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Ailuranthropy comes from the Greek words ailouros meaning "cat", and anthropos, meaning "human" and refers to human/feline transformations, or to other beings that combine feline and human characteristics. Its root word is also used in ailurophobia, the most common term for a phobia of cats.
Ailuranthrope is a lesser-known term that refers to a feline therianthrope.
European folklore usually depicts werecats as people who transform into domestic cats. Some European werecats became giant domestic cats or panthers. They are generally labelled witches, even though they may have no magical ability other than self-transformation. During the witch trials[which?], all shapeshifters, including werewolves, were considered witches whether they were male or female.
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African legends describe werelions, werepanthers or wereleopards. In the case of leopards, this is often because the creature is really a leopard deity masquerading as a human. When these gods mate with humans, offspring can be produced, and these children sometimes grow up to be shapeshifters; those who don't 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.
In Africa, there are folk tales that speak of the "Nunda," or the "Mngwa," a big cat of immense size that stalks villages at night. Many of these tales say it is more ferocious than a Lion and more agile than a Leopard. The Nunda are believed by some to be a variation of therianthrope that, by day, is a human, but by night becomes the werecat. No actual evidence of such a creature existing has ever been documented, but in 1938 a British Explorer named William Hichens, working in Tanzania, was told by locals that a monstrous cat had been attacking people at night. Huge paw prints were found to be much larger than any known big-cat, but Hichens dismissed the case, believing it more likely to be a lion with gigantism.
Mainland Asian werecats usually become tigers. In India, the weretiger is often a dangerous sorcerer, portrayed as a menace to livestock, who might at any time turn to man-eating. These tales travelled through the rest of India and into Persia through travellers who encountered the royal Bengal tigers of India and then further west. Chinese legends often describe weretigers as the victims of either a hereditary curse 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. Alternatively, the ghosts of people who had been killed by tigers could become a malevolent supernatural being known as "Chang" (伥), 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 bake-danuki (Japanese raccoon dog spirits). In Thailand a tiger that eats many humans may become a weretiger. There are also other types of weretigers, such as sorcerers with great powers who can change their form to become animals.
In both Indonesia and Malaysia there is another kind of weretiger, known as Harimau jadian. In Malaysia, Bajangs have been described as vampiric or demonic werecats. In the central area of the Indonesian island of Java the power of transformation is regarded as due to inheritance, to the use of spells, to fasting and willpower, 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. 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.
The foremost were-animal in pre-Columbian Mesoamerican cultures was the were-jaguar. It was associated with the veneration of the jaguar, with priests and shamans among the various peoples who followed this tradition wearing the skins of jaguars to "become" a were-jaguar. Among the Aztecs, an entire class of specialized warriors who dressed in the jaguar skins were called "jaguar warriors" or "jaguar knights". Depictions of the jaguar and the were-jaguar are among the most common motifs among the artifacts of the ancient Mesoamerican civilizations.
N.W. Thomas wrote in the 11th ed. of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1911) that according to Carl Friedrich Philipp von Martius (1794–1868), the kanaima was a human being who employed poison to carry out his function of blood avenger, and that other authorities represent the kanaima as a jaguar, which was either an avenger of blood or the familiar of a cannibalistic sorcerer. He also mentioned that in 1911 some Europeans in Brazil believed that the seventh child of the same sex in unbroken succession becomes a were-man or woman, and takes the form of a horse, goat, jaguar or pig.
In the US, 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.
Occultism and theology
Assertions that werecats truly exist and have an origin in supernatural or religious realities have been common for centuries, with these beliefs often being hard to entirely separate from folklore. In the 19th century, occultist J. C. Street asserted that material cat and dog transformations could be produced by manipulating the "ethereal fluid" that human bodies are supposedly floating in. The Catholic witch-hunting manual, the Malleus Maleficarum, asserted that witches can turn into cats, but that their transformations are illusions created by demons. New Age author John Perkins asserted that every person has the ability to shapeshift into "jaguars, bushes, or any other form" by using mental power. 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.
In popular culture
By far the most prevalent occurrence of werecats in pop culture is in books. Some novels, novellas, and short stories with werecats are listed below.
