🎨 Creative Let's create "realistic" fantasy cat-people

Knaight

Registered User
Validated User
There's always the possibility for four major cat social groups, who live in different areas and have different cultures that all interact. Going down the list:

Ewok Villagers: These are the settled middle and upper class, and a notable minority that are almost completely involved in manufacturing of some sort. Everything useful for manufacturing that doesn't move easily goes here, and these villages trade with the other three groups extensively, generally importing raw materials and exporting manufactured works. A significant fraction of these villages are either coastal forests or outright swamps.

Farmers: Cat's don't have much use for food crops, but that doesn't mean they have no use for farming. Depending on climate they're mostly growing cotton or flax, plus useful reeds and faster growing trees (e.g. bamboo). These are the settled lower classes.

Herders: Now we get to food. The cats use plains, with nomadic groups moving through them with huge herds of goats, sheep, etc. This group is also disproportionately likely to end up as warriors or raiders, but mostly they move their herds around and trade meat and wool to other groups. This group is also where the cat instinct for playing with food tends to make an appearance, as offloading some of the herding to dogs instead of chasing them around yourself is just a terrible idea as far as the catfolk are concerned.

Nomad Fleets: The other staple of the catfolk diet is fish, and while any coastal settlement will have some fishing the fleets are much more significant. These are usually huge fleets made of small ships with family groups in them, and which families are in which fleet can easily change. Regardless they trade heavily with the ewok villagers, excess fish for all sorts of manufactured objects - such as ships.
 

Lukas Sjöström

Society of Unity scholar
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If you need the population density necessary to create an industrial civilisation, I think you might have to add some capacity to subsist partially on plant matter. It's not a terribly unlikely mutation, and would give populations possessing it an edge in the competition for space and resources. You could still have them be mostly carnivorous, enough that they have a very different society than humans, but I don't really see fully carnivorous species building the type of civilisation that would lead to industrialisation.
 

Eled the Worm Tamer

Spider Jeruselem's Warior
Validated User
If you need the population density necessary to create an industrial civilisation, I think you might have to add some capacity to subsist partially on plant matter. It's not a terribly unlikely mutation, and would give populations possessing it an edge in the competition for space and resources. You could still have them be mostly carnivorous, enough that they have a very different society than humans, but I don't really see fully carnivorous species building the type of civilisation that would lead to industrialisation.
It could well be that rather than adapting to eat plants, they have adapted certain plants to be edible (see my earlier Melon related speculation). You find some wild plant that will get you through starvation even if it does make you sick, you cultivate it just in case, and start improving it. In time you have different cultivars of Meat-Melon that all claim to taste like differing kinds/cuts of meat.
 

DarkStarling

Brilliantly Crazed
Banned
Validated User
I could see biological and chemical agents being part of their tech. This would function both as a military technology (they are definitely fine with poisoning their weapons) but also for production (such as keeping various animals around them). As communal ambush predators they initially have a lower maximum population density than omnivorous humans that makes them a bit safer and already have some nudges in that direction. The lack of ranged combat and low endurance means that they have a big disadvantage in a pitched battle, but disease can make their enemies not want to start one in the first place.

I feel like they would have just a strong a sense of community as humans would, but they would have a lot fewer expectations on individuals. Rather each individual goes about their business in whatever way they feel best and then brings the rewards back to the main group for everyone to enjoy. Combined with how animals are easier to move than plants and I could see them easily becoming traveling salespeople.

Merchant druids could be neat. A low population in their homeland but fairly well distributed across the world.
An obvious quote springs to mind...
 

g33k

Registered User
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Cats have litters, but wouldn't evolution force single births, or close to it, to compensate for larger brains? Am I wrong in thinking big brains force single births? I'd like to at least keep vestigial effects, like a preponderance of twins. But I would definitely prefer litters!
You've got several issues interplaying here.
Humans have a problem with our big braincases getting out through the pelvic girdle. Newborns's skulls are rather malleable, and it makes a difference... but sometimes, not enough. I'd probably solve this by having the catfolk being born younger, less-developed (that whole "blind kitten" stage) so that their heads are smaller.

Single/Few births vs "litters" and many offspring gets us to what's called r/K selection (this theory is deprecated these days, but the ideas were adopted into newer, broader lifecycle theories; so I'll just talk about r/K). In brief, an "r-selected" species relies on many births (and relatively little parental investment in the young) in the expectation that few will survive to breed; K-selected species have fewer births with more parental involvement and effort. Both are viable strategies.

From all our real-world counterparts, it appears that K-selection is overwhelmingly superior for an intelligent species. Child-rearing -- for intelligent, inquisitive offspring -- is HARD. Big brains take a LOT of training, which take a LOT of parental resources.

Now do that simultaneously for 6-12 active, curious young. Yeah... let's take the single (or few) births most of the time!

So for larger litters, you need to explain a few things...

To begin with, that whole r/K selection issue. How do they keep their litters ALIVE? Dunno... maybe they don't. Maybe they have a litter of 10 and only expect 1-3 will usually reach adulthood. Harsh. By our standards, epically tragic... something like an 80% child mortality rate???!?

