Felis dissmulo, also known as the vampire cat, is a shape-shifting feline that is often mistaken for a demon. It is best known in Japanese folklore as the Bakeneko. However, not all the details in those myths are correct.
The scientific name, Felis dissimulo is Latin; “dissimulo” means “conceal, disguise, keep secret”. Bakeneko is Japanese for "ghost-cat able to appear in disguise". As this is the most common name for the creature, this is the name we will use.
Bakeneko are one of the few known species of shapeshifters, another being the galiugalius in Moonfire. The first Bakeneko was a house cat which fell in love with his mistress. Other early Bakenekos included a she-cat whose owners loved her as their daughter and wished to become human for them, another that fell in love with a man, and lastly a tom that wished to avenge his mother’s death. As each insulted the Creator by becoming like humans, the entire species was cursed and most end up serving the Destroyer. Outside of Japan, most Felis dissimulo are mistaken for vampires or demons, much like the Baluari.
In Japanese folklore, any cat that lives over thirteen years old, reaches 3.75 kilograms in weight or is allowed to keep a long tail can become a bake-neko (Wikipedia). Thus Bakeneko can appear in any form a common cat can. Their usual height is 12-14in. at the shoulder, with a body length of 16in. and a tail length of 8in in feline form. If they take a human guise they will usually resemble someone they admire or whose place they have taken.
Bakeneko are very adaptable. They prefer to be active during evening hours, but can manage in the daytime just fine, especially if they have adopted a human guise.
Bakeneko were originally quite solitary in nature, but interactions with humans have lead to the creation of families and colonies. They behave very much like cats; however any hierarchy disputes are verbal rather than physical and challenges can lead to duels.
Bakeneko share their mating practices with Felis catus unless they have taken a human guise. Then they adopt the courtship rituals of the humans they live amongst. Offspring are born in cat form after a two-month gestation in litters of 1-5 regardless of the form the parents conceived them in. The sole exception is Bakeneko-human hybrids, which are usually born in human form.
Most Bakeneko hunt in cat form. They prey on rodents, birds, and humans. A Bakeneko eats half its weight in blood a day, but cannot digest anything else. Any attempt to eat the flesh or plants will result in the substance simply passing through the body without being absorbed at all. This leads to a Bakeneko being able to pass as human at dinner parties and similar events, but can also result in bloodless corpses being discovered if no scavengers are present to dispose of them.
Bakeneko can live for centuries if not killed, though most do not live beyond a 100 years due to human persecution. Orphaned kits often die before reaching age five.
As started above, Bakeneko feed solely on blood. A few myths have claimed they can eat meat – namely animals or humans, in short, anything it likes, but this is the sole realm of the Nekomata. It takes age and power to be able to digest anything else.
Defenses and EnemiesEdit
In feline form, Bakeneko have sharp claws and fangs. Some with age can summon storms and fire as well. They also have the ability to enter dreams. Their powers strengthen with practice and age. Their tails grow along with their powers, and once they reach a certain length, the tail splits and the Bakeneko becomes a Nekomata (cat-monster). Nekomta can grow as large as they wish and some were over five feet long when killed. Young Bakeneko share enemies, such as dogs and birds of prey, with felis catus. Once they reach the age where they can shape-shift, they also gain the above-mentioned abilities, thus negating much of these dangers. In ancient times, some Nekomata became careless and were caught feeding upon humans, leading to their deaths at the hands of mercenaries. Most Bakeneko in this day and age have more sense than to advertise their presence.
Most Bakeneko are found in Japan, but small colonies exist in the United States of America and other places where immigration has been common. There are no exact numbers as most Bakeneko are secretive and sometimes other supernatural felines are mistaken for them. Also complicating matters is the books written by the Bakeneko with false information.
Unlike the Baluari, Bakeneko rarely mate with normal cats. However there are cases of a Bakeneko marrying a human and having children with them. In most of these cases the Bakeneko is a female.
Many myths surround the Bakeneko, and many are true, but a handful are cases of mistaken identity. One myth is that the can reanimate corpses by jumping over them. This is false, as is the idea that they are always out to harm the human whose appearance they borrow. As mentioned above sometimes the resemblance is just admiration.
Allen, Judy. (2008) Fantasy Encyclopedia
Bakeneko were not included in Stormrider until Cutler discovered the “vampire cat of Nabeshima”. Originally the characters were vampires, but with Snowstream in the mix it made more sense for the creatures to be feline in nature. The images are from the two sites below.