CAITIANS (Felis Sapiens)
Caitians stand roughly human-sized, averaging 1.6 meters in height and weighing about 80 kg. They have an average lifespan of 115 terran years, with a statistical range of roughly 78 to 125. They are descended from four-limbed mammalian carnivore/pouncer stock originally adapted to a solitary arboreal existence. Caitian bodies are completely furred, usually in a single dominant color with a lighter belly. In very rare instances, a Caitian is born with a melanistic coloration, very nearly black. This is considered exotic and attractive, but the gene for it is so recessive as to be impossible to predict.
The Caitian homeworld is called either Cait or Ferasa, though the latter is an older name used for the world by its inhabitants prior to achieving spaceflight, and exists now only as a pleasant anachronism. Cait is the second planet of twelve (and the only habitable body) in the 15 Lyncis system, orbits a mid-sized yellow type G star, and has two moons, Rea and Sura. The planet is roughly 60 percent hot savannah, and this led to the earliest misconception about the Caitian race as a whole. The earliest Terran contact-teams landed in a savannah portion of the planet, and saw in the local Caitians a vague resemblance to the Terran lion. They have been described (by Humans) as lion-like ever since, although there is very little true similarity. Were the observer to search for a better analogue, it would be found instead in the Terran leopard, smaller but more agile and more cunning than the lion. Analogues aside, however, it should be stated that Caitians possess a diversity of racial features not unlike Humans: some are darker, some are lighter, some are maned, and some are not, based arguably on the geographical area in which that particular subrace developed.
Cait have long tails, generally accepted as one of the key features allowing them to achieve a bipedal form. The tail functions as a minor aid to balance, but Cait who lose them are capable of physically compensating for the loss. Scientists assume that the tail was once a key component of communication, but once actual speech developed, it was no longer as needed (though Caitian tails certainly DO still provide a gauge of emotion, as do the positions of the ears). A Cait can manipulate the tail to caress a loved one or swat at insects, but the muscles of the tail provide little fine motor control.
A good deal of attention is paid to the claws Cait have three fingers on each hand and an opposable thumb, as well as four toes on each foot, and each digit has a short, curved retractable claw. While dueling has never been terribly common on Cait, claws are considered a point of racial pride, and are used often for their utility. While Caitians may on rare occasions dull their claws to keep from damaging things during casual contact, they will never of their own free will deliberately trim their claws to the point of uselessness or have them permanently removed. It is considered embarrassing (and in some circles, humiliating) for a Caitian to have useless claws, and forcibly removing a Caitian's claws is viewed by many as a violation not unlike rape.
There are two sexes, male and female. The most notable external difference is the slightly increased size of the former, though specimens of both genders tend to be heavy for their size due to a higher volume of muscle than most mammals. When manes exist in a given subrace, both sexes are maned, though the thickness and placement of the mane varies widely from one individual to the next. No widespread cultural significance is attached to a mane, and Caitians possessing the feature wear their hair in innumerable ways. Female Caitians possess a pair of mammalian breasts, though these tend to be comparatively quite small, swelling to noticeable (and to a Cait, unwieldy) size only in mothers, and slowly returning to their original size after the young are weaned.
Females outnumber males by a ratio of nearly two to one. Fertility cycles vary by individual, but generally a female will only carry young to term twice in her lifetime. Most conceptions miscarry with a regularity Caitian medical science has been unable to halt. Mammalian, Cait give birth live, usually to one cub at a time, though twin births account for 30% of all birthings, and deliveries of up to four healthy young have been recorded. Multiple births almost universally result in fraternal siblings. In rare instances Cait have produced identical twins, and there have been two recorded instances of identical triplets in the last 150 years. Quad births have never produced identical siblings in recorded Caitian history.
Caitian eyes are large and golden, capable of dilating widely to grant the race expanded vision in lower light. A Cait can see functionally in 20 percent of the light required by a Human. The irises contract in a ‘V’ shape, decreasing ocular response time and allowing them to adapt from low-light to bright light conditions quickly. Additionally, where Humans have visual receptors placed evenly in the inner eye, Caitian receptors are concentrated on a more defined horizontal axis. This allows a high degree of visual acuity, enabling the Cait to catch movement and details on their horizontal plane at greater range, and with greater clarity and accuracy than Humans.
Caitian ear structures enable them to hear in ranges far beyond Human baseline. While they are no better than Humans at hearing in low rangebands, their high-end aural sensitivity extends to four times that of Humanity—they can hear tones up to two full octaves higher. In addition, Cait can rotate their cup-shaped ears for better auditory focus, and in fact can directionally locate sounds to within 20 centimeters in any direction without physically looking.
The Caitian language consists of multiple soft tones, spoken with a deep purring resonance. It is difficult for Caitians to learn to speak phonetic languages with any proficiency, and few gain true fluency, choosing instead to rely on universal translator technology. Even fluent, Caitians tend to punctuate phonetic languages with purring ‘R’s and hissing ‘S’s.
Carnivores from the beginning, Caitians continue to follow a diet comprised almost entirely of meat, which they prefer raw (blood temperature) or rare. Cait can digest other food types, though it is more difficult, and they generally find vegetables and grains distasteful.
