Catfolk, or "kosmiko" in ancient times, are a species of humanoids that sport feline features and physique. With so much variety between them on a genetic level, it's difficult to class them into distinct subgroups of their species. The total population of catfolk is 30 million, 23 million being located on The Isles of Basilla. The remaining millions are scattered about islands all over the seas, such as Sicily, though several thousand of them live on the mainland. It's unclear why the use of "kosmiko" as their species name faded into obscurity. The term "catfolk" was coined by human slavers long ago as a way to degrade them, but its usage is so common by the present day that not even the scholarly of their kind will protest its use. Some theorize that they owned the name as an effort to claim a modicum of autonomy back from their captors, but catfolk claim that it's nothing that serious.
They are incredibly varied in appearance, with many colors and patterns, as well as differences in the distribution of fur on their bodies. Some catfolk may be small and striped like a common tabby cat, while another may be dark and mottled like a panther, and others are large and lion-like. While city catfolk tend to appear more humanoid in appearance due to their bloodlines mingling with other races in the past, tribal catfolk are much more bestial. Ignorant travelers often mistake them for werewolves. City catfolk may also inherit these strictly feline looks, but it's far less common nowadays. They are bipedal with digitigrade legs, though due to those other humanoid genes they carry, some are born with plantigrade legs. They're naturally dexterous due to their flexible bone structure, especially their shoulders and collarbones. Unlike the tribals, city catfolk do not have whiskers, but they do have paw pads. Their tails, contrary to popular belief, don't help them maintain their balance. A catfolk's tail does not grow relative to the size of their bodies, which makes them a poor counterbalance. While long tails are common in their species, a small portion of their population has naturally bobbed tails. Their tails, much like an actual cat's, is an extension of their spinal cord and is susceptible to nerve damage if pulled or stepped on.
Genetics and Reproduction
When conceiving a child with another one of their kind, catfolk are fertile and rarely have any trouble getting pregnant. Complications arise when they step outside of their species and the chances of carrying out a healthy pregnancy full-term are low, if they're even able to get pregnant at all. With advancements in medicinal magic, wealthy catfolk can easily navigate around such problems, but the same luxury isn't afforded to commoners. Pregnancy is generally around six months, though some may reach seven months. Ancient catfolk gave birth to litters, which had anywhere between four to six children birthed within thirty to sixty minutes of one another. Childbirth, as such, was incredibly risky and led to many mothers losing their lives during the process. As time went on, the elders of the tribe would become a young mother's team of midwives, greatly improving postpartum care and upping the survival rate for both the mother and her children. Modern catfolk have evolved to have lesser children during a single pregnancy until that number had fallen down to one child. Twins and triplets are very common though and most large families have at least three pairs of twins through the generations. Their kind are strange due to the fact that they never experience menopause. They can remain fertile through much of their life, but seldom have children once they reach a certain point due to the effects that aging has on their bodies.
Growth Rate & Stages
They mature at a similar rate to humans, fully reaching physical maturity by their late teens. Mentally, a catfolk isn't fully mature until a few years into adulthood. Their curious and inquisitive nature can make them seem younger than most on a mental level, which can lead to them being ostracized for their perceived immaturity. During adolescence and puberty, catfolk are often struck with bursts of high energy for no discernible reason. They become restless, impatient, and noisy; often running about wildly to burn off their energy. In their culture, this condition is known as a "frenzied heart", jokingly attributed to an existential awakening for their children. While that may be the case for some, a majority of it is merely hyperactivity triggered by hormonal changes. Adults aren't immune to these bursts of energy, but they become far less common as they age. A "frenzied heart" that appears frequently in an adult catfolk points to a neurological disorder or mental illness. Because of the active lifestyles they live, their bodies are put under enormous amounts of stress through the years, which can cause arthritis later in life.
Ecology and Habitats
Habitats that allow catfolk to move about freely without little to no obstructions are preferred. Architecture on the islands is devoid of doors for the most part, replaced with archways that are decorated with curtains. They're very respectful of the land they call home and rather than zone off natural areas for civilization, catfolk carve their homes into the cliffsides or build them around trees, allowing nature to continue growing as it always had. Buildings that are built elsewhere on the islands form densely packed cities, where residential areas are built on top of one another, forming all sorts of complicated pathways to get around. Even the nobles aren't exempt from this architectural choice as the majority of their living family reside on the same property, forming a village of sorts. While the constant closeness can cause conflict every now and again, catfolk genuinely enjoy it and the sense of community it brings. As such, Basillians don't put a lot of importance on the concept of privacy. While they won't go out of their way to be intrusive, walking in on private moments doesn't carry the same humiliating weight it does in other cultures and is usually laughed off. It's physically impossible to experience loneliness on the islands, which leads to a decreased likelihood of mental illnesses associated with it, such as depression or agoraphobia.
