Dragons are one of those fantasy creatures with various variations, depending on the era, culture, and creator. They're usually reptilian but may also have bird-like feathers or even some mammal traits. But one thing that shows up more often than you'd expect it to is dragons that look and act like cats.
In some cases, this is rather subtle, with simple allusions to the eyes and the feet being vaguely feline, or references to the traditional arrogance assigned to felines or to how cats toy with their prey. Other times, though, it can be much more blatant, resulting in dragons that literally look and act like cats. This isn't a new phenomenon; in fact, it's been argued that the original inspiration for dragon myths around the world was a hybrid of the various predators faced by early humans, including large cats.
Both European and Asian dragons have incorporated various cat motifs in the past, though in different ways. The Chinese dragon is said to be a combination of various animals, one of which is the tiger, and they are often drawn with feline-looking claws, whiskers, and noses. European dragons tend to be more outwardly reptilian, but their movements and the shape of their eyes are often described as cat-like.
More recent writers, though, are likely to play up the cuteness of the dragon's feline aspects rather than the fierceness. If Reptiles Are Abhorrent, then it helps for a sympathetic dragon character to have some recognizable mammalian features. Villainous dragons who are described as cat-like usually emphasize their vicious and savage aspects.
A Shoulder-Sized Dragon or Delightful Dragon will very often act like a lizard/housecat combination. Contrast with All Animals Are Dogs, as dragons are often the exception to this rule. See also Feathered Dragons, for another portrayal of dragons with the characteristics of non-reptile animals.
- Digimon: Holydramon/Magnadramon is a dragon Digimon that combines an Asian dragon's serpentine body with a very lion-like head. It's also furry instead of scaly. Not coincidentally, it evolves from Tailmon, a cat Digimon.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! has the monster cards "Tiger Dragon" and "Baby Tiragon", which are exactly as they sound: tiger/dragon hybrids.
- Magic: The Gathering:
- Nekorus are a species of dragons with catlike features (or cats with draconic features) native to the continent of Jamuraa, in the world of Dominaria. The only nekoru to receive a card, Wasitora, resembles a stout-bodied panther with dragon wings, and is typed as both a Cat and a Dragon. Their name is a portmanteau of the Japanese words for "cat" and "dragon".
- In its flavor text, the original Shivan Dragon is described as "often tormenting its victims much like a cat plays with a mouse".
- Even though they don't officially have the Cat creature type, the dragons of the Indian-themed steampunk-inspired plane of Kaladesh, Skyship Stalker and Freejam Regent, have tiger-like facial features, black stripes on orange-red scales and tiger-like claws on the ends of their vaguely feline limbs.
- Smax has the dragon named Morningbright, who has seven eyes and can shapeshift, but his default form has a cat-shaped face, a cat's nose and feline paws.
- Coco: Pepita the alebrije is a jaguar-like feline with ram's horns in general appearance, but she can fly. She has wings, hind legs, hind feet, a tail (like an iguana), and a scaly coloration that appear reptilian and/or avian. Her form in the Land of The Living is an outright housecat.
- The Hobbit: In the Rankin/Bass adaptation, Smaug is depicted as very mammalian◊, with a distinctly catlike face sporting a short muzzle, prominent triangular ears, bushy cheek fur and slit-pupiled feline eyes.
- How to Train Your Dragon has dragons engaging in catlike behaviors such as chasing spots of reflected light and rolling around in catnip-like grass.
- Toothless, in particular, shows a lot of cat-based behavior — rolling on his belly to get it scratched, showing affection by licking, eating fish, circling in place before bedding down to sleep, folding his ears back when he is upset, chasing shiny objects, etc. His green eyes and general body shape are also quite cat-like. In fact, Toothless's dark coloration was inspired by black panthers and actually was motion captured for some shots using a real cat.
- The Terrible Terrors, a species of Shoulder-Sized Dragon incidentally around the size of a cat, purr when happy or pleased.
- The Secret of NIMH: Dragon is an inversion: he's a house cat who is named Dragon and looks like a dragon-like monster from his prey's point of view.
- Blazey, the pet dragon from Onward, inverts this trope by being a dragon who clearly acts like a dog.
- Spirited Away: Haku's dragon form is very feline, with a furry body and face, pointed ears, long whiskers and a pink nose. Partially subverted in that Hayao Miyazaki has stated in an interview that they used dogs as reference for Haku in some scenes. Particularly, dogs' mouths when Chihiro is trying to feed him the medicine.
- Inheritance Cycle: In an interview, Christopher Paolini described how he imagined that "a dragon would be like a cat in some ways, that same sort of self-satisfied attitude." This is carried over into the film adaptation of Eragon, in which Saphira's movements on the ground are modeled on those of large cats.
- Pete's Dragon (2016): Elliott has both physical and behavioral traits of cats.
- "The Dragon Tamers", by E. Nesbit, features an armor-plated dragon that is, throughout the story, described as acting in very cat-like ways — he purrs, meows, and greatly enjoys eating bread and milk. At the end, his armor falls off and he becomes the world's first cat. The story ends by noting how people should make sure that cats stay tame and fond of drinking milk — if they should become too wild and fond of hunting they might start growing bigger and scalier and fiercer, grow their wings back, and return to being dragons.
- Harry Potter: The Chinese Fireball dragon — which is loosely based upon the mythical Chinese long — is alternately known as the "lion-dragon" and sports a lion-like visage complete with a mane of spikes around its neck and a short, cat-like snout.
- Many amateur "How to Draw Fantasy Creatures" books advise would-be artists to use feline aspects when drawing dragons, especially in features such as the eyes and the skull shape.