- In the Harry Potter series, Professor McGonagall can transform into a house cat at will (known in-universe as Animagus transformation).
- Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Cycle series includes several characters who are werecats.
- The children's novel, Sebastian Darke: Prince of Pirates, features an enchantress named Leonora, who can turn herself into a panther at will. She is recognisable in this form by the tawny colour of her pelt, which matches her eyes when she is in human form.
- The protagonist of Rachel Vincent's Shifters series is a werecat; she is a member of a Pride led by her father.
- Laurell K Hamilton's Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series of novels has several characters who are werecats of varying types.
- In Ayshen Irfan's The Fire Within My Heart, book one in the Scarlet Cherie: Vampire series, Kai Hunter is a werecat.
- In the Revelation Series (books 2, 3, 4, and 5) the character Fiona is a housekeeper and maternal figure to our clan of gargoyles. She is the alpha of her Pishankyin Clowder, transforms into a panther at will and has the ability to read any female's mind. Her daughter also makes an appearance in the last novel.
- The short story "Lusus Naturae" by Margaret Atwood centers on a young woman whose parents fake her death to hide the fact that she is a werecat.
Werecats also serve as heroes and villains in film and television shows. Notable examples include:
- The 1942 Val Lewton film Cat People and its 1982 remake both feature female shape-changers: first Simone Simon and then Nastassja Kinski in a highly sexualized role. The 1982 version also includes Malcolm McDowell as her brother, also a shape-changer.
- The titular creatures in the horror film Sleepwalkers (written by Stephen King) are werecats who have psychic abilities and can hide disguised within human society. They are also energy vampires who must feed on the life-force of virgin women to survive. Their weakness is domestic cats, which can see through their illusions and destroy them via scratching.
- "Cat creatures" have appeared multiple times in the Scooby-Doo franchise, including The Scooby-Doo Show (1976–1978) and What's New, Scooby Doo? (2002–2005); in the 1998 animated film Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island, the film's main antagonists are werecats.
- In the mid-1980s show She-Ra: Princess of Power, the villainess Catra can change into a panther.
- In the Hotel Transylvania: The Series episode "Buggin' Out", werecats roomed next to the werewolf kids.
- In the 1992 Indian movie Junoon the main antagonist is afflicted by a curse that transforms him into a Bengal tiger in the presence of a full moon.
- In the Tom and Jerry Tales episode "Monster Con", Tom is turned into a werecat when he looks at the full moon after being bitten by Jerry's friend, a werewolf.
- In the third and fourth seasons of True Blood werepanthers are introduced. The only werepanthers seen are an impoverished and extended family called the Norrises. Werepanthers are an endangered species, and thus the Norrises have resorted to inbreeding in order to keep from going extinct. However, this tactic has essentially backfired on them; because of the lack of genetic diversity among them, the family is ravaged by feeble-mindedness and congenital illnesses which result in sterility and high infant mortality. It is unknown if the Norrises are the last of their kind.
- In the fourth season of Teen Wolf, Kate Argent, played by Jill Wagner, who had presumably been killed by Peter Hale, returned as a were-jaguar.
- Mattel's Monster High franchise includes five werecat characters: Toralei, Purrsephone, Meowlody, Catrine DeMew, and Catty Noir. They each appear the television specials and movies.
- In Chie Shinohara's 1984 manga series Yami no Paapuru, the main character, Rinko, is pursued by the scientist, Sonehara, in order to expose to the world that Rinko is a human that can become a panther at will.
- In the second book of the Elseworlds Batman & Dracula trilogy, Selina Kyle is attacked by a werewolf, which later causes her to literally become Catwoman when she transforms into a purple werecat.
- Schrödinger from the anime Hellsing is a werecat.
- Marvel Comics has Catseye of the Hellions, a female teenage mutant werecat, who appears in a number of the Marvel Universe titles.
- In Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose, the supporting character Boo Cat is a werecat.
- The Bungo Stray Dogs series features character by the name of Nakajima Atsushi who has the ability to transform into a white tiger and sometimes even switch certain body parts to resemble a tiger's.
