How would a race of humanoids with tails design [vehicle] seats?

Let's say I have a race of humanoids (bipedal, roughly human proportions) that have tails like felines/canines. I'm trying to figure out how they would design seating...

Assumptions:

• Like cats/dogs, they can bend their tail close to 90° right at the base.
• Like humans (but this is true of dogs, also!), they "sit" by resting their weight on their haunches.
• Sitting "on" their tail (i.e. brought forward between their legs) is quite uncomfortable, and possibly not safe.
• Sitting with their tail "stuck" to one side is annoying; they want to be able to move it to their other side, or let it "hang out", without getting up.
• Similarly, sitting in a way that they can't bring their tail in to curl against a leg is annoying.
• Tail lengths vary; on a "typical" chair, the tip may not quite reach the ground, or nearly two thirds of the tail may be on the floor.
• Their tails are flexible enough that, if they are sitting with their tailed tucked along a leg, on a chair that is open about the width of their body, they can "swoosh" their tail into the gap until it is fully "behind" the chair, and can reverse this action.

Given that they would design seats to overcome these limitations, what would they look like?

For chairs, they would just have a gap between the seat and back, with supports on the sides or set back enough to allow them to shift their tails over the support while seated. (The seat might also be "notched" a bit in back.) Alternatively, for casual seating, they might prefer cushions, a la the Orians from The Stars at War series.

But... I'm particularly interested in figuring out vehicle seats. "Bucket" seats that have open space behind them can probably follow similar design principles, but what about the more bench-like seats in the backs of cars? Could they have anything similar? If so, how would these seats need to be modified to accommodate tails? What about the seat belts / safety harnesses; would those need modification? What about "booster seats" for younger individuals that don't fit in the adult-sized seats?

(...or, they might use "seats" that look totally different? However, any "seat" whereupon they rest their abdomens would be a problem for individuals that are pregnant, especially when talking about vehicle seats. Also, they need to be able to fasten whatever safety restraint system is in use without assistance; stuff that fastens behind them is going to be awkward at best.)

(This is similar to, but not the same as, What would a chair for a Human with a Tail look like?.)

Please note that I have already speculated that their seats might look nothing like seats made for humans. I've also speculated why they would. Comments along these lines that don't come with suggestions for seating design or at least details beyond vague hand-waving are not helpful. The specific thrust of the question has plot relevance to my story. Explanation of the physiological working of my creatures' anatomy not; questions along those lines that don't come with suggested answers will be referred to Bellisario's Maxim and/or The MST3K Mantra, or at least a different WB question.

• How long is the tail? – Trevor Oct 11 '19 at 19:35
• Good question; answered in an edit. – Matthew Oct 11 '19 at 20:02
• tail monkeys are fine sitting down on a chair if there as wide a gap as possible for the tail to go through the lower back of the chair, or a bubble in that space for it to go outwards and around the leg. – aliential Oct 13 '19 at 6:55
• This isn’t enough for a full answer, but maybe this species would prefer motorcycle type vehicles, where they lean forward and their tail isn’t being pressed by anything, and the saddle type seat gives it a full range of motion. – Jetscooters Oct 14 '19 at 4:53
• I have an ugly suspicion that their tails would suffer the same fate as the human foreskin in the name of science, space travel, cycling, wrestling holds and such. Perhaps eventually it will be realised that they provide a valuable balance, hygiene, thermo control function and new generations will have to suffer the problem of how to sit with them. – KalleMP Oct 14 '19 at 11:20

Split seats.

having a gap in the center of the seat, that runs all the way forward and open in the back would be best. Keep in mind some car seats are angled back far more than chairs are. with bucket seats this will let the tail point forward, or back depending on the persons sitting style. Just like in the real world you will see different styles for different vehicles, motorcycle style seats may be slightly more common. Note most car seats sit fairly high in the frame, meaning tails can stick down quite a bit as well. The groove could run all the way to the floor. The lower section of the seat will be two seperate pieces, left and right. this will let tails point forward, back or anything in between, even straight down for shorter ones. It can also open wider in the downward direction so as materials get better car designers can leave it wide open underneath allowing for a wide range of movement.