- Kroniki Drugiego Kręgu: Dragons hate water (well, most of them — one hatchling is determined to learn how to swim, weirding her family out), are exclusively carnivorous, and are playful when young. Of course, they're also sapient shapeshifters who fly and have magic.
- The Neverending Story: Falkor the Luckdragon has the serpentine, wingless body of a traditional Chinese dragon and a maned, lion-like head. The film adaptation, by contrast, portrays him with much more canine features.
- Temeraire: Temeraire's habit of washing himself with water after his meals takes other dragons' captains by surprise, since, as one of them puts it, dragons normally "lick their claws and chops clean, like a cat", and are also shown hissing. Temeraire himself is also likened to a cat in the narrative when he's mere days out of the shell and small enough to be carried — he preens himself of the slime from the egg just after hatching (determinedly ignoring the midshipman who had initially been set to harness him in a manner familiar to many a cat owner), examines and bats at interesting things on the ship, naps a lot (although this is characteristic of most hatchlings), and needs to be "groomed and petted back into temper, like an affronted cat" when he gets himself tangled in a hammock.
- The classic Chinese dragon, or long, was said to be a composite of various animals, one of which was the tiger.
- Another mythical dragon, the French Tarasque, is also said to have the head of a lion.
- The tatzelwurm is sometimes described as having the head and limbs of a cat.
- It's possible that this may be Older Than Dirt. Anthropologist David E. Jones has suggested that dragon myths are simply an amalgamation of the most dangerous predators faced by human ancestors — snakes, crocodiles, birds of prey, and large cats.
- Dungeons & Dragons:
- Forgotten Realms:
- During a Flight of Dragons (mass dragon attack on civilized territory), Zhentil Keep was seriously damaged by a number of dragons who "raged through the streets like great scaled cats, where they were slain".
- Steel dragons are typically described as having catlike bodies or as moving with feline grace.
- In post-3rd edition art, gold dragons tend to be drawn with distinct references to felines in the anatomy of their legs, torsos and heads.
- Dragonnes are chimeric creatures with features of lions and brass dragons. Depending on the edition, their appearance can vary between that of a dragon with a leonine head to that of a scaly lion with dragon wings.
- Pseudodragons look like regular dragons, only tiny, but they've always been described as having catlike personalities, being playful and curious but slightly arrogant.
- Forgotten Realms:
- Dragonnes are a type of magical beast resembling a hybrid of a brass dragon and a lion, with a generally leonine body shape with a dragon's scales, wings, tail and horns.
- In Dragons Revsited, white dragon mating rituals are described as reminiscent of young cats play-fighting — claws shown but not used, a lot of hissing and rolling around, and ultimately no clear winner.
- Transformers: Sky Lynx is a unique example. His vehicle mode is a space shuttle, but he has two separate robot modes, and can separate into two pieces so he can use both at once. One of them is a dragon while the other was a gigantic cat, giving Sky Lynx the best of both worlds when it comes to this trope.
- The Elder Scrolls:
- The Khajiit believe that Akatosh, the god of time and progenitor of the dragons, is Alkosh, Dragon King of Cats. He is usually depicted as a dragon with feline features. The Khajiit describe him as "a real big cat", and a Khajiit character likens dragons to kittens at one point — as he puts its, what could be more destructive than a young cat?
- The Ka Po' Tun are an Akaviri race of "tiger-folk" who highly revere dragons, and it's stated that a racial goal of theirs is to become dragons. They are said to be led by a God-Emperor named Tosh-Raka, the only one of their race to succeed in this goal. He has become the largest dragon on Nirn and is covered with orange and black scales. (Other sources claim this story to be metaphorical at best.)
- Freedom Planet: Sash Lilac is officially a half-Chinese dragon, but her mammalian-looking black nose, full body fur, and stubby triangular horns that resemble pointy ears make her look more like a cat than a dragon. She was redesigned in Freedom Planet 2 in which her horns are more clearly defined as horns, though the result is that she doesn't really look like any animal in particular.
- Lunar: Young dragons look almost exactly like winged cats, and indeed two such dragons are mistaken for "regular" winged cats despite their insistences to the contrary. Dragons come to resemble the traditional serpentine beasts as they mature, but still retain mammalian features like extensive fur covering, though red dragons never fully lose their catlike traits even as they grow.
- Monster Hunter:
- Nargacuga and Barioth not only have cat-like features (fur, head and facial features, and claws on their forelimbs), but also a catlike fighting style. Nargacuga, specifically, is based on a black panther, while Barioth resembles a saber-toothed cat.
- The Elder Dragons Teostra and Lunastra resemble fire-breathing lions with scales and dragon wings.
- In Monster Hunter: World Xeno'jiiva, the final boss, has a pretty cat-like appearance, from the pointed ears to the "whiskers" on the sides of its face.
- Spyro the Dragon: In various games, the titular Spyro has some cattish elements to him. For example, one of his Idle Animations has him cleaning himself like a cat.
- In Firefly Cross, the dragon Chaerius is most often seen shapeshifted as a black cat.
- Dragon Hunters: In "The Cure", the subterranean-dwelling Dungeon Dragons are remarkably cat-like. This is especially evident when their only egg hatches, resulting in a litter of dragon babies which resemble and sounds like adorable kittens.
- Dragons: Riders of Berk: As mentioned in the Film section, the various dragons often display cat-like mannerisms.
- In Dungeons & Dragons, Tiamat the queen of dragons has five heads. The primary head, like Smaug from The Hobbit (1977) mentioned above, has feline features such as bushy fur on her cheeks, triangular ears, and slitted cat-like eyes.
- In Tricky, a CITV Saturday Morning show, the titular character has a pet cat dragon called Purrdy.