- In Fred Perry's Gold Digger comic series, major character Brittany Diggers is a were-cheetah, and werecats of most known species are introduced as side characters.
Werecats have been featured in a number of games, both video and table-top.
- The 1988 video game Altered Beast includes a stage where power-ups transform the player into a weretiger, which provides extra strength and firepower.
- In the tabletop role-playing game Bastet (White Wolf Publishing, 1997), players get to play werecats.
- Weretigers are also featured in Dungeons & Dragons.
- In the World of Warcraft online roleplaying game, druids can transform into panther- or lion-like forms, depending on their chosen race.
- In the video game Breath of Fire III, one of the main characters, Rei, is a weretiger.
- The 1993 Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen game features weretigers as hidden characters who can be recruited.
- In the video game Bayonetta, the main character has the ability to transform into a black panther, and the witch Jeanne can transform into a red lynx.
- The Darkstalkers game series features Felicia, a character who can shift between a domestic cat form and a werecat girl whenever she wants.
- In the game Shifters The main character, Alleron, can shapeshift into a variety of different were creatures such as a werebull, wereeagle and the like. He also has a female werejaguar shaman form called a spirit claw who has a petite and lithe physique and is clad in only a green shawl wrapped around her body. She uses mainly magic.
- In the game Perfect World International one of the playable classes is a Venomancer[clarification needed] who may take on the guise of a werecat, werefox, werebat, werebunny and weredeer.
- The Fire Emblem games, namely Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn, feature a race of people called the Laguz that can transform into various animals. One particular tribe of these Laguz can turn into beasts such as wildcats, lions and tigers.
- Galenorn, Yasmine (2006). Witchling. Berkley. p. 33.
- Monster Manual: Core Rulebook III. Wizards of the Coast. 2003. pp. 165–166.
- Feehan, Christine (2002). Lair of the Lion. Leisure Books.
- Worland, Rick (2006). The Horror Film: An Introduction. Blackwell Publishing. pp. 73, 176–178, 184.
- Greene, Rosalyn (2000). The Magic of Shapeshifting. Weiser. p. 9.
- Hamel, Frank (1969). Human Animals. New Hyde Park: University Books. pp. 7, 103–109.
- Summers, Montague; Heinrich Kramer, James Sprenger (2000). The Malleus Maleficarum of Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger. Book Tree. pp. 61–65.
- annimi. "Werecats: The Lions of Tsavo | Werewolves". Retrieved 21 May 2020.
- Summers, Montague (1966). The Werewolf. University Books. p. 21.
- lycanthropy – the were-tiger of the east indies
- One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Thomas, Northcote Whitridge (1911). "Lycanthropy". In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. 17 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 150.
- Steiger, Brad (2001). Out of the Dark. Kensington Books. pp. 154–160.
- Hamel, Frank (1969). Human Animals. New Hyde Park: University Books. p. 292.
- Summers, Montague; Heinrich Kramer, James Sprenger (2000). The Malleus Maleficarum of Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger. Book Tree. pp. 127–128.
- Perkins, John (1997). Shape Shifting. Rochester, Vermont: Destiny Books. p. 3.
- Greene, Rosalyn (2000). The Magic of Shapeshifting. Weiser. pp. 53–89, 125, 149.
- Weeks, Linton (17 July 2009). "You Sexy Beast: Our Fascination With Werewolves". NPR.
- Borges, Jorge. (1969). The book of imaginary beings. New York: E. P. Dutton. ISBN 0-670-89180-0
- Greene, Rosalyn. (2000). The magic of shapeshifting. York Beach: Weiser. ISBN 1-57863-171-8
- Hall, Jamie. (2003). Half human, half animal: Tales of werewolves and related creatures. Bloomington: 1st Books. ISBN 1-4107-5809-5
- Hamel, Frank. (1969). Human animals: Werewolves & other transformations. New Hyde Park: University Books. ISBN 0-8216-0092-3
- Steiger, Brad. (2001). Out of the dark. New York: Kensington Books. ISBN 1-57566-896-3
- Saunders, Nicholas J. (1991). The cult of the cat. London: Thames and Hudson. ISBN 0-500-81036-2