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Werecats (also written in a hyphenated form as were-cats) are creatures of folklore, fantasy fiction, horror fiction and occultism that are generally described as shapeshifters who are similar to werewolves, except that they turn into creatures that are based on some species of feline instead of being based on a wolf.[1][2][3][4][5] The species involved can be a domestic cat,[6] a tiger,[7] a lion,[8] a leopard,[9] a lynx, or any other type, including some that are purely fantastical felines.[10] Typically, an individual werecat can only transform to one unique feline, not to a number of different species, and each individual type of werecat may be known by a more species-specific term such as "weretiger".[11] The word "werecat" was not coined until the late 19th century, so it was not directly used in legends from earlier eras, only by later folklorists' commentary.


Werecat folklore is found on all continents except Antarctica and Australia and is generally based on wild felines native to the area.


European folklore usually depicts werecats who transform into domestic cats. Some European werecats became giant domestic cats[10] or black panthers.[12] They are generally labeled witches, even though they may have just the one magical ability, of self-transformation.[13] During the witch trials, the official Church doctrine stated that all shapeshifters, including werewolves, were witches.[14]


African legends describe people who turn into lions or leopards. In the case of leopards, this is often because the creature is really a leopard god or goddess masquerading as human. When these gods mate with humans, offspring can be produced, and these children sometimes grow up to be shapeshifters; Those who do not transform may instead have other powers. In reference to werecats who turn into lions, the ability is often associated with royalty. Such a being may have been a king or queen in a former life, or may be destined for leadership in this life. This quality of heroic warriorship can be seen in the lions of Tsavo, which were reputed to be kings in lion shape, attempting to repel the invading Europeans by stopping their railroad.


Mainland Asian werecats usually become tigers.[11] In India, the weretiger is often a dangerous sorcerer, portrayed as a menace to livestock, who might at any time turn to man-eating. Chinese legends often describe weretigers as the victims of either heredity or a vindictive ghost. Ancient teachings held that every race except the Han Chinese were really animals in disguise, so that there was nothing extraordinary about some of these false humans reverting to their true natures. Alternately, the ghosts of people who had been killed by tigers could become malevolent supernatural beings, devoting all their energy to making sure that tigers killed more humans. Some of these ghosts were responsible for transforming ordinary humans into man-eating weretigers. Also, in Japanese folklore there are creatures called bakeneko that are similar to kitsune (fox spirits) and tanuki (raccoon dogs).

In both Indonesia and Malaysia we meet with another kind of were-tiger.[15] The power of transformation is regarded as due to inheritance, to the use of spells, to fasting and will-power, to the use of charms, etc. Save when it is hungry or has just cause for revenge, it is not hostile to man; in fact, it is said to take its animal form only at night and to guard the plantations from wild pigs, exactly as the balams (magicians) of Yucatán were said to guard the maize fields in animal form. Variants of this belief assert that the shapeshifter does not recognize his friends unless they call him by name, or that he goes out as a mendicant and transforms himself to take vengeance on those who refuse him alms. Somewhat similar is the belief of the Khonds; for them the tiger is friendly, and he reserves his wrath for their enemies. A man is said to take the form of a tiger in order to wreak a just vengeance. [15]

South America[edit]

South American werecats usually became jaguars.[11] In some tribes, all shamans were thought to have the ability to become jaguars. There are also urban legends about jaguar shapeshifters lurking along highways in tales similar to the modern vanishing hitchhiker, and of their being assassins secretly employed by the government or organized crime.

North America[edit]

Present-day North American werecat legends are usually based on the European model, with domestic cats, either normal-sized or giant, being the favored shape. Cougars appear rarely, and jaguars only appear south of the American border. In what is now Mexico, Aztec folklore described jaguar people as being specially blessed by one of the gods, but modern Mexican folklore is more likely to attribute such transformation powers to the devil. American urban legends tell of encounters with feline bipeds; beings similar to the Bigfoot having cat heads, tails and paws. Feline bipeds are sometimes classified as part of cryptozoology, but more often they are interpreted as werecats.[16]


Fictional werecats tend to be portrayed as less influenced by the lunar cycle than werewolves, and they appear in heroic roles slightly more often. In addition, the females seem to outnumber the males, which is the opposite of the tradition in werewolf fiction.


