Cat

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Cats (Mythos Cats, Dreamlands Cats, Cats from Uranus, Cats from Saturn, Cats from Mars)

Cats have appeared as an intelligent or quasi-intelligent "race" in Lovecraft's Dreamlands stories, including "The Cats of Ulthar (fiction)" and Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath (fiction).


Description

Cats from Earth and Earth's Dreamlands

Dreamlands Cats

Throw a stick, and the servile dog wheezes and pants and stumbles to bring it to you. Do the same before a cat, and he will eye you with coolly polite and somewhat bored amusement. And just as inferior people prefer the inferior animal which scampers excitedly because someone else wants something, so do superior people respect the superior animal which lives its own life and knows that the puerile stick-throwings of alien bipeds are none of its business and beneath its notice.... The cat charms you into playing for its benefit when it wishes to be amused; making you rush about the room with a paper on a string when it feels like exercise, but refusing all your attempts to make it play when it is not in the humour. That is personality and individuality and self-respect -- the calm mastery of a being whose life is its own and not yours -- and the superior person recognises and appreciates this because he too is a free soul whose position is assured, and whose only law is his own heritage and aesthetic sense.
H.P. Lovecraft, "Cats and Dogs (essay)"

In Lovecraft's Dreamlands tales, cats are intelligent creatures, capable of speaking with humans and other creatures in their own cat language, planning complicated feats of teamwork, fighting deadly and courageous battles against horrific monsters, making and honouring treaties, and of remembering and rewarding acts of kindness and generosity toward themselves and other cats.

Earth's cats are accomplished and adaptable Dreamers, and can easily and gracefully travel between the lands of Dream and Day at will. Curious cat Dreamers might be found in the Dreamlands of virtually the entire inner Solar System, and some brave and adventurous cats might be found in any of the strange and peculiar places beyond the Solar System, in the shadowy gulfs of space beyond rim of Yuggoth and on worlds orbiting alien stars.

Most Earthly cats look like (and indeed are) ordinary house cats of any breed or variety, however some cats have spent great amounts of time in the Dreamlands of other worlds, and have adapted to those strange worlds in ways that have left them looking, thinking, and behaving in ways quite alien, bizarre, and frequently hostile or malevolent in comparison to Earthly cats.

Cats in Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath seem to have some informal form of meritocratic government in deference to trusted and respected elders of their kind, who might hold councils and form and lead armies of cats into battle.

Appearances:


Cats from Mercury

Mercurial Cat

Mercurial Cats are dwarven, brutish, translucent, glassy things with vacant eyes, a tail that rattles when shaken before pouncing, and an eerie, shrill, thin cry: "mommy? maaaah-meeeeeeee...."

These cats are very strange and solitary creatures, even by the standard of other cats; as rare as these cats are to be seen on Mercury, it is rarer still to see them elsewhere, even the Dreamlands.

Native Mercurians, human colonists, and Dreamers alike consider it unlucky to see such a cat, believing that it chooses as a victim those who see it, stalking for months or years unseen in the shadows where it cries and rattles ominously, waiting for its victim to sleep, before pouncing at last, stealing and devouring its victim's breath.

Dreamlands cat legend suggests that in the Dreamlands, Mercurial cats look almost indistinguishable from Earthly cats, as they have the Dreaming power to disguise themselves as ordinary cats almost perfectly, save for their unblinking, wide, vacant, staring eyes and strange, slow, silent movement, as if walking in a daze or sleepwalking.... It is in such a disguise that Mercurial cats can pursue their victims unseen even into Dream. Ordinary Dreamlands cats and humans who are familiar with normal cat behavior are said to be able to easily recognize these imposters, but those humans who do not know cats well may not recognize the strange behavior of these alien imposter cats until it is too late....

In variations on this legend, Mercurial cats are said to have the power to possess the bodies of Earthly cats as they Dream, or even to reanimate the bodies of lifeless cats, becoming undead cats of strange and unnatural habits and abnormal, sorcerous magick - a power which has perhaps led to the legend of cats having "nine lives".