Now if people sit with the tail pointed back it mean that each person takes up more space in the car, so you either seat fewer people or have longer cars, you can get shorter length by staggering rows so the back row is laterally offset to the front row, thus either the front or back will only seat one person. This may make three wheel style cars more common, since it will waste less material, on the other hand maybe the "trunk" will straddle the rear passenger.

• Thanks! I will have to think about this... on the one hand, people don't always sit centered, and this might cause problems with your approach (also possibly safety concerns), and I'm not sure if that "canyon" is comfotable. OTOH this is a plausible way to "sit on" one's tail, and you raise some good points about the problems this would solve. – Matthew Oct 11 '19 at 21:40
• @Matthew remember the canyon can actually open fairly wide as you go down, so the tail is not locked in a tube, it should be able to move quite freely. – John Oct 13 '19 at 14:22
• @Xobotun wanted to post a comment here but did not have enough reputation. Since I find their contribution valuable, I shall add it here on their behalf: Chair one and chair two – A Lambent Eye Oct 14 '19 at 13:46
• I'm going to post another self-answer with my final solution, which combines a number of factors, but I'm accepting this one because it provided the most novel input. (An argument can be made for Nosajimiki's answer also, but that mostly solidified ideas I already had.) – Matthew Oct 21 '19 at 17:44

Depends on why they have a tail

If their tail is prehensile, their instinct will probably be to utilize it to catch themselves in which case, putting a pull brake under the chair instead of by the feet might feel very natural to them; so, you'll probably have something similar to a toilet seat with a lever in it.

If the tail is used primarily for balance when they run, then their instinct will be to continue to do that the same way humans prefer to lean into a turn so that we don't feel like we will fall over. In this case, an opening in the back of the seat with room behind it to point and swing their tail will be ideal.

If the tail is mostly decorative or used for protection, then it will be a question of keeping the tail safe; so, there will likely be some manner of "pocket" shaped in whatever fashion best keeps their particular tails from getting damaged.

Apart from adding a hole or pocket to the chair, the safety belts would likely not change much. You will still need to be forward facing to see where they are going, and you will still need a solid back and accessible straps which would not need to change in any meaningful way. Car seating is already designed with utility and safety in mind. When you start messing around with it too much, you create new safety concerns.

• "An opening in the back of the seat with room behind it to point and swing their tail". Yup, that was one of my assumptions, but you give a good rationale for it. Thanks! (I don't think I'll try to figure out using their tails for steering, though 😉.) – Matthew Oct 11 '19 at 17:52
• My first thought was to have a pocket, to prevent passengers in the back seat from tromping on, pulling on, spilling things on, the driver's tail. – Arluin Oct 14 '19 at 15:54
• Also, probably a notch in the crack of the seat with an opening toward the door, so you can just slide your tail in to the hole/pocket without having to aim it much. – Arluin Oct 14 '19 at 15:55

Have the chair back contain a "C" like cutout or an off center post. That way, as long as they get use to sitting from one side of the seat: the door side and either the right side or the left side for non-vehicle seats. Sitting will be a normal action.

Look at horse riding both horses and riders are use to people getting on the horse from one side. Anyone who is a trained rider just mounts from that side without thinking about it.

Another possibility for vehicles is to have the back support not attached to the base of the seat but attached to the top or sides of the vehicle. However, this solution doesn't help chairs around a table like the other one does. So, I don't like it because it isn't a universal solution.

• That's... interesting, especially for a vehicle where you can pretty much know in what direction the person is going to "enter" the seat. – Matthew Oct 11 '19 at 20:14
• @Matthew, yes and the standing chairs would not be an inconvenience either. They would be culturally acclimated to sitting from one side of the chair from childhood. This could cause odd reactions to non-tailed being sitting in a chair from the "wrong" side. – ShadoCat Oct 11 '19 at 22:25
• Huh! I'm a little bummed now I don't see where I'd have an opportunity to use that ("odd reactions"); it would be a really fun "aliens are weird" moment. – Matthew Oct 14 '19 at 14:29
• @Matthew, Some off the cuff thoughts: Maybe have someone who is injured so it is hard for them to sit from the "correct" side. OTOH, even if you don't use that, as long as it is in the back of your mind, it may help you with background and characterization. Maybe some people prefer to ride in one side of the car because the other side feels wrong? – ShadoCat Oct 18 '19 at 19:41

The Varier Peel Lounger immediately came to mind as the ideal chair for humans with prehensile tails.