  • The movie Cat People was the most influential item of werecat fiction, about a real sex kitten who turns into a black panther. It was followed forty years later by Cat People, a remake in name only with a vastly changed storyline that now included two shapeshifters, brother and sister.
  • The film Night Watch featured a character named Tiger Cub who was a weretiger.
  • In Halloweentown High, Layla is a werecat, she is not really shown and is one of the creatures that went back to Halloweentown.
  • The Malaysian movie, Waris Jari Hantu (literally meaning "inheritance of a ghost's finger) is a movie about a weretiger who is searching for a heir to be the next weretiger to protect (its) family and village.

Anime and manga[edit]

  • The video games, animation adaptations, and comic books of Darkstalkers feature the character Felicia who usually stays in a catgirl form but can also transform into a small white cat. She also appears in several cross-over games.
  • The comic and television series Ranma ½ has plenty of shapeshifters, including a character named Shampoo, who turns into a cat when hit by cold water, as the result of a magic curse.
  • The anime Outlaw Star had a character named Aisha Clanclan who was already a catgirl, but could turn into a white tiger.
  • Ichigo Momomiya and Ryou Shirogane in Tokyo Mew Mew are scientifically altered to be part cat. In the anime and manga, Ichigo only turns into a cat when kissed or when she gets excited or nervous. The only way for her to revert to human is being kissed again. For Shirogane, he can only stay in cat form for 10 minutes at a time, or he will remain a cat permanently.
  • In Gorgon Sisters (a hentai manga) werecats are described as an old necromancer's trick. Essentially the described recipe is similar to that of a homunculus.
  • In Bleach Yoruichi Shihouin is a human who can transform into a cat. She can control the transformation and change whenever she wants. When she makes her first appearance she is a cat and later transforms into a woman in front of Ichigo, much to his surprise and embarrassment.


  • In Season 1 of Big Wolf on Campus the episode Cat Woman focused on conflicts between a werewolf and a werecat (a girl with blue streaks in her hair who transforms into a dyed-blue cat and into a catgirl form).
  • An episode of Gargoyles called Mark of the Panther dealt with werepanthers in Africa.
  • An episode of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job dealt with Tim turning into a cat, being stuck in the form of an orange tabby cat for the majority of the episode. Another segment in the same episode has a commercial for a television series about a man who can turn into a cat, named "Kitty Cat Man".


  • "The Last Wizard" by Tanya Huff includes a race of wizard-created werebeasts that live in the mountains. There are several types, but they consist mostely of werewolves and werecats.
  • The Jaguar Princess by Clare Bell is about an Aztec slave girl who is descended from jaguar gods and can transform into a jaguar.
  • The Inheritance Trilogy includes a werecat known as Solembum, a large, odd-looking cat able to communicate telepathically and change into the form of a young boy. Later on other werecats are noted, such as Maud.
  • In the Black Lace novel The Pride by Edie Bingham, the lead character, Kami Osbank, is a member of a hidden race of feline humanoids who possess tails, claws and tracks of leopard-like spots, all of which appear whenever she gets angry or aroused.
  • In Night Watch, a character named Tiger Cub has the ability to transform into a tiger at will, due to her magical skills.
  • In Cynthia Leitich Smith's Tantalize, werewolves and werecats are traditional rivals, but both fight vampires.
  • Garth Nix's Sabriel features a being called Mogget. Although he is neither a cat nor human, he often manifests himself as one of these two while in his bound form.
  • In the book series Animorphs, five teenaged youths are given the power to metamorphose ("morph") into animals, for which they must first acquire their DNA. Jake, the leader, acquires a tiger's DNA and can morph into it. Also, Tobias acquires his pet cat's DNA as the group's first morph, whereas Rachel morphs a childhood friend's cat.
  • In Discworld, Greebo is a reverse of the werecat, in that he does not change into a cat; rather the cat changes into a human.
  • Neil Gaiman's novel America Gods features the goddess Bast, who appears as a house cat during the observer Shadow Moon's waking life, but appears as a slightly feral human in his dreams.


