"Covered with towels? Ack! My instincts are showing. I just buried a Tupperware bowl."A non-human character tries to live amongst humans. Or maybe a human character is made half-non-human. He does a good job of hiding his non-humanness, but occasionally his species's normal (and non-human) behavior comes out. Whatever the reason for a transformation may be, this is almost guaranteed to happen during or after shapeshifting. This may include food preferences unusual for their current form or other stereotypical behavior. In cases of shapeshifting, it's similar to The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body. For non-shapeshifting cases, it's similar to Fee Fi Faux Pas. Compare also with Furry Reminder. Humans are not completely exempt, though these occasions are often solely limited to life-or-death situations where the pressure regresses the mental state to a fight-or-flight mindset; focus on surviving, and survive at any cost.
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- Happens a few times to Katy in The Fantastic Adventures of Unico when she gets turned into a human girl, leading to her trying to chase bugs or wash herself with the back of her hand.
- Fullmetal Alchemist:
- Greed's chimeras are subject to this, most notably the snake girl.
- Later, when Heinkel (a lion chimera) is fighting Pride, Pride notes that Heinkel isn't even hesitating to attack someone who looks like a little boy. Heinkel says that his animal instincts are screaming at him to kill the "boy" before he gets killed first.
- One of the Inuyasha movies has the title character fetching a stick. He'll also occasionally scratch behind his ear with one of his feet while sitting down.
- Satsuki, the werewolf in Millennium Snow, actually fetches a stick thrown by another character.
- In Tokyo Mew Mew, Ichigo gets infused with feline DNA and suddenly finds herself snatching fish in her teeth.
- She also takes cat naps, much to her distress, especially when it happens in class.
- Animals turned human or humanoid in Princess Tutu usually act like humans, but almost all of them have at least one tell. For the protagonist, it's a tendency to waddle when she walks.
- Mr. Cat is the best example of this though. His cat nature usually emerges directly after threatening his female students with marriage.
- In chapter 30 of Ratman, Unchain gets a variant. He has the power to absorb the DNA of things he consumes, which have mostly been normal and genetically engineered animals. When fighting Ratman, every single cell in his body screams that he can't possibly win, that Ratman is about a hundred steps higher on the food chain than him. Considering that he considered himself the top of the food chain (which is probably also where his name comes from), it's something of an ironic defeat.
- In the Pokémon anime, Meowth of Team Rocket sometimes reverts to regular feline behavior. Though he's a Gadgeteer Genius who taught himself how to speak human language and walk bipedally, he can't resist a chasing a ball of yarn on all-fours or chowing down on a bowl of clams.
- In Sam & Max, one comic story has Sam (a dog) incapacitate a crook by biting his arm. It works, but afterwards, Sam says to the audience that he's never done that before, and he's really embarrassed.
- Nero: In "Allemaal Beestjes" Nero is transformed into a lion and sent to Africa, where he apparently ate a tourist. All the others are horrified about this, but he claims: "Well, I was hungry."
- Miraculous Ladybug fanfiction frequently depicts Miraculous wielders picking up traits from their respective animals - mainly, Adrien behaving like a cat when out of costume (everything from purring when scratched or petted to playing with yarn, getting in boxes and chasing laser pointers) and Marinette being more affected by cold weather. The story Obsession and its sequels are a standout example, as is One Thing After Another.
- In An American Werewolf in London, before David turns into a werewolf he starts having dreams of hunting, killing and eating a deer in the forest.
- In the Cat People remake, the first time Irena comes close to transforming, she strips off and hunts a rabbit in the bayou. Earlier, when frightened, she leaps to the top of a wall. Her brother Paul often climbs trees and after a transformation, will eat the leftover skin clinging to his body.
- In The Black Cauldron, Fflewddur Fflam keeps getting turn into a frog and back again by witches. Moments after he's turned back to normal for good, he catches a fly with his tongue and eats it.
- In Gremlins 2: The New Batch, one Gremlin drinks a brain hormone solution and becomes extremely intelligent. However, he is still as sociopathic as his fellows, even shooting another gremlin in the face just to make a point about civilization.
- Cat Woman has the titular character start doing stereotypical cat things like going crazy for catnip, hissing at dogs, and eating several cans of tuna. Yes, it's every bit as painful to watch as you'd imagine.