• That's a pretty sweet picture. I wonder how annoying it would be, however, to only be able to tuck one's tail to one side of the body. Even so, I'm sure this chair would get invented and purchased by some people in my story's world. – Matthew Oct 14 '19 at 14:35

If the tail isn't excessively long, and can bend enough that it can run almost parallel to the rest of the spine, a simple solution for vehicles is a molded pocket that runs from the seat up the backrest. Structurally, it wouldn't change the effectiveness of the seat: you just adjust the back frame to have a gap that allows the pocket to be formed.

So the person gets in, arranges themselves so their tail is "erect", and aligned with the pocket, and then settles back, in effect enclosing their tail in cavity formed by their butt and back and the seat pocket. They might not like it, but they'd probably prefer the slight discomfort to having part of their body hanging loose and unprotected.

If they can't bend their tails that much, then the answer is a tube extension sticking out of the back of the seat angled downward the tail slides into. If it's left open, then you don't have to worry about dirt accumulation.

• The tube would absolutely fail my "comfort" criteria. Probably the pocket as well, although TBH I think you are much more along the lines thinking I am looking for, so upvote for that. (Also, I have to think about if the base of the backrest could be designed in such a way that one could still pull their tail in and out, in which case you may be a winner...) – Matthew Oct 11 '19 at 20:11

I think an important piece to answer it, why do they still have tails? We had them, and they got in the way of walking/running all the time. How did they evolve and keep the tails?

There isn't a huge reason to keep the back of the seat closed, most car seats have very little structure there, just fabric pulled across it. Something like the attached image should give them plenty of room to let their tail hang out.

• "Why do they still have tails?" ...for the purposes of the question, that is irrelevant; that they have tails is axiomatic. Also, your answer doesn't seem to add any information in your answer that isn't already in the question (although that's a really nice picture!). In modern cars, the back seat essentially rests directly on the underbody. Where would the tails go? (The trunk?) – Matthew Oct 11 '19 at 17:18
• @Matthew Why they have tails still could affect how they would see them. Do they use them for balance? Do they use them as an extra limb? Are they primarily used to attract a mate? Each reason affects how they might build a seat. For example, if they are for show only, having their tail between the legs of those in the back could be embarrassing / rude. However if they use them like a limb, it might be nice to be able to grab the box of tissues off the floor. – Joseph Connolly Oct 11 '19 at 17:30
• They are almost surely used for communication (emoting, not language), probably for balance when moving (not necessary when sitting), and possibly "other" aesthetic reasons ("no tail, no nookie" ⇒ unlikely to just lose them). For vehicle seats, which is what I'm focusing on, assume they don't need to use them as extra limbs, and that folks in the back seat just have to deal with the tails of those in front. (But you raise an interesting point I'll have to keep in mind if I do something like a movie theater scene...) – Matthew Oct 11 '19 at 17:48
• The biomechanics of a tail have important consequences to the rest of the creature's body plan and movement. The creature might not sit or be able to sit the way we do, depending on the evolutionary process that led to keeping the tail in the first place. – Thucydides Oct 11 '19 at 17:49
• @Thucydides, if you have a plausible alternative (note the paragraph along these lines in the original question), please share it as an answer! Otherwise, vague comments are not really helpful. At some point, Bellisario's Maxim / The MST3K Mantra applies... This isn't tagged reality-check. – Matthew Oct 11 '19 at 19:29

Lets keep it simple and say the chair has a hole in it, for the tail, and a kind of enclosed bucket behind that, to keep the tail. And the bucket part is enclosed to keep the tail from getting kicked by whoever is sitting behind them. This assumes that the tail can bend and even curl up.

