Warm kitty, Soft kitty, little ball of fur and death.
As requested by the masses I bring to you the discussion of all of the cats of D&D! There are so many felines available for us to use both against the players and with them. While there are less other realm creatures listed out for the cat’s thus far (totally gonna change that at some point), there is no less wonderful new ways to dust off these old stat blocks for use.
Now this list focuses mainly on things from the 5e edition of the Monster Manuel so don’t go flying off the hinge in the comments if I missed a kitty cat from another book. Just let me know and I am happy to add them.
Our list of existing is pretty easy to break down in terms of tactics – pets and wild animals, and then further into pack hunters and solo stalkers. Some of the behaviors of its larger wild cousins are mimicked by the cat but there baseline attitudes towards humanoids and their environments are different. A cat is very playful, it does mock hunting and stalking behaviors as practice even if it doesn’t need to hunt for its meals. If they can’t reach something they want – be it prey, toy, etc they make those chittering sounds all cat owners are familiar with. They get the zoomies at odd hours and when you least expect it, though they are often more awake at night which might make for a good guard kitty if you can keep them on task. While they are vocal towards humanoids they don’t need it to communicate with other felines, its just a ‘you are too stupid to know humanoid’ thing or a ‘heey attention now’ deal. Different meows, yowls, chirps, etc are for the humanoids benefit so its possible to train certain noises for things like maybe alerting at found traps. But don’t forget how much the cat hates to be dirty as IRL cat’s spend 30% of their time JUST CLEANING THEMSELVES.
Running a cat as a party pet, as is most likely to happen means that it won’t always follow instructions and it is likely to cause some problems along the way. Its kind of hard to sneak through a castle undetected when the cat is yowling down the hallway. But it also means an innocent enough looking way for your pet to get into places. A cat trained by a rogue to bring shiny things in exchange for treats, a wizard’s cat trained to smell the effects left by spells, or even a bard’s cat who helps turn potential patrons friendly with cuteness. Have fun with this if your party wants to adopt one!
Time to talk the big cats – the giant fluffballs – the kitty killers, I could honestly just keep going but I’m going to cut it there for now. All big wild cats have things in common that will effect how you can use them during an encounter. To hunt they stalk prey by observing, luring and waiting for the perfect moment to strike. It doesn’t matter if its a lion striking as a pack or a panther leaping down from above. They are aggressive powerful hunters that hold the power to slaughter their prey outright, but they are also silent hunters. Being able to sneak up on their prey is important. Surprising that prey and striking before it knows what is happening is the difference between a meal and hunger. Where this differs from wolves, who I talked about in my Dogs of D&D post, is how they go about the tracking and ambushing. Wild cats tend to prefer laying in wait in locations where they already know prey frequent, this isn’t to say that they won’t travel great distances to scout for prey, but just that they prefer to go where they know food will come to and wait for the time to strike. Where your wolves and dogs are more active hunters, roaming their territory until they catch a scent and then zeroing in on that.
The solo stalkers of the bunch are pretty self explanatory. Our displacer beast, crag cat, chimeric cat, panther, tiger, and saber-toothed tiger all fall under this category. They tend to live by themselves or in very small family units of just the parent and the current batch of offspring. When it comes to hunting its a solo affair unless its a lesson for the new cubs. Stalkers like to blend and slink through their environment and get a high perch above their prey when possible. It keeps them out of eye sight, often away from giving their scent away and causes a huge surprise to have hundreds of pounds of pure killing muscle drop on you from above. They are extremely patient, able to remain rock still for hours waiting for someone to break off from camp or get a little separated from the rest of the group. Since they don’t have a pride to coordinate attacks with they are extra cautious about when they decide to strike to keep it from becoming an uneven fight of many against one. It also means that when they strike it is with the idea of a killing blow in mind. They want to bam in and drag their kill away as quickly as possible. Now panthers IRL can just straight up climb trees and shit with the body of their prey in their mouths. We are talking adult deer and boar so easily 300 lbs of dead weight just poof, up a tree. Can you imagine how terrifying it would be for an NPC to go out on watch, never come back and the next morning you find his devoured carcass up in a tree or at least part of him. Free nightmare fuel for your players there, you are welcome.
Now our family hunters or group runners would obviously be our three lions – lion, fleecemaned lion and winged lion. These power houses hunt as a unit, often several different families or litters together. At this point I’d like to remind our readers that its actually the females that do all of the hunting and killing in the structure of a pride. The ladies are the badasses here and the dudes just kind of lounging around, don’t get mad at me just go watch Animal Planet or something. That isn’t to say the dudes don’t have a job its normally to protect the pride and the territory rather then hunt for food. So your group could have a run in with a male lion though chances are he is only rolling by himself as others he sees a threat to his rule would get run off. But rolling up on a pack of lionesses hunting would be terrifying, no thank you. Have you seen those videos of them taking water buffalo down? And I can think of few things involving a group of lionesses on the hunt THEN GIVING THEM GODDAMN WINGS. Just going to dive bomb you from above, kill you and then carry you back to be eaten by my cubs. Its all good.
Time for the reasons you all are really here though. What if the party wants to adopt them? Well our little cat is probably the easiest for any DM to deal with if they have ever had a pet growing up. It needs to learn to trust and obey you through training, though training a cat is leagues different then training a canine. Using spells to understand each other would probably go a long way to helping out. Bringing us to our not so tame options on the table currently. Honestly if a player wanted to adopt one of these I’d probably use a variation of my Druid’s gaining polymorph form rule set to get the animal to trust them but also use something like the loyalty scale from when hirlings/henchmen were a thing. If you start treating it poorly its probably going to eat you and then leave. Treat it right and it will probably just eat whatever creature or bad guy you sick it on. But you better believe you will need to keep it fed or risk some not so happy outcomes in social situations or while traveling through populated areas. They aren’t going to do well in cities or crowded spaces, in fact it will probably freak them out ALOT. This might be something the group needs to learn to deal with or take into account when planning out routes, it might unintentionally shape your campaign into a different space then you intended so be very upfront with your players about that. If they persist well at least you tried and it isn’t your fault if the displacer beast goes on a killing spree in town and freaks out, running through the streets to cause more panic and maybe a mob of angry townies.
With that little rambling over with, I’m JustKay your regular DM Dalliance on the web and I’ll see you next post.