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1763 engraving of a weretiger
Similar creaturesWerewolf
MythologyLegendary creature
Mythological hybrid

A werecat (also written in a hyphenated form as were-cat) is an analogy to "werewolf" for a feline therianthropic creature.


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.

Depending on the story in question, the species involved can be a domestic cat,[1] a tiger,[2] a lion,[3] a leopard,[4] a lynx, or any other type, including some that are purely mythical felines.[5]



European folklore usually depicts werecats as people who transform into domestic cats. Some European werecats became giant domestic cats[5] or panthers. They are generally labelled witches, even though they may have no magical ability other than self-transformation.[6] During the witch trials[which?], all shapeshifters, including werewolves, were considered witches whether they were male or female.[7]


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 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. This quality 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 with attacks on humans. The ancient myths spanned north Africa to west Africa.

It has been said that the werecat's family are those who have been clawed or looked in the eye by a sphinx. They can also be infected by a normal cat, though very rarely.


Mainland Asian werecats usually become tigers.[8] 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.[9] 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 tanuki (raccoon dogs). 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.[citation needed] 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.[10]

The Americas[edit]

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.[citation needed]

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.[10]

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.[11]

Occultism and theology[edit]

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.[12] The Catholic witch-hunting manual, the Malleus Maleficarum, asserted that witches can turn into cats, but that their transformations are illusions created by demons.[13] 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.[14] 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.[15]

In popular culture[edit]

Werecats are increasingly featured in popular culture, although not as often as werewolves.[16]

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 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 and 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:

  • 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 looked at the full moon after being bitten by Jerry's friend, the werewolf.
  • 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.
  • In the Kid vs. Kat episode "Beware the Were-Coop", after Kat scratched Coop under the full moon of Halloween, Dennis believes he would turn into one.
  • 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.

Comic books, manga, and anime are other venues for werecats.

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.
  • The Bungou Stray Dogs series features character by the name of Nakajima Atsushi who has the Ability to transform into a tiger and sometimes even switch certain body part's to resemble a tiger's.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Galenorn, Yasmine (2006). Witchling. Berkley. p. 33.
  2. ^ Monster Manual: Core Rulebook III. Wizards of the Coast. 2003. pp. 165–166.
  3. ^ Feehan, Christine (2002). Lair of the Lion. Leisure Books.
  4. ^ Worland, Rick (2006). The Horror Film: An Introduction. Blackwell Publishing. pp. 73, 176–178, 184.
  5. ^ a b Greene, Rosalyn (2000). The Magic of Shapeshifting. Weiser. p. 9.
  6. ^ Hamel, Frank (1969). Human Animals. New Hyde Park: University Books. pp. 7, 103–109.
  7. ^ Summers, Montague; Heinrich Kramer, James Sprenger (2000). The Malleus Maleficarum of Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger. Book Tree. pp. 61–65.
  8. ^ Summers, Montague (1966). The Werewolf. University Books. p. 21.
  9. ^ lycanthropy – the were-tiger of the east indies
  10. ^ a b  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainThomas, Northcote Whitridge (1911). "Lycanthropy". In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica. 17 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 150.
  11. ^ Steiger, Brad (2001). Out of the Dark. Kensington Books. pp. 154–160.
  12. ^ Hamel, Frank (1969). Human Animals. New Hyde Park: University Books. p. 292.
  13. ^ Summers, Montague; Heinrich Kramer, James Sprenger (2000). The Malleus Maleficarum of Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger. Book Tree. pp. 127–128.
  14. ^ Perkins, John (1997). Shape Shifting. Rochester, Vermont: Destiny Books. p. 3.
  15. ^ Greene, Rosalyn (2000). The Magic of Shapeshifting. Weiser. pp. 53–89, 125, 149.
  16. ^ Weeks, Linton (July 17, 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