  • Clan of the Cats is a comic that has a black panther werecat as the main character.
  • Gold Digger is a comic with a cheetah werecat as the sidekick of the main character. Other werecat characters also appear, such as werejaguars.
  • The Wotch has a werecat character named Katie McBride. However, Katie was a human who was transformed when a werekitty bit her. When Katie transforms into the werecat, she went on a rampage through Tandy until she has a green amulet on her neck bringing her mind back even in werecat form.
  • El Goonish Shive has several shapeshifting characters, two of whom, Grace and Elliot, have the ability to take on a human/cat hybrid form.
  • The Tokyopop OEL manga Reality Check is about a catowner whose pet regularly enters the world of online virtual reality gaming and the Internet, where her avatar is a catgirl; since she has at least near-human intelligence and can communicate with humans through ordinary speech in the online worlds, she is effectively a technologically-enabled werecat, albeit one which started as a cat rather than human.


  • The RPG series Breath of Fire features a race of cat-like humanoids called Woren. One of them (Rei, from Breath of Fire 3) can turn into a large, extremely powerful weretiger during battle.
  • The Bloody Roar video game series features many werecreatures (called Zoanthropes), including Long and Shenlong the weretigers, Gado the werelion, Shina the wereleopard, and Uriko the werebobcat.
  • In the PC computer game Hexen II, there are a group of enemy werecat creatures known as werejaguars and werepanthers, who are known for running fast, jumping, wielding swords, and sometimes reflecting projectiles with their shields.
  • In the PC computer game Shadowcaster, the player can transform into a werecat creature known as the Maorin.
  • In the World of Warcraft, night elf druids can change into a panther and Tauren druids can become a lion (both races of druids can become a cheetah), and an item called the "moonstalker cloak" can turn any Alliance player into a moonstalker (a black tiger with grey stripes) for 5 minutes.

Occultism and theology[edit]

Occultist Rosalyn Greene claims that werecats called "cat shifters" exist as part of a "shifter subculture" or underground New Age religion based on lycanthropy and related beliefs.[17]. Feline therians do exist, though they do not necessarily classify their beliefs as religious or supernatural, nor do they necessarily believe in the possibility of physical transformation.


  1. Bleiler, Everett (1983). The Guide to Supernatural Fiction. Kent State University Press, 272. 
  2. Warren, Christine (2003). Fantasy Fix. Ellora's Cave, 232. 
  3. Stine, R.L. (1996). Night of the Werecat. Aladdin. 
  4. Galenorn, Yasmine (2006). Witchling. Berkley, 12. 
  5. Greene, Rosalyn (2000). The Magic of Shapeshifting. Weiser, 8-9. 
  6. Galenorn, Yasmine (2006). Witchling. Berkley, 33. 
  7. (2003) Monster Manual: Core Rulebook III. Wizards of the Coast, 165-166. 
  8. Feehan, Christine (2002). Lair of the Lion. Leisure Books. 
  9. Worland, Rick (2006). The Horror Film: An Introduction. Blackwell Publishing, 73, 176-178, 184. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 Greene, Rosalyn (2000). The Magic of Shapeshifting. Weiser, 9. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Summers, Montague (1966). The Werewolf. University Books, 21. 
  12. Hall, Jamie (2003). Half Human, Half Animal. Bloomington, IN: 1st Books, 92-93. 
  13. Hamel, Frank (1969). Human Animals. New Hyde Park: University Books, 7, 103-109. 
  14. Summers, Montague; Heinrich Kramer, Jakob Sprenger (2000). The Malleus Maleficarum of Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger. Book Tree, 61-65. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 (1910-1911) Encyclopædia Britannica. 
  16. Steiger, Brad (2001). Out of the Dark. Kensington Books, 154-160. 
  17. Greene, Rosalyn (2000). The Magic of Shapeshifting. Weiser, 53-89, 125, 149. 

See also[edit]

External links[edit]