- Jack Nicholson's character in Wolf is gradually turning into a wolf showing certain behaviors like peeing in his enemies shoes, walk around a fence like a caged wolf and hunt animals in the night.
Folklore & Mythology
- One of Aesop's fables, "The Cat-Maiden" involves this. The gods Jupiter and Venus have a bet as to how much people can change themselves. They turn a cat into a human woman, and set her up to marry. Venus proves her point that "nature will out" by causing a mouse to run through the wedding ceremony, causing the cat-bride to embarrass herself when she tries to chase and eat it.
- Werewolves in Discworld have some doggy instincts even in human form. They tend to wince at the word B.A.T.H., for instance. Angua is the only one who tries to suppress these instincts.
- Some Vampires have almost as much trouble, particularly with the reversed-names thing.
- Played horrifyingly straight in Witches Abroad with the Big Bad Wolf. Lilith tried to "enhance" a wolf so that it would think and speak like a person... which left the beast a tortured mess torn between human logic and animal instincts.
- Animorphs: Happens at least once a book, what with it trying to be educational and teach kids about different animal instincts.
- Every time they morph seagulls, Hilarity Ensues as they find it hard to maintain a coherent train of thought because they keep greedily eyeing every dumpster with a half-finished bag of chips sticking out as they fly over.
- "Kill. Kill. Kill and eat." — a lobster brain
- Then there was the wolf morphs. Jake was the alpha and couldn't stop himself from peeing every so often to mark territory.
- Marco, having anticipated dog morph to be pretty much the same as wolf form, was caught off guard by the domestic dog's urge to goof off. (And dogs, they want to have fu~un, Oh dogs, just want to have fu~un...)
- Once Cassie was almost eaten by Tobias in hawk morph when she morphed into a squirrel for the first time and was temporarily overwhelmed by its instincts as a prey animal.
- One of Tobias' major character struggles is trying to maintain his humanity despite being trapped in a (fairly)-permanent hawk form.
- The termites. At first they were fine, until they got near the hive and were hardly able to assert their will over over the Queen's control. A similar thing happens when they try ant morphs. They wisely never use those morphs again.
- When they go dolphin, they often have trouble focusing because their minds are so playful. It still makes a good combat morph due to dolphins' ideas of fun.
- Marco once accidentally ate Ax when he was a cobra and Ax was a spider. He stopped himself from swallowing, but Ax had to emergency-demorph as Marco's fangs had poisoned him.
- Inverted in the Belgariad. A sorcerer who takes the form of an animal will find that they start to acquire that animal's instincts and some of its behaviour. This gets worse the longer you spend in that form, and as Belgarath notes when the time comes to change back to your natural form you might not want to. However, as a side benefit you instantly acquire the language of the species you change into and retain it when you change back, because all animal languages are the result of brain patterns not culture.
- Appears regularly in David Brin's Uplift novels. Almost all Galactics - alien species that were genetically engineered by older species to give them sapience - have their own, unique forms of what they call "stress atavism." Great psychological stress causes these creatures to partially or totally revert to the instinctual behavior of their non-engineered ancestry. It's also seen among humanity's own "client species": the dolphins in Startide Rising suffer this fate to varying degrees and in varying forms, and it's a lesser plot point among the chimps in The Uplift War.
- It's worth noting that humanity, whom all the Galactics are convinced was abandoned by their patrons halfway through their uplift, since everyone knows that the notion of a species evolving to sapience on their own is utterly ridiculous,note does not exhibit stress atavism.
- In Seraphina dragons are prohibited from eating meat in human form so their carnivore instincts don’t lead to unfortunate consequences for the humans around the table...
- In A Wolf In The Soul, as his werewolf transformation gets worse and worse Greg starts doing insane things like eating raw meat right in front of his family.
- Blacknail the goblin from The Iron Teeth web serial is taken in by human bandits. He acts and thinks like a human, until he doesn't.
Live Action TV
- All the transgenics from Dark Angel are subject to this occasionally. Dog-based Joshua growls, snuffles interesting things, and acts like an excited dog around food; cat-based Max and Alec show varying feline behaviors like distrusting dogs, fastidiously bathing, acting predatory around prey animals, picking the people who least want to see them at the moment and sitting right next to them...
- In Sanctuary, Henry can't help his pupils dilating when asked how he'd feel if he would smell the blood of a wounded animal in the woods, even if he answers he'd feel sad.
