekick. His cautious, quiet charm is an inspiration to me. He is mostly black but has a heart-shaped white patch on his chest. I slipped him into one early version of the book just to keep our editor on her toes. He thinks he should be a Cat Fancy centerfold one day!
What is one lesson you’ve learned from a cat?
Chris: Presence of mind. I think all cats are zen masters.
What do you enjoy doing on your free time?
Andrew: When I’m not working on ZooBorns.com or our books, I volunteer and help fundraise for the Lincoln Park Zoo and Shedd Aquarium here in Chicago as a member of the Auxiliary Board.
Chris: I love to play drums and sing in my band whenever I get the chance.
Are you planning on writing more books?
Andrew: Definitely! While many of us are intrinsically wired to want to protect rare species on the other side of the planet, many people need to be introduced to an animal in person or in photographs to appreciate how critical it is for us to ensure their survival. We like to think of the baby animals we share as ambassadors for their species in the wild.
If you could tell your readers one thing, what would it be?
Andrew: If you love cats, don’t forget their increasingly rare wild cousins around the world. They need your help, too!