Pi explains the concept of zoomorphism, which is when animals see humans or members of another species as one of their own kind. He gives examples of the zoo’s herd of rhinoceros and goats, and a mouse that lived peacefully among the vipers for a while. He says that sometimes dogs are used as foster mothers for lion cubs.
This is another important idea that points to Pi’s ordeal with Richard Parker. The boundaries between animal species can be blurred more easily than the boundaries between territory or human religion.
Pi says that the animals are aware of the real truth – the lion cubs know that the dog isn’t their real mother – but they embrace the “imaginary” relationship in order to maintain order in their life. They need such a comforting fiction to live happily, as otherwise the lion cubs would be terrified at being motherless.
Martel is making more connections between the animal world and human world – he sees this kind of zoomorphism as animals choosing “the better story” or having a kind of religious faith, one that makes their reality more pleasant.