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. That said, it's also well established in fiction that Cats Are Mean indeed, and an antagonistic dragon can still easily be likened to a cat in this sense.
A Shoulder-Sized 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 real-life animals.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! has the monster cards "Tiger Dragon" and "Baby Tiragon", which are exactly as they sound: tiger/dragon hybrids.
- 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.
- 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.
- How to Train Your Dragon has dragons 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, folding his ears back when he is upset, etc. His green eyes and general body shape are also quite cat-like. In fact, Toothless actually was motion captured using a real cat.
- In the Rankin/Bass adaptation of The Hobbit, 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.
- 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.
- Averted (or possibly inverted) in My Little Pony: Equestria Girls. While the pony protagonists are turned into humans, Spike the dragon is turned into a dog.
- Dragon from The Secret of NIMH 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.
- Spirited Away: Haku's dragon form is very feline, with a furry body and face, pointed ears, long whiskers and a pink nose.
- 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.
- E. Nesbit's "The Dragon Tamers" 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.
- Temeraire: Temeraire's habit of washing himself after his meals takes other dragons' captains by surprise, since, as one of them puts it, dragons normally "lick they claws and chops clean, like a cat".
- 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.
- In the Harry Potter franchise, 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 1st Edition Advanced D&D Forgotten Realms setting boxed set. 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."
- In post-3rd edition art, gold dragons tend to be drawn with distinct references to felines in the anatomy of their legs, torsos and head
- 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.
- Pathfinder: 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.
- Sky Lynx, from the Transformers franchise, 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.
- Monster Hunter:
- 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.
- The Nargacuga and Barioth, from the main series, 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 a black panther, while Barioth resembles a saber-toothed cat.
- In various Spyro the Dragon games, the titular Spyro has some cattish elements to him. For example, one of his Idle Animations is Spyro cleaning himself like a cat.
- 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.
- The Elder Scrolls:
- The Khajiit Cat Folk 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. It is stated as a goal of their race 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.)
- Sash Lilac in Freedom Planet 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.
- In Firefly Cross, the dragon Chaerius is most often seen shapeshifted as a black cat.
- Dragons: Riders of Berk: As mentioned in the Film section, the various dragons often display cat-like mannerisms.