Dietary Needs and Habits
It's a common misconception that catfolk are strictly carnivorous, but in actuality, they're omnivores. Like most humanoids, they require a balanced diet chock full of protein and nutrients. Catfolk vastly prefer meat from big game and wild birds rather than livestock, which they put to work. Saltwater fish are another staple of their diet, usually paired with steamed vegetables and rice. Dairy products are uncommon on the islands, usually only found in noble households who had it imported from the mainland. Catfolk are natural grazers due to their fast metabolism. They tend to snack throughout the day in between meals to avoid headaches and fatigue. They prefer filling snacks that offer an energy boost, such as bananas, sunflower seeds, or smoked meats.
Mainland catfolk experience something that islanders don't. Due to the temperate climates they live in, their fur grows thicker in the colder months. That excess fur starts shedding near the end of winter, returning to their normal coat for the warmer months.
Modern catfolk society was subject to noble rule, which reported to the royal families of the islands. These nobles were terribly out of touch with the daily lives of commoners and their attempts to control the island's art and news to spread their propaganda turned an already tense situation into something much more hostile. It was a vicious back and forth for centuries, always ending in a stalemate. While the nobles had the coin to throw at mercenaries to handle their business, the commoners had both The Stargazers and the Dark Guardians on their side. Despite being religious orders, they found themselves embroiled in politics quiet often. After The Phantom Insurrection , both orders could finally take a backseat, though they're wary of the new governmental powers. The government on the islands is in a transitioning stage, one that has proven to be quite shaky at times. Despite that, it's considered a victory for the revolutionaries who were ready to go to war with the nobles. The Council of Basilla is a transitional phase for Basilla's government. They exist to be a bridge between the commoners and nobles, keeping the relationship between both groups purely diplomatic. As of now, they're working diligently to undo the corruption that the royals let run free for so long and lay down new rules to prevent another situation like that from arising. Once things have stabilized, the council hopes to build a proper democracy for the islands and put the power back into the people's hands.
Uses, Products & Exploitation
Back in ancient times when humans first landed on the archipelago, catfolk were subject to violence for centuries. They were bound to lives in servitude and slavery, but eventually freed after the elves arrived and waged war against the slavers. Humans perpetuated a myth that the tails of catfolk could bring good luck, so many of them that were enslaved had their tails docked. Others were kept as sideshow acts for traveling circuses, continuing to push their status as oddities on the mainland. In modern times, catfolk on the mainland are still viewed as oddities. They face a lot of prejudice and have problems with being fetishized by other humanoid races. Mainland catfolk tend to live in impoverished conditions, working for slave wages on farms or in homes as servants in order to make ends meet. In their enclaves, they all tend to care for one another because of the mentality that no one else will help them.
Geographic Origin and Distribution
Their kind thrive best in tropical climates, so a majority of catfolk stick to the islands when settling down. Mainland communities of catfolk are a rarity and well hidden in large cities in an effort to blend in. Most enclaves of catfolk are scattered about Caelsimil and Teme-Rasadar in cities that are ripe with opportunity. Outside of these countries, catfolk are nowhere to be found and many nations don't even know that they exist. The only other country that has seen catfolk are the cities that surround Felidae. The continent of Eisoth is rife with violence though and when the catfolk tried to establish a proper city in the area long ago, they became the target of most of this aggression. They were enslaved and attacked on a daily basis, leading their population to trickle out of Eisoth in search of safer lands.
Intelligence is cultivated through their natural curiosity. They're intelligence is above average, though only by a small margin.
Perception and Sensory Capabilities
They have heightened senses, sometimes to a degree that would qualify as "hypersensitive". Their hearing and sight are especially impeccable, allowing them to notice even the slightest change in their surroundings before others can. Catfolk have low-light vision and in some special cases, they have a sense of smell that's on par with tracking dogs. While their sense of touch is also heightened, it hasn't seen the same level of evolution as their other senses. It can be trained to aid in their perceptive abilities with time, but most don't see the point of it when their eyes and ears can give them all of the information they need. A majority of catfolk can purr, which grants their bodies a way to trigger the healing process with little to no energy.
Civilization and Culture
Female catfolk names tend to sound delicate and pleasant to the ears. They end with soft vowels and are two to three syllables long. Examples: Nisra, Tolsi, Jephra, Alyurah. Male catfolk names have a much rougher, grittier sound and end with consonants. A majority of males prefer to go by shortened versions of their name as other cultures find them harsh. Examples: Drengith, Crogden, Toras, Otriskar.
Long manes are a staple to their culture and said to be the "centerpiece" of the body. They often keep their manes up in intricate buns or braids, sometimes decorating them with jewels and flowers. Claws are seen as an accessory by most, so they're painted or capped with ornate jewelry. Body markings are seen as incredibly beautiful and those born without them seek out body modifications or use makeup to get them.