- In Being Human (US): When Josh and Nora are "being together", Josh abruptly abandons ship after he accidentally growls.
- In Faerie Tale Theatre's telling of "The Frog Prince", at the end the fully human prince is standing for a family portrait when a fly comes buzzing around. Cue his eyes tracking it and his tongue flicking out.
- Bud in Grimm is an Eisbiber (a beaver-like Wesen) and he mentions once that without supervision his children will chew the furniture. Of course, most animal-based Wesen have similar behaviors of that of the animals they represent (the Melifers live in close communities with a Queen, the Mauzhertz are coward, the Seelengut have a flock mentality and all predatory wesen are agressive to at least some level).
- That's So Raven. In the Halloween special, Raven and Chelsea inflict a spell that accidentally causes them to slowly turn into cows. At the party they display multiple behaviors of a cow despite being mostly human. This includes Chelsea eating straw and book pages, drinking with her face instead of a cup, Raven chewing cud, and both of them mooing a lot.
- BBC sketch show Son of Cliché had a scene where a literary editor is taking a client out to lunch to discuss how well the biography is going. The client is a young man who for most of his life was raised by wolves. Whilst the agent orders agneau a la maison, the wolf-boy asks for his lamb to be "very very rare, please. In fact, still alive." This raises a little consternation among other diners. Then the waiter asks if everything is alright, as sir has vanished under the table. Wolf-boy says he'll be done in a moment. Could you bring me some dead leaves, please? Wolf-boy also pays attention to an attractive female diner a table or two away...
- GURPS calls this Stress Atavism. Most templates for uplifted animals have it.
- In Eclipse Phase Atavism is a mental disorder that uplifts can take, sufferers are viewed with horror by others of their species. There's also a specific atavism for neo-octopi, autophagy (eating own limbs).
- This is common in Changeling: The Lost, as shown in the Curses for changelings of the Beast and Elemental Seemings. Beasts spent so long as wild animals that thinking non-instinctively is hard for them, resulting in a penalty of rolls requiring Intelligence. Elementals, likewise, spent so long as a primal force that interacting socially with other humans is a rough affair.
- In a Dragon Magazine expansion to the Dungeons & Dragons setting of Mystara, the Rakasta were given a mythological origin that was taken straight out of the Cat-Maiden above under mythology. This being AD&D, the mother-goddess of the Rakasta actually went on to become Bastet on Earth until Christianity wiped out her worshipers and she returned to Mystara in a snit.
- In the Old World of Darkness, the Midnight Circus has McTargart the Dog-Faced Detective amongst its freakshow. Despite his appearance, with a grotesquely canine snout in lieu of a face, he's pure human. He just has a very grotesque birth-defect. Despite this, he still has a tendency to act like a dog in times of stress.
- Meanwhile, in the New World of Darkness, this is a drawback amongst skinthieves so common that it actually has its own aspect dedicated to it; the Strong Instincts aspect. Strangely, it's not an entirely negative trait.
- Nick Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream is an especially funny example; he isn't aware that he's got an ass's head, he just knows that he's in the mood for oats, dried peas and a bottle of hay.
- In the first act of Prince Ivan by Alexander Ostrovsky one of heroes wonders aloud why does he always want to meow when he feels sad. A stray cat hears him, turns into a human-sized bipedal cat woman and tells that she is his mother, who lost him some 20 years ago. (Later she turns out to be a cursed Oriental sorceress princess.)
- In the Black Velvetopia level of Psychonauts, Raz gets the bulldog painter to help by asking "Who wants to go for a walk?" The painter struggles against, but gives in to his "stupid dog brain."
- A brief example from the October 1st Nintendo Direct trailer for Super Mario 3D World (about 0:49 of the video): Mario, in his Cat Suit, is shown sneaking up on birds and trying to pounce on them.
- Keaton from Fire Emblem Fates is a werewolf who frequently tries to hide his more dog-like habits when he's in his human form. The most common example is him trying to deny the fact that his tail wags when he's happy, but Keaton also does things like state that he guesses he "doesn't mind" when Corrin brushes his fur in a somewhat tsundere manner (if invited to Corrin's castle quarters).
- In the RWBY episode "Burning the Candle", Blake, despite her annoyance, can't resist following Yang's laser pointer. A few episodes later, she's the only member of Team RWBY to dislike the corgi Ruby and Yang's father sent.
