Identify this sci-fi novel with intelligent lions

Okay, so a few years ago in the public library I came upon this sci-fi novel of the first contact variety. It featured a group of humans who were colonizing this very cold and wintry planet. They were in hock to the government, which was some sort of large hegemony/plutocracy known as “The Company” or “The Corporation”. Maybe. I could be misremembering that part. The settlers had to try to make the settlement work by, like, mining and logging and stuff and earning enough money to pay back the company.

Anyway, there are these feathered lion creatures living on the planet, but nobody thinks they’re sentient. One of the settlers discovers that they are sentient, and their language is song. She ends up befriending on of the lions and they both join this group of scientist explorers that travels to new planets.

Does anyone have any idea what the name of this story is, or who wrote it? I’m freakin’ stomped here!

Sounds like you’re remembering James Schmitz’s Telzey Amberdon stories, featuring the “crest cats” (the sentient lion-like telepaths) and the “Federation” a govermental body that could be heavy-handed from time to time. The stories have been collected from time to time, most recently by Baen books (which, somewhat controversially, edited the books to update the language and references in a few places). The first story “Novice” has been collected in a bunch of places http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/title.cgi?55488

Oh, that sounds very interesting, but the story I’m thinking of was a full novel by a female author. Maybe she was ripping off Schmitz.

Hmm. Could it be C.J. Cherryh’s Chanur series (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Chanur_novels) which has lion-like aliens (the hani)? If not, do you remember any other details (names of characters, etc.)?

It sounds like you are conflating some of the details of “The Sparrow” by Mary Doria Russell with some other novel. The aliens in that are somewhat like large cats, there is another species no one initially thinks is sentient, and first contact is made when their music is heard on Earth.

Could it possibly be Anne McCaffrey’s Decision at Doona?

That does sound like the original description.

But I don’t recall the Doonans being all that musical. And they weren’t thought to be nonsentient; they weren’t known to exist at all.

Nor feathered, nor Wintery, and it seems like a child discovered them.

Something about a “musical” language is triggering a vague recollection. But, since my memory of the details is rather fuzzy, I thought it might ring a bell with someone, who might, perhaps, lead the OP to the correct story.

Not Cherryh, nor Russell, nor McCaffrey, sorry. But I do have a few more details:

  1. There was a rather mercenary lawyer who was blonde and pneumatic.
  2. One of the scientists was attacked by a rogue lion creature and ended up with a broken leg.
  3. I think another one of the scientists may have died.
  4. The scientists used some sort of funky, cutting edge, customizable device (that they could modify themselves) that acted as a recorder/communications device/mini computer. Basically, it was a cell phone, but written about waaaay before cell phones became as small, multifunctional, and popular as they are now.
  5. Disregard that last point. It could do pretty much everything a cell phone could do except act as a communications device. Or maybe it could, but the characters had to be in range for it to work that way.
  6. The protagonist met a female lion with two kids/cubs, a confident girl cub and her younger brother. The brother was crippled, and ends up dying. She (the protagonist) is disgusted when the other lions eat the body, as is custom.

Does that help any?

The more details the better - I haven’t figured it out yet, but I did find this list of intelligent cat novels ANTHRO's Feline Bibliography (complete) - maybe one of these is right.

I believe this is Forests of the Night by Marti Steussy

It’s funny how many stories and novels this could have been, especially if we strip it down to the bare elements. There must be a hundred evil humans exploiting resources dealing with cute, fuzzy, and inherently good primitive natives stories since the 1960’s (and sadly that isn’t really an exaggeration).

Yes! That’s it! Man, I’d forgotten how trashy that cover was. Thank you AndyL and everyone else too.

Glad to help.

Yeah - there are a lot of them. Hokas and Fuzzies, etc. Did you check out the list of all the feline SF and fantasy that I posted a few posts back?

I was going to guess Beasts, by John Crowley. good read.