The culture on the isles of Basilla is matriarchal, keeping women in powerful positions of all kinds. It's done as a sign of respect, given that women bring new life into the world, which many see as a "gift of creation" given by Junori herself. Despite that, there isn't much of a divide between genders because ultimately, catfolk care more about the power of their community rather than the power of a single person. While a gender binary does exist, catfolk are free to express themselves however they see fit, and it's not uncommon for them to identify with other genders that may seem strange or unnecessary to other cultures. Self expression is incredibly important to their kind and any attempts to stifle that is seen as an insult to their culture.
Courtship between catfolk appears intense and obsessive to those outside of their species. The intensity is certainly true due to the higher emotional level that catfolk experience, which is a result of the importance they put on self expression. The majority of courtships last anywhere from a weeks to a few months. While longer courtships aren't unheard of, they're frowned upon by society because it's taboo to question and doubt what feels like true love. Perhaps impulsive on their part, but many catfolk relationships work out for the best, even if they stumble their way through the beginning phase. It's uncommon for them to try and court anyone outside of their species because they understand that other cultures see it as not only intense, but risky as well. Those that are determined to find love away from their own kind are willing to play along for much longer if it means finding the perfect partner.
While not exclusively monogamous in nature, catfolk tend to spend their lives with a single partner once they've found the "one". They expect a romance with open communication and emotions that aren't hidden or bottled up for the sake of somebody else's feelings. Physical affection, such as linking tails in public, is very important given how physical catfolk are in general. Touch is the key to making their relationships last, even for friendships. When picking a partner for life, catfolk tend to adhere to the rule of "opposites attract". They love the teamwork that such a relationship builds, each of them making up for the others shortcomings to ensure that they're both successful. Being around one another is important, but catfolk understand that every good relationship needs to breathe and so, it's not a big deal if their partner needs space. Empathy, affection, and individualism are the three ingredients to a happy relationship.
Average Technological Level
Basilla is among the more developed nations, on par with the United Lands of Caelsimil Teme-Rasadar. Catfolk were responsible for engineering hair dryers and while most still use the models in which they have to crank it before use, a small handful have moved onto enchanted dryers.
Major Language Groups and Dialects
The catfolk native tongue is one shared by the entire species, but there are several dialects. Catfolk is a complicated language to learn. It's quick and requires the listener to be attentive or they might miss something. They tend to fuse words or omit them entirely because their heavy use of body language, especially the ears and tail; fill in the blanks. As such, they have a lot of slang only known to their kind, which makes learning the language even harder. For those outside their species, they've developed a sign language to function as a speaker's "tail", that way they can be more open and comfortable around the locals.
Common Customs, Traditions and Rituals
A majority of catfolk are laid to rest within the catacombs that run for miles beneath the islands. Before they're interred, the body is laid out in the family home for the funeral. Their lives are celebrated and everyone partakes in the departed's favorite foods while sharing personal stories of their time together. A traditional song and dance is performed to give the departed comfort before they begin their journey into the afterlife. The catacombs are well maintained and quite luxurious for a final resting place. Every chamber is lined with plush, velvet cushions and aside from the bodies, are filled with items that the departed loved dearly during their time on the material plane. Necromancers within the Junori's churches are tasked with tending to the dead. Every corpse is cared for lovingly and so, they're never left to rot. Within their chambers, every one of the deceased has a book that details their life. Some books are long and full of wild adventures and some are unfortunate enough to have a single story to their name. The catacombs serve as a time capsule for the younger generations, allowing them to look through their family history with ease at any given time. The noble families tried to take this custom for themselves and them alone, but were threatened by the Dark Guardians , and backed down.
Contraception is a taboo as fertility and pregnancy are widely celebrated on Basilla. Seeking out any form of birth control is seen as an insult to the gift that Junori has given so many. Over the centuries though, contraception has been heavily debated and divides the younger and older generations. Freedom is a big thing in their society, so frowning upon tools used to prevent pregnancy feels like a way to restrict the lives of younger catfolk who wish to set out and explore the world. Divorce is rarely spoken of and most would prefer it if it remained under the rug for the rest of time. Catfolk put a lot of energy into their relationships, so when things fall apart, it can leave an entire community shaken. Those that leave a trail of destruction in the wake of their divorce are judged harshly, so most couples looking to separate do so privately. To avoid suspicion, they find new partners and either remain close to keep up appearances or quietly drift apart. Necromancy is a polarizing topic on Basilla, but even still, the dark arts aren't banned and are practiced by many. The Dark Guardians utilize necromancy on a daily basis to tend to the catacombs and those that are devoted to ancestor worship practice it to bridge the gap between them and the dearly departed. For the most part, even those that find it abhorrent will reluctantly tolerate it because of the role it plays in the island's funerary traditions.
Common Myths and Legends
Interspecies Relations and Assumptions
Catfolk get along very well with elves and gnomes. The mainland enclaves of their kind tend to reside close to communities of elves due to their shared love of the arts and nature. They can acclimate to most other species so long as that species extends reciprocal goodwill. They're not fond of kobolds and goblins, feeling that those races are unpredictable and prone to violence.
Humanoid- Felinan Silvestris
4'0" - 6'5"