- In a much earlier episode, after The Reveal and Blake and Weiss' big falling out, Ruby makes an off-hand comment along the lines of "she does like tuna a lot". Much later in Volume 3's episode "Round One", when Team RWBY are getting some food, everyone gets a huge bowl of noodles except Blake, who instead gets a huge bowl of fish. And when Weiss' card is declined, she is not happy about having it taken away and immediately dives on Pyrrha's offer to pay for it.
- Myan from Cat Nine still acts like a cat whatever form she takes. It's doesn't matter much if she transforms into something similar(like tigers) or if she transforms to a human/Cat Girl, but she's having trouble with her owl form.
- All over the place in Freefall, the Trope Namer.
- Florence the wolf is the main target.
- She puts a bowl of leftovers in the fridge covered in towels, as mentioned in the page quote.
- Smacks her nose against the screen when a mouse goes by.
- Is unable to avoid barking at a cat in an early strip, which is funny because real wolves rarely ever bark.
- Has trouble trusting Sam because she thinks he's acting like a low-ranking pack member.
- And this (explanation).
- The instinct to chase a ball is very strong, but she does remember common courtesy.
- Weaponized! By Sam!
- Hazel: Can I have a candy skull? Florence (thinks): What's not to love about a celebration where you get to gnaw bones?
- Florence's approach to morning aerobics is chasing her tail.
- Sam is prone to falling back on his scavenger-instincts too, claiming that "Food tastes better when you steal it from a predator", among other things (though often he does this deliberately).
- Now, watch Sam and Florence's instincts crash into one another; what Florence the social predator sees as cowardly behavior from a lower-ranking pack member is considered to be nigh-heroic alpha male behavior by Sam's species (provided you do it to your enemies; Sam got chased off his homeworld when a stunt like this got out of hand and ended up seriously inconveniencing his own royal family).
- Even the robots might be subject to this. They will believe transponder identification over visual identification, and in a throwaway gag one robot says he has an urge to get an oil change every 5000 km.
- More recently, a character from the long-scrapped uplifted chimpanzee project was introduced. Despite his enhanced intellect, he's still hyper-aggressive, throws or hits things when upset, and considers eye contact threatening behavior, leaving him completely unable to read most other sapients' social cues and/or interact safely with society.
- Florence the wolf is the main target.
- From Girl Genius comes Krosp III, Emperor of All Cats - basically, a cat with human-level intelligence, speech, thumbs, and the ability to walk erect... he'd like to claim that his 'cat-instincts' have no hold over him, but Agatha rather enjoys proving otherwise. Using a piece of string. In the main comic, a young minion earns Krosp's respect by bringing him dead rats.
- Eerie Cuties is on a gleeful rampage with this.
- In Homestuck, after Jack noir is affected by Becquerel's prototyping he is annoyed by his new dog instincts
- And now Jade can't keep from barking at a cat.
- Even after gaining a genius-level intellect, Scratch Fury, Destroyer of Worlds still succumbs to his feline instincts on occasion.
- Head Trip once discussed the missing (and rather inconvenient) side of Catwoman.
- Played for cuteness in But I'm a Cat Person. The Cat will curl up in your lap for petting; the Raven has a hard time managing legs.
- The Whiteboard: In this and following strip, feline Pirta pounces a rodent customer, her instincts getting the better of her.
- Kat, the cat/girl of Sequential Art has moments of this, such as going to the grocery store and insisting on buying 18 quarts of cream. (Scarlet's instincts show up too, but she's a squirrel, so most of her instances fall more under Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!)
- From the webcomic Tanktop, Texas: "I am a dog, should I pretend to be something I'm not?". Subverted in that the animals in this strip are quite the Intellectual Animals and he turned into his feral self deliberately, just to prove a point.
- Seen in Tails The Douche, when Tails, after freeing the cute chickens from the Mystic Cave boss capsule, starts eating one alive.
- Marena of Keychain of Creation is a Lunar Exalt, and has vulpine (and occasionally canine) instincts, which Misho sometimes takes advantage of.
- In one filler strip she's meditating to control her instincts, then a bird lands by her.
- Whither has a crow as a speaking character. He digs in the trash for snacks.
- In Housepets! Keene is a ferret who happens to be wealthier than some countries, but take him to a golf course and...