If not, then I would keep the hole, and make it so that its a societal no-no to sit behind anyone, you know, to avoid stepped on tails.

(If none of that works out then we've got a kind of slightly more private toilet.)

• you can use staggered seating, two in front one in back, to get around the tail. – John Oct 11 '19 at 21:04
• @John, I'm not sure that removes the stepping on the tail part, as they would still have to move through rows to get to their seat, as in audience seating(?). – Len Oct 14 '19 at 17:43
• Only if both people in front sit down first. – John Oct 14 '19 at 17:46

Perhaps in (some?) vehicles, they don't "sit" at all.

There are harnesses for dogs that support the haunches and wrap around the body and shoulders. Something like this looks like it would be about as safe as a typical human vehicle seat (maybe more so as the body is well secured and it seems one could plausibly introduce some elasticity into this system, which would be really helpful in a crash). This isn't all that different from an arborist's harness (or indeed, many safety harnesses).

OTOH, I suspect this wouldn't be as comfortable as a "proper" seat. Probably this would be used in some situations (airplanes come to mind), but not as a first choice for e.g. personal vehicles.

(Certainly this wouldn't be used where safety restraints are not needed, e.g. desk chairs, but per the original question, those aren't an issue.)

• "Like humans (but this is true of dogs, also!), they "sit" by resting their weight on their haunches." - first, you'd have to give humanoids haunches, 'otherwise they don't "sit".' +1 – Mazura Oct 12 '19 at 5:01
• Uh... humans do so have haunches. "Haunch: The area encompassing the upper thigh, hip and buttocks on one side of a human, primate, or quadruped animal..." (emphasis added). I used that term because a) fewer snickers, and b) makes it clear that they can also sit on their thighs. (Which is where much of your weight is resting on e.g. a toilet seat.) – Matthew Oct 14 '19 at 14:33
• Humans can get down on their haunches but they cannot "sit" on them like cats and dogs do, unless you can put your butt and all four of your limbs on the floor and then enter a standing position. – Mazura Oct 14 '19 at 19:33

I just copy/pasted my answer from What would a chair for a Human with a Tail look like?

Because it seems like it can be applied here.

It's based on Dragon ball chair design for the Saiyan race.

I don't know the original artist's name though; found it on Pinterest.

So in the design it has a slit in the middle back (the one in the image is small but you can use bigger chair anyway) and there's also a combination of a reverse toilet hole too (basically extend the slit to become a toilet hole, to accommodate different tail types/angles to be able to just sit straight or not sit awkwardly or without contorting the tail or ass first while not hindering or hurting their tail when sitting).

And you can increase the hole gap if you want more tail movement.

I don't think this hinders the use of a seat belt.

For visual image of the reverse toilet hole, don't take it literally, and combine it with the slit design — basically extend the slit to there.

I have answered a similar question here: What would a chair for a Human with a Tail look like? , which focused more on the bio mechanics of the tail and how it influenced body plans (and thus furniture).

This leads to the question of why a creature has a tail in the first place? What evolutionary function does it perform?

In this case we are told that the creature is similar to a cat or dog, so the tail in a cat serves as part of the balancing function when jumping, and possibly tactile information in the rear hemisphere, as well as a signalling device for other cats and their human servants. Dog have been bred extensively over the last 10,000+ years they have been our companions, so probably have fewer functions related to movement, but still serve to provide communications to each other, can be used to provide protection and warmth on bad weather (think of huskies wrapping up in a tight ball with their tail over their nose), and other functions. Dog or cat tails do not provide the sort of grasping or holding support that the tails of monkeys do, so there is no need to provide any controls or functionality for the tail to be used (such as a parking brake lever).

Since dogs enjoy riding in cars, and humans have even developed several forms of harness to allow them to ride in safety (having a dog flying through the air in a car accident isn't something you want to contemplate), there are even plenty of illustrations that show dogs will assume their natural "sitting" or "lying down" positions on ordinary car seats (or the box like safety carriers often substituted).