Many Mercurial cats have joined abominable cults that worship unspeakable horrors which their priests believe to lay dreaming deep under Mercury's crust, and whose strange shrines are hidden in shadowy caves leading to their forbidden chambers from Mercury's shadowy polar craters, into which Mercurial cats drag the torn bodies of terrible things to be left, decaying, on the doorstep of the shrines, and sometimes precious objects which the cats bat underneath the altar-stones, in monstrous sacrifice to their unspeakable, secret gods.

Though rarely seen even on Mercury, the graceful form of the cat is well-known on that world, where even the natives of Mercury who have never seen one and believe the creature to be a universal myth, comparable to the Earthly vampire or dragon, can recognize its shape and form; a vast sphinx can be found at the rim of one of the planet's deepest crater-lakes, carved into a shocking resemblance of the familiar Earthly cat, positioned such that the creature seems to be basking in the light of the sun while watching over the crater. The carving is so ancient and weathered and so absurdly like an Earthly cat that early visitors from Earth believed it had to have been naturally formed into the accidental semblance of a cat by some freak of chance, though it was in truth actually carved by unknown intelligent beings dwelling in the darkness of Mercurial antiquity, from a living model.

Appearances:

Cats from Mars and Barsoom

Cat from Mars

Soraks, strange six-legged Martian Cats, have long flourished in the Dreamlands of Earth and the Martian Dreamland of Barsoom, and are sometimes encountered on waking Mars even today, where from hiding they seem to be carefully watching over and searching the cold, silent sands of their doomed world, as if searching or waiting for something important, or perhaps observing intruders into the virtually dead Martian wastelands merely out of typical cat-like curiosity.

In the distant past of Martian history, Soraks were kept in the households of White Martian royalty, and sometimes worshiped as gods. Today, even Cats from Earth and Earth's Dreamlands tend to find Soraks to be peculiar, aloof, solitary, arrogant, capricious, mischievous, and given to strange ideas, humors, and habits. Martian Cats are said to sometimes serve small and eccentric Martian gods (at least, to the extent that any cat can be said to "serve" anything), and from time to time Cats from Mars, generally regarded as either mad or as perpetrators of some elaborate Sorak hoax, have been known to travel to Ulthar and even to Earth on the pretenses of trying to recruit Earthly cats into peculiar alien cat cults dedicated to working through absurd means toward a confusing "enlightenment" over unearthly cat mysteries.

Still, from time to time, these Martian Cats have been known to break their aloof distance to help cat and human travelers and Dreamers to Barsoom or Mars out of a tight spot for any of a variety of peculiar reasons (such as the opportunity to play a game of riddles, or for company, or to strike a bargain for a favor in return, or - perhaps as often as not - just for the creatures' own strange amusement), but these secretive and inscrutable creatures otherwise tend to keep their mysterious motives and goals to themselves.

Appearances:

Cats from Saturn

Cat from Saturn

A yowl now came from a farther peak, and the old leader paused abruptly in his conversation. It was one of the army’s outposts, stationed on the highest of the mountains to watch the one foe which earth’s cats fear; the very large and peculiar cats from Saturn, who for some reason have not been oblivious of the charm of our moon’s dark side. They are leagued by treaty with the evil toad-things, and are notoriously hostile to our earthly cats; so that at this juncture a meeting would have been a somewhat grave matter.
— H.P. Lovecraft, Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath (fiction)

The chromatic Cat from Saturn is bizarre, cat-like being from the Dreamlands. It has a brightly-hued body covered in jewel-like nodes, and a head is only identifiable by the whiskers and large round eyes that never blink. Saturnine cats are malicious and are aligned by treaty with Moon-Beasts and other horrors of the Moon's Dreamlands, as the Cats of Saturn share other cats' affinity for the dark side of the Moon's Dreamlands, but regard the Moon's Dreamlands as sacred place not to be intruded upon by any but themselves.

Saturnine cats are capable of space travel by leaping through space and holding their breaths for great amounts of time, and evolved to fit the strange, dense, gaseous environment of Saturn's Dreamlands, among the chromatic, slushy, jelly-like structures that serve as that world's surface, air, jungles, and creatures.

In addition to the Saturnian and Lunar Dreamlands, Saturnine cats have also been known to visit and sometimes inhabit the Dreamlands of Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune.