- In the rebooted Furtopia RP of Darwin's Soldiers, Captain Kayle Storm (an unspecified lupine soldier) Lampshades, subverts and plays this trope straight. When his rifle jams, he clubs a terrorist with it and latches his jaws onto the terrorist's face and proceeds to maul him. Subverted in the fact that he spends a few seconds vomiting after he does so.
Capt. Storm: Instinct. What a love-hate relationship.
- Brian from Family Guy lives this; his family members even occasionally invoke the trope to distract and/or humiliate him. For example, he will chase balls, is attracted to the sound of dog food in a bag, and is terrified of the vacuum. He also has a tendency to bark at strangers, especially black strangers (subconscious racism due to his father, something he is very ashamed of). He will sometimes fail to recognize himself in a mirror, thinking it is another dog (though this only ocurred in a gag, followed by Peter doing a similar thing).
Stewie: Where the devil did he go?Peter (uncovering his face): Peekaboo!Stewie: AAAAH!
- Probably best represented in an early episode where Brian goes off to see the world. We see him digging for fossils (with a trowel), uncovering a bone and being proud of his discovery. Then he immediately re-buries it (with his hands/paws) and sits on the spot, looking around to make sure nobody tries to take it.
- Every now and again Stewie gets a "baby reminder" (being unable to see Peter when he covers his face with his hands, for example), just to point out that he's still technically an infant.
- On Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends Mr. Herriman, a rabbit, has an addiction to carrots that he's ashamed of. Not to mention his fear of dogs, which is so strong that he calls his assistant "Frankie" instead of his usuall "Ms. Francis."
- A common gag in T.U.F.F. Puppy. Most often in the form of Dudley chewing his own butt. Kitty acts on her instincts much less often than Dudley, but give her a cat toy and...
- The Chameleon often blows his cover because whenever he sees a bug he has to eat it.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- Spike, who while normally The Heart and The Reliable One of the team, is still a young dragon and will on instinct gather up goods for a "hoard". Going too far in this will literally turn him into a monster.
- Thorax, a changeling who would rather hang out than drain the love of others still can't help but hiss and flick his tongue when faced with an abundance of love or affection. The way he quickly apologizes and even trembles and sweats as he does it makes it very reminiscent of a recovering alcoholic or drug addict.
- My Little Pony: Equestria Girls has Twilight Sparkle trying to run about on all fours when she's first turned into a human. In a later scene, still getting used to being a human, she tries to eat an apple with just her teeth, to the bafflement of Fluttershy's Alternate Self. Eventually, Sunset Shimmer attempts to ruin Twilight's popularity with video footage of her clumsy attempts to adjust to the human world.
- Regular Show : Rigby the raccoon has an addiction to eating out of the trash, which Mordecai calls him out on. Whilst Rigby can stand up and walk, he usually runs on all fours. Rigby also becomes roadkill in an early episode, but survives, due to his soul being outside his body (which was then possessed) at the time.
- The Simpsons: In "El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer" Homer meets his Spirit Advisor who is a coyote. He offers Homer advice to search for his soulmate. While Homer overthinks this the animal starts biting Homer's leg. Homer pushes him away, whereupon the coyote apologizes and defends himself: "I AM a coyote".
- In Gravity Falls, a cat-creature serving as judge in Mabel's fantasy land in Weirdmageddon Part 2 starts out being distracted by a hanging ribbon, and subsequently permits something in the courtroom on the grounds that "cats are famously curious".
- In the 1963 Bugs Bunny short Mad as a Mars Hare, Bugs gets lured out of a spaceship he rode to Mars by having him fetch a carrot. And then pulling the egress ladder away so he'd have to explore.
Bugs: Darn it. Betrayed by my baser reflexes again.
- In The New Mr. Peabody & Sherman Show, Sherman tries to bring in a cat to deal with a rodent problem. While he desperately tries to fight them, Mr. Peabody's canine instincts trigger so hard that he ultimately transforms into a feral dog and gives chase.
- In The Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo Show, Shaggy and Scooby switch bodies in one episode. In Shaggy's body, Scooby still a bad driver, and despite very much wanting to switch back is easily distracted by a cat.
- In Infinity Train, the corgis of the corgi car are intelligent and can speak English, but still act like dogs. Atticus doesn't like being picked up, likes belly rubs, and so forth.
- The cast of Kaeloo, who are animals but behave like humans, sometimes have things like this happen to them. For example, in one episode, Mr. Cat pounces on a ball and plays with it like a real cat.