In-universe, Caitians are a spacefaring feline alien species hailing from the planet Cait, and are long-standing members of the United Federation of Planets and Starfleet.
Depictions of Caitians have varied throughout Star Trek's history. In all prime timeline depictions, Caitians exhibit several feline attributes, including short faces, triangular ears, large yellow or green eyes with vertically slitted pupils, whiskers, fangs, and a tail. Their bodies are covered in fur, which can appear in a range of colours and patterns.
Caitians were first seen in the sixth episode of The Animated Series, "The Survivor" (first aired October 13, 1973), in which the Caitian Lieutenant M'Ress is introduced as a communications officer aboard the USS Enterprise, taking the position when Uhura is off-duty. She is depicted as a lion-like humanoid with digitigrade legs and a distinctive "purring" voice, supposedly caused by biological differences making it difficult for her to speak languages like English. M'Ress is the only Caitian depicted in The Animated Series, appearing in six of the series' 22 episodes.
The Animated Series also featured the Kzinti, an antagonistic race similar to Caitians. Materials released alongside the series (which are not necessarily canon), state that the Kzinti and Caitians share a common ancestry. The status of The Animated Series to the wider franchise's canon has fluctuated over time and is nowadays generally considered to be non-canonical, however the Caitians, Kzinti, and M'Ress have all been referenced in canon Star Trek media in the years since.
Two male Caitians appear as a background characters in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, a brown-furred admiral and a black-furred commodore who resemble a lynx and black panther respectively. Both are both seen attending James T. Kirk's court martial.
The Caitian homeworld, Cait, is briefly referenced in the first episode of season two of Star Trek: Discovery.
Star Trek: Lower Decks, which premiered in 2020, featured the first recurring Caitian character to the franchise: chief medical officer of the USS Cerritos, Doctor T'Ana. Unlike M'Ress, T'Ana resembles a domestic house cat, has plantigrade feet and no difficulty speaking English. T'Ana appears in most episodes of Lower Decks.
Several more Caitians, all resembling various domestic cats, appear in the second season Lower Decks episode "We'll Always Have Tom Paris" and a photograph of M'Ress appears in the background of the same episode. A Kzinti ensign also appears serving aboard the Cerritos, marking their first appearance since The Animated Series, and first as an ally to the Federation.
A Caitian child makes a recurring appearance as one of The Diviner's prisoners in Star Trek: Prodigy. Unlike previous Caitian appearances, this character has white eyes with round pupils.
Caitians were added as a purchasable playable race in Star Trek Online in June 2010. Their appearance was modelled after their appearance in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
Star Trek Into Darkness, which is set in an alternate timeline to most Star Trek media, features a radically different Caitian appearance. They are much more human in appearance, lacking the fur and facial features of typical Caitians, whilst maintaining furred tails and gaining ridged ear and neck markings. Although not identified by name in the film, producer Damon Lindelof confirmed this was their interpretation of Caitians in an interview following the film's release.
Caitians and furry
M'Ress remained popular for years after the end of The Animated Series, and was the unofficial inspiration of Freighter Tails and stories by Paul S. Gibbs. M'Ress, with her cat-like voice patterns and her anthropomorphic features, represents one of the first "furry" characters shown on TV, one that was neither a human with cat ears nor a talking cat.
An alien feline race called "Caitians," inspired by but not intended to be identical with the Star Trek: The Animated Series version, is featured in the Chakona Space setting.
- "Lieutenant M'Ress Biography". Curt Danhauser's Guide to the Animated Star Trek. Retrieved on January 31, 2022.
- "Do you think the Animated series should be considered canon? Or even more so, IS the Animated Series canon?" "We don't consider it canon, but it's kinda cool to throw in the odd reference here and there." - Ronald D. Moore, AOL's "Ask Ron D. Moore" message board, October 1998.
- "The Animated Series Gets Real". StarTrek.com. Archived from the original on July 6, 2007.
- Hoffman, Jordan. "EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Damon Lindelof". May 16, 2013. StarTrek.com. Retrieved on January 31, 2022.