Appearances:


Cats from Uranus

Uranian Cat

The Uranian Cat, which dwells in the bizarre Dreamlands of Uranus, is closely related to the Saturnian cat, but is far more hideous and malicious. It is also larger and has fang-like teeth as well as six spike-like whiskers around its head, which sages assume serve as antennae that can detect certain forms of energy over large distances. Powerful in appearance and dark of hue, a Cat from Uranus has a thick coat of black, blue, or green webbed tentacles and a long tail. The creature resembles a very large cat, almost the size of a sheep. Shy and alert, and very fleet of foot, a Cat from Uranus is very intelligent and can even speak human language, as well as communicate with other Dreamlands cats. Its skin is very valuable for the fact that it cannot be cut or pierced in any way by steel, only by silver — perfect for the making of armor that will protect the wearer from anything save weapons made of silver. It is said to be very dangerous to hunt a Cat from Uranus, however, as their gaze can kill any man. Popular wisdom says that the only way they can be killed is by magic or with silver-headed arrows.

Dreamers who have traveled to regions beyond Uranus have sometimes reported Cats from Uranus roaming the Dreamlands of Neptune and Yuggoth, and beyond.

Appearances:

  • Cats from Uranus appear in Mythic Iceland as "Fingals" (see "Faerie Cats", below), and otherwise seem to be an invention of Chaosium, appearing in

Sandy Petersen's Field Guide to Creatures of the Dreamlands.


Cats from Yuggoth and Beyond

Cats are accomplished dreamers who are sometimes susceptible to a strange wanderlust that takes them to very weird and distant places. Dreamers might almost certainly encounter cat travelers in the dark and starry astral voids of Solar and interstellar Trans-Neptunian space, given enough time and luck. Cat wanderers have tread carefully and quietly in the shadows of Yuggoth and Nithon, peeked afrightedly upon the terrible mysteries of Kynarth, ridden strange and alien galleons to distant stars, and drifted patiently alone and solitary through the darkness of Astral space to satisfy their feline curiosities about the secrets to be found in the places where no sun has ever cast its light. A few pioneering cats have even chosen to call these dim worlds of the outer rim and beyond their homes, and by necessity these cats may be the most secretive and elusive cats of all, for these are worlds where it it seldom wise to be easily seen.

Entities which were in mortal life the wisest and most ancient of cats, worshiped by man and monster in their times as gods, might also be found perched high upon the poorly-explored upper reaches of the Seven Planes in search of deeper enlightenment and spiritual perfection, while serving ancient and mighty works of arcane magick both great and benevolent, and dark and terrible: for both white and black lodges of deeper mysticism and sorcery on the higher planes have recruited ancient and powerful cats into either of their respective ranks, whichever best suits the whims and temperaments of the cat witches and wizards who have joined them.


Faerie Cats

Faerie Cat, or Cath-Shee

Faerie Cats (or Cath-Shee, Wampus-Cats, Wampus, Kasha Cats, Bagheeta, Nekomata, Senri, Fingal)

Large, wicked, and terribly wise cats once ruled the waking world with terror, keeping tiny humans as servants and for sport, but humans made bargains with the Old Ones and dreamed of an Earth where large humans ruled over tiny cats, and slew the largest cats and drove them into the wild places of the Earth and into the Dreamlands; in the Daylands the ancient enmity has been largely forgotten by many men and most cats, and even in the Dreamlands, where cats still hold shaky positions of respect and power, there are a few places left where humans and small cats maintain a truce and live side-by-side in uneasy peace (Ulthar is one of the last). But, in the wild places of the Dreamlands, the vicious large cats called Cath-Shee or "Faerie Cats", survivors of the reversal of roles in the waking world and still ancient and wise and evil, to this day can be found stalking the men of the Dreamlands on lonely roads, pouncing on them from the shadows of wild forests and hills. Some Cath-Shee even pass over the thin places between Dream and Day into the waking world, returning to Earth in vengeance to spread terror and slaughter and wickedness in the world they once ruled in the form of large, menacing, phantom black cats; instinctively, its human victims still remember a time when man still feared the terrible claws and yawning jaws and mighty roar of cats.... (Sandman)