Next up -- why aren't they suffering from massive overpopulation? Again -- child mortality is the easy answer.

I am guessing this is a little bit TOO epically tragic... So let's fix it. Let's get litters WITHOUT overwhelming child-mortality.

To begin with, let's only have 1 (at most 2) litters per mother, instead of 1 per year (or every other year, etc). This is still a 5-fold or so population growth per generation; thaty's HUGE, and grossly unstable.

Next, let's make the males fairly rare (going with a lion-pride social structure) but monogamous-for-life so they aren't having a litter on every female in the pride (or just biological - they only get to mate once, ever; like some species of salmon, etc (hopefully not spawn-and-die, but hey... if it works for you!) ) . Let's put this on the guys -- they are the fertility bottleneck. Maybe they can have sex more than occasionally, but they are only fertile VERY rarely. Pon-farr, anyone?

Now we have a birth-rate of 1-2 litters PER PRIDE per generation;this... actually looks something like a stable population!

It's also got some fairly evocative implications for the resulting cultures... Rarity of males, male monogamy, litters/offspring per-group instead of per-pair (communal child rearing in the model of an alpha-pair of wolves in a pack); but also the terrible population-fragility of the entire group filtered through one rarely-fertile male! I expect there would be a few males hanging 'round the fringes to challenge, etc... I could see this going in several different ways; different catpeople nations / ethnic-groups / whatevers pursuing different social strategies...


Also, I love the idea of communal child rearing, but do any cats do that? More importantly, is that common in more communal hunter-gather societies? I know many hunter-gatherers have more communal child rearing, but ...
Yeah, the social cats (lions, and feralized domestic (thank you jsnead jsnead !) ) both have communal kitten-raising. The "aunties" phenomenon (alloparental care, aka alloparenting) is pretty common among the social animals, including the 2 social felines.

Also note that alloparenting nicely solves that whole r/K selection issue: with a dozen alloparents, the Pride has the parental resources to feed/protect/supervise/train larger litters of young! Larger prides might ever support multiple males...

... but imagining a society of solitary hunters coalescing into village-like meeting-places, or even more intensive, organizing for manufacturing, is a crazy thought experiment. How do they get from solitary hunters, with hunting providing an individual's prestige, to working together to manufacture complex items? We re-wrote a lot of our natural tendencies in the industrial age, and before, but we're also communal animals, who can work together as a group to hunt big game.
I'll point again at prides of lions, with their group-hunting. Sometimes it's ganging-up on a big-prey, sometimes it's driving smaller, fleeter prey into ambush. So you don't need the catfolk to have a massive transition from "solitary hunters" because that never WAS their thing. Unless, y'know, you WANT that to have been their thing... 'cos it's all elfcats here!

There's still plenty of room for "solo hunt" behaviors as rite-of-passage for adulthood, maybe even an annual "proof of fitness," their version of "me time," etc etc etc...
 
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Eled the Worm Tamer

Spider Jeruselem's Warior
Validated User
Of course given we are edging around the Cat-folk being druidically industrialised and leaning against biopunk it might be the case that they naturally have litters but practice aggressive contraception?

For example, one gameable way to take this is a side effect of the Meatmellons having a contraceptive effect, thus the poors, as a result, have rare litters or only singletons, while the upper artisans and nobility have litters (An inversion of most human family plans across social strata.)

This would mean that most of the population is fairly stable, economic contractions>lower meat consumption>less people>Meat prices sink/per-individual QOL rises>More litters is a rather benevolent feedback loop so long a sit actually keeps pace with problems.

It also leaves us with lots of excess nobles, well educated, competitive, ambitious and with no chance of inheriting (Or if inheritance is divided, good reasons to have ones old holdings thin the ranks and avoid being thinned in turn). A ready-made 'Adventurer' social class out to do something to secure their place and their legacy.
 

DarkStarling

Brilliantly Crazed
Banned
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Aggressive contraception makes sense. I’m reminded of something by Ursula Vernon where the ferret people were like real ones and their estrus cycle can kill them if they don’t get pregnant...so they’re pretty much all on herbs that stop it entirely. As a consequence the females are also always stuck on the white winter coat, but definitely worth it. Now cats aren’t that bad, but can have a similar idea.
 

g33k

Registered User
Validated User
Also, here's a crazy one: Could cat-folk talk?
I would just Make It So. GM Fiat.

I mean, you are giving them anthropomorphic hands so they can be tool-users... Same handwave for speaking.

I have played in games where PC's haven''t been able to talk because of lack of a shared language, and mostly found that feature to suck, to make everything less fun.
 

LordofArcana

Registered User
Validated User
I would just Make It So. GM Fiat.

I mean, you are giving them anthropomorphic hands so they can be tool-users... Same handwave for speaking.

I have played in games where PC's haven''t been able to talk because of lack of a shared language, and mostly found that feature to suck, to make everything less fun.
Even if they were mute, they could still be able to read and write. They would also be able to learn to understand how human's talk. The situation would be more like Chewbacca's than anything.

That would still be annoying but hardly crippling.
 
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