Typical Caitians wear a dayrobe: a long, loose one-piece outfit designed to help keep the wearer cool. Children can wear dayrobes, but it is not uncommon for them to not wear clothing at all until adolescence. Shoes or boots are not typically worn, even in Starfleet.
Cait's origins are steeped in mystery. The Kzinti, the Regulans, and the Lyrans all claim that Cait is essentially a lost colony of theirs. Considering the similar genetic makeup of the four species, those theories are possible. However, it is also possible that all four species were 'seeded' in that section of space by an alien race akin to the Preservers. Regardless of origin, however, Caitian culture evolved separately from the other races.
Early Caitians were, as mentioned, solitary arboreal hunters. Archaeological remains indicate that these progenitors learned to cache their killed prey in trees and high caves to protect them from theft by larger predators or other scavengers. This cunning eventually led to an evolutionary leap, and over several millennia Caitians came to keep herds of their chosen prey animals. This herding led quickly to community living, and eventually to true civilization.
Perhaps because of the solitary nature of the original stock, when Caitian society began to evolve there was little distinction drawn between male and female roles. In fact, the most difficult obstacle their civilization had to overcome was the idea of divided labor, and even now most Cait try to be as self-sufficient as possible. Caitian names have no “male” or “female” leanings, and children are equally likely to be named for either parent, regardless of gender.
While the civilization's early history was marked by the usual savage wars, the independent, self-sufficient nature of the race saved it from several of the pitfalls many societies must overcome. No one subgroup has ever been repressed in Caitian society, at no time was a servant class ever widespread, and the civilization never included any sort of slave economy. However, that same individualism made whole-world government difficult to achieve, and they acquired warp drive based largely on a crashed Lyran survey vessel that was recovered and studied. Their own interstellar explorations quickly led them to Federation contact, and Federation ambassadors were largely responsible for helping the Caitians to finally establish the world government required for Federation entry in 2234. Cait has occupied a position on the Federation Council for over 100 years now.
Even now, the ‘government’ of Cait is nearly a figurehead, existing largely to support Cait’s Federation membership. Caitian government activities are funded entirely through state-owned mining. Cait has a number of rich dilithium deposits, and the asteroid belt that lies between the fifth and sixth planets of the system has an abundance of other ores and valuable minerals. The Caitians maintain orbital refining platforms as well as successful planetside mines, and export much of the mineral to willing buyers both in and out of the Federation.
While the practice has dwindled in the last few centuries, several sects of Caitians still follow a monotheistic patron deity, called Rrikalla or the Goddess. Traditions hold that the Goddess created the universe for the benefit of Caitians (though this doctrine has been expanded in some circles to include all the sentient races), and seeks happiness for all. Opposing her is her identical twin sister, the Dark One, who tries to trick Caitians and make their lives miserable. There is little organized clerical support for this religion, and the Goddess is usually worshipped privately, with detailed statues kept in a personal shrine in the home.
Philosophically, Cait tend to seek peaceful balance with their surroundings. Experiencing their environments through sensory perception, and through that experience learning to co-exist with it, is considered very important. This finds its most common application in a widespread drive for physical fitness—Cait believe that a well-honed body can better sense its surroundings. Caitians have created a number of martial arts and fitness systems to this end, and several pieces of Caitian fighting styles have found their way into broad application in Starfleet Academy’s fitness program.
A less common, but certainly not rare, expression of this co-existence dogma finds expression in Caitian vegetarianism. Some Cait eschew the eating of meat on the basis of co-existence, theorizing that one cannot share space equally with creatures one intends to consume. This philosophical niche is growing, especially among younger Caitians.
Marriage is more of a physiological function than an emotional one for Caitians. At maturity, the body begins to releases a pheromonal tag that signals the body’s ability to procreate—an evolutionary holdover used to determine which mates were suitable. The process of what Cait call “bonding” has never been thoroughly studied, and there is no scientifically proven method of predicting which two Cait will find each other compatible. Regardless of the exact manner, however, eventually the “bond-ready” Caitian will come across a certain other, and their pheromones bond, creating a chemical imprint in certain sections of the brain. The two Caitians feel a distinct pull to each other, and will feel it for the rest of their natural lives, and it is statistically impossible for a Cait to ever bond with another. The intensity of the bond varies, but in every case it serves to increase both the mating drive and mating sensation in and toward both partners. The bond is a respected part of Caitian culture, and valued as a contributor to the strength of the race, especially in view of Caitian females’ general problems with conception. Ignoring the bond or somehow working counter to it is considered aberrant. It is vogue in some Caitian societies for bondmates to wear identical anklets, to show their devotion to one another.
There is, of course, no guarantee that bond-ready Cait will ever meet a bondmate. Statistics show, in fact, that only a third of Caitian couples are actually bonded. Cait can mate with others to whom they are not bonded, and while this coupling is not considered as fulfilling as that between bonded mates, most Cait are content with their unbonded loves. In cases where Cait bond late in life, they generally have a reception of some type where their current relationships are agreeably terminated to allow them to pursue the bond. In rare cases, a Caitian has bonded with a non-Cait. The first recorded instance of this occurred in 2278, though it remains extremely improbable.