The Faerie Cat carries a great deal of "liminal" symbolism, creeping through the shadows or boundaries between two worlds. The Faerie world they originate from (Tir na Nog, The Land of Youth, a place of eternal youth that is neither life nor death) is said to be closer at times of birth and death (dusk & dawn), Beltane (or Walpurgisnacht) and Samhain (Halloween), at crossroads, springs, caves, shores, rivers, fords, passes, bridges, mists and fogs.... (folklore)

The traditional "Halloween" black cat, with its back arched, teeth bared, and hair erect, is a representation of the Cath-Shee, and it is often portrayed as a witch's familiar; the infamous Hell Fire Club was said to be haunted by a large, black, demonic cat. Some stories say the Faerie Cat isn't a cat or a faerie, but a witch that can transform into a cat nine times (remaining a cat on the ninth); this is related to legends of the "nine lives" of cats. (folklore)

Alternatively, the Faerie Cat can take on the appearance of humans as they grow older; in some legends, a Faerie Cat can turn into a beautiful woman and seduce her victims. Faerie Cats might also "steal souls" of the dead before burial, and "steal breath" of infants soon after birth, and it is believed that once these cats take enough souls or lives, they can become human. In China, they are known as "senri" cats, cats which grow old and wise and wicked, deriving their powers from the moon and learning how to shape-shift into beautiful women and men to seduce humans and suck out their breath and spirits. In many cultures, very old cats are believed to grow into intelligent but perhaps wicked creatures and even witches over time, and old cats can learn how to speak human words and languages. In Japan, it is believed that poorly-treated domestic cats vanish into the wilderness to become man-eating demons; they grow very old and large and wicked, and shed their skins as they grow larger; these faerie cats, or "nekomata" or "kasha", are said to be Yokai demons that swoop down on funeral processions and eat corpses, and to have powers of necromancy, raising the dead for ritualistic dances; nekomata might also be born as a curse on a family for killing a cat. (folklore)

Similarly, in Iceland, where the Faerie Cat is known as a "Fingal", it is also called a "Ghoul-Cat", after its habit of digging up dead bodies of intelligent beings and eating their rotten flesh; it is said to be able to speak in any of the languages of man, cats, or foxes, and to have a Faerie's spectral resistance to damage from any but silver or holy weapons. The association of Faerie Cath-Shee with death, as omens, bringers of death, eaters of the dead, and as necromancers, while calling out in the wailing voices of women, suggests a strong link between the Cath-Shee the Banshee. (folklore)

By some accounts, such as in some remote corners of Europe (e.g., Serbia), Faerie Cats are human women who have been cursed by the wickedness and idolatry of their ancestors to turn into huge, black cats should they give in to human weaknesses and fall in love with human men, and are doomed in that form to kill their lovers. Indeed, who can say for sure whether the Cath-Shee is entirely cat, entirely human, or the result of a mixed ancestry of evil cats which have become human with evil humans who have become cats? The cat goddess Bast (goddess), one of Earth's mild gods, is said to be the patron deity and protector of cats, and is, perhaps, that which the ancestors of victims of this curse once bowed to in shocking obeisance.... (Cat People)

Faerie and Ghoul-Cats might be found in the company or as members of the populations of cultists, witches, Faeries, Ghouls, and other such monsters. (folklore)

Most cultures have rituals to distract faerie cats at dusk and dawn to keep them away from the vulnerable, such as playing games, telling stories and riddles, playing music, building bonfires, leaving saucers of milk at doorways and bridges and gates, as faerie cats are said to immensely enjoy all of these things.... (folklore)

Appearances:



Quotes

...Householders were troubled when they noticed that in all the village there was not a cat to be found. From each hearth the familiar cat had vanished; cats large and small, black, grey, striped, yellow, and white. Old Kranon, the burgomaster, swore that the dark folk had taken the cats away in revenge for the killing of Menes’ kitten.... But Nith, the lean notary, declared that the old cotter and his wife were more likely persons to suspect; for their hatred of cats was notorious and increasingly bold. Still, no one durst complain to the sinister couple; even when little Atal, the innkeeper’s son, vowed that he had at twilight seen all the cats of Ulthar in that accursed yard under the trees, pacing very slowly and solemnly in a circle around the cottage, two abreast, as if in performance of some unheard-of rite of beasts. The villagers did not know how much to believe from so small a boy; and though they feared that the evil pair had charmed the cats to their death, they preferred not to chide the old cotter till they met him outside his dark and repellent yard.... When the people awaked at dawn—behold! every cat was back at his accustomed hearth! Large and small, black, grey, striped, yellow, and white, none was missing. Very sleek and fat did the cats appear, and sonorous with purring content. The citizens talked with one another of the affair, and marvelled not a little. Old Kranon again insisted that it was the dark folk who had taken them, since cats did not return alive from the cottage of the ancient man and his wife. But all agreed on one thing: that the refusal of all the cats to eat their portions of meat or drink their saucers of milk was exceedingly curious. And for two whole days the sleek, lazy cats of Ulthar would touch no food, but only doze by the fire or in the sun. It was fully a week before the villagers noticed that no lights were appearing at dusk in the windows of the cottage under the trees....
— H.P. Lovecraft, "The Cats of Ulthar (fiction)"

Then through that star-specked darkness there did come a normal sound. It rolled from the higher hills, and from all the jagged peaks around it was caught up and echoed in a swelling pandaemoniac chorus. It was the midnight yell of the cat, and Carter knew at last that the old village folk were right when they made low guesses about the cryptical realms which are known only to cats, and to which the elders among cats repair by stealth nocturnally, springing from high housetops. Verily, it is to the moon’s dark side that they go to leap and gambol on the hills and converse with ancient shadows, and here amidst that column of foetid things Carter heard their homely, friendly cry, and thought of the steep roofs and warm hearths and little lighted windows of home.... Now much of the speech of cats was known to Randolph Carter, and in this far, terrible place he uttered the cry that was suitable. But that he need not have done, for even as his lips opened he heard the chorus wax and draw nearer, and saw swift shadows against the stars as small graceful shapes leaped from hill to hill in gathering legions.... Carter now spoke with the leaders in the soft language of cats, and learned that his ancient friendship with the species was well known and often spoken of in the places where cats congregate. He had not been unmarked in Ulthar when he passed through, and the sleek old cats had remembered how he petted them after they had attended to the hungry Zoogs who looked evilly at a small black kitten. And they recalled, too, how he had welcomed the very little kitten who came to see him at the inn, and how he had given it a saucer of rich cream in the morning before he left....
— H.P. Lovecraft, Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath (fiction)

'Please would you tell me,' said Alice, a little timidly, for she was not quite sure whether it was good manners for her to speak first, 'why your cat grins like that?'
'It's a Cheshire cat,' said the Duchess, 'and that's why....'
'I didn't know that Cheshire cats always grinned; in fact, I didn't know that cats could grin.'
'They all can,' said the Duchess; 'and most of 'em do.'
'I don't know of any that do,' Alice said very politely, feeling quite pleased to have got into a conversation.
'You don't know much,' said the Duchess; 'and that's a fact....'
The Cat only grinned when it saw Alice. It looked good-natured, she thought: still it had very long claws and a great many teeth, so she felt that it ought to be treated with respect.
'Cheshire Puss,' She began, rather timidly, as she did not at all know whether it would like the name: however, it only grinned a little wider. Come, it's pleased so far, thought Alice, and she went on. 'Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?'
'That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,' said the Cat.
'I don't much care where–' said Alice.
'Then it doesn't matter which way you go,' said the Cat.
'–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,' Alice added as an explanation.
'Oh, you're sure to do that,' said the Cat, 'if you only walk long enough.'"
Alice felt that this could not be denied, so she tried another question. 'What sort of people live about here?'
'In that direction,' the Cat said, waving its right paw round, 'lives a Hatter: and in that direction,' waving the other paw, 'lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they're both mad.'
'But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
'Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: 'we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.'
'How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
'You must be,' said the Cat, 'or you wouldn't have come here.'
Alice didn't think that proved it at all; however, she went on 'And how do you know that you're mad?'
'To begin with,' said the Cat, 'a dog's not mad. You grant that?'
'I suppose so,' said Alice.
'Well, then,' the Cat went on, 'you see, a dog growls when it's angry, and wags its tail when it's pleased. Now I growl when I'm pleased, and wag my tail when I'm angry. Therefore I'm mad.'
'I call it purring, not growling,' said Alice.
'Call it what you like,' said the Cat, [then] vanished.
Alice was not much surprised at this, she was getting so used to queer things happening....
— Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass

...The old witch sat by a table with a lamp, knitting a splendid cloak of gold and green for a king that had been dead a thousand years.
'Is it any use,' I said, 'to the king that is dead that you sit and knit him a cloak of gold and green?'
'Who knows?' she said.
'What a silly question to ask,' said her old black cat who lay curled by the fluttering fire.
'Tell me something,' I said, 'of this strange land!'
'How much do you know?' she said. 'Do you know that dreams are illusion?'
'Of course I do,' I said. 'Every one knows that.'
'Oh no they don't,' she said, 'the mad don't know it.'
'That is true,' I said.
'And do you know,' she said, 'that Life is illusion?'
'Of course it is not,' I said. 'Life is real, Life is earnest——.'
At that the witch and her cat (who had not moved from his old place by the hearth) burst into laughter....
'What do you know about Time?' she said.
'Nothing,' answered the old, black cat, though nobody spoke to him....
'Tea-bell,' said the witch; and all the poets threw down their spades and followed her into the house, and I followed them; but the witch and all of us followed the black cat, who arched his back and lifted his tail and walked along the garden-path of blue enameled tiles and through the black-thatched porch and the open, oaken door and into a little room where tea was ready.... And some of the poets took large flowers out of vases and threw their petals all about the room, and others talked two at a time and other sang. 'Why they are only children after all,' I said.
'Only children!' repeated the old witch who was pouring out cowslip wine.
'Only children,' said the old black cat. And every one laughed at me.
'I sincerely apologize,' I said. 'I did not mean to say it. I did not intend to insult any one.'
'Why he knows nothing at all,' said the old black cat. And everybody laughed till the poets were put to bed....
'What does he know about anything?' ...I knew what he was going to say next. He waited a moment and then said, 'Nothing.' When I looked over my shoulder he was strutting back to the cottage....
Edward Plunkett, 18th Baron Dunsany, A Shop in Go-By Street (fiction) and The Avenger of Perdondaris (fiction)

Keeper Notes

Earthly cats might serve as guides, friends, and allies of characters who demonstrate friendship to cats, especially in the Dreamlands; being able to sometimes understand the speech of these cats might make a nice, ambiguous insanity effect.

More alien cats might serve as Familiars of cultists and other enemies (or is that the other way around?), or might prove particularly evil and crafty enemies and villains in their own right. (For example, Cats from Saturn might be realizing a hideous plot against Earthly cats which might in turn leave waking humans vulnerable to greater horrors of the Mythos. Or, a Cath-Shee necromancer might be working to summon terrible Outer gods to help return his kind to cruel mastery over the Earth and its Dreamlands.)

Earthly cats might normally be assumed to be potential allies or at least bystanders, but some keepers might be interested in taking a page from Neil Gaiman's ("A Dream of a Thousand Cats"), in which there is at least some thinly-suppressed potential hostility between cats and humans: cat cultists and wizards might be working secretly to summon Elder Gods to reverse their fortunes and regain mastery over humans.

There might be stranger and more alien cats to be found on other worlds of the Solar System... what strange bargains might the Mi-Go have made with the weird, fungal Cats of Yuggoth, and what might such weird cats look like and be capable of? What strange wonders and horrors have curious, wandering cats found on Mercury, in hollow asteroids, or beyond the Rim of Yuggoth into the Dreamlands of deeper space?

Faeries, Ghouls, Worms of the Earth, witches and warlocks, entire cults of humans, and similar beings might have the ability to transform into Faerie Cats (as suggested by Cat People (1942 franchise), in which the people of an entire village were said to have taken up the practice of turning into evil and bloodthirsty black cats as part of their participation in an evil cult).


Associated Mythos Elements

  • deity: Bast (goddess) (a cat goddess)
  • skill: "Other Language (Cat)" might be a useful house-ruled skill for Call of Cthulhu RPG Dreamlands adventures involving cats; alternatively, use the Dreaming skill instead


References