So in these examples, the dog simply does what it normally does with the tail. Presumably a creature which still retained its dog or cat like shape would be more likely to be draped over a bench like "seat" so all the limbs are free to access controls, perhaps like a motorcycle, with the tail being free.

The seatback for a tailed rider would be horizontal

I'm inclined to think that if the creature adopted an upright position, the tail would shrink accordingly and be a small "stub", unless conditions demanded the tail evolve into a more versatile balance organ or similar function. In that case, the seat would be more like a backless stool, since the tail needs to be free and have a full range of motion (despite being seated in a vehicle, acceleration forces are till being felt and being unable to manipulate the balance organ would be uncomfortable at best, and frightening at worst). Since rear passengers also need to use their tails, the vehicle itself will be much longer than the analogous human vehicle, and likely laid out in the interior like a large cargo van, with individual stools or bench seats. More advanced vehicles would have a seat somewhat like a "kneeling stool", and most likely a chest rest to provide crash protection. The kneeling stool would also be the common form of chair in other settings as well, so there would not be a great deal of issue moving from house to car or train.

Kneeling stool

So seat design will have to take into account "why" the creature has a tail. This will also mean changes to other aspects of vehicle design as well, not "just" putting a hole in the seat.

• All the dogs seats are not in good driving positions however and a kneeling stool makes driving even harder. because you can't exert an force on pedals. It also requires making the car taller. Also there is no reason to assume the tail would shrink, tails were lost long before the human lineage started walking upright. – John Oct 13 '19 at 14:10
• I have to agree with John, and in addition, compared to my answer, all of these look like they would have far worse crash survivability. Most of your examples "work" because the dog has a lot of freedom of movement, but in modern vehicle design, that's clearly considered a bad idea. – Matthew Oct 14 '19 at 14:46
• The 'office chair' reminded me of this TED talk - youtube.com/watch?v=k1luKAS_Xcg 'find your primal posture', which gives examples of, as a human, sitting like you have a tail actually gives you better posture, and some of the designs that can help with that. – Cinderhaze Oct 14 '19 at 20:21

This, for the record, is what I ultimately decided to use:

For casual seating:

Options. Lots and lots of options... but by preference, bean bags, or something similar. I'm imagining that my people are probably more comfortable lounging in a partially reclined posture, and malleable support will tend to make tail position a non-issue.

Here, I have to give credit to David Weber / Steve White and the Starfire series (the first four books can be read here and here), since I'm basically stealing this from the Orions... though I am also taking inspiration from observation of domestic cats.

For "formal" seating:

Per the original question, straight-backed chairs with an opening in back, and also a partially notched seat (e.g. Li Jun's answer). Example:

Seats split down the middle will also exist, but a) they require additional bulk or complexity to support a two-piece seat, and b) I'm thinking that sitting with one's tail tucked between the legs feels "odd", and so designers would not feel it "necessary" to design seats that accommodate that.

To some extent, I'm going to hand-wave "cultural reasons" here, however, I think there are durability and/or space-saving arguments. Also, I'm having trouble imagining the logistics of some sort of auditorium having with hundreds of bean bags. (Did I mention space savings? People sitting upright can be packed more tightly than people reclining.)

For vehicle "bucket" seats:

As noted in Nosajimiki's answer, I probably want my people to have at least partial movement of their tails while seated. For this reason (and also simplicity of design), the tail should have the ability to "hang" out the back freely (no "buckets"). These will look essentially like human seats, but with the added features as in the "formal chair" example, above, i.e. an opening at the bottom of the back and a "tail notch". In addition, because they are padded, molded seats, they will incorporate the "tail canyon" feature as in John's answer. Essentially, the front edge of the seat is flat (or even with a raised nub between the legs as is sometimes seen), but then the middle slopes down through the height of the seat, so that a person can sit on it with their tail tucked between their legs. If desired, the person can then pull their tail through so that it hangs behind the back of the seat. (That said, because seats tend to be reclined in order to reduce vehicle height, our passengers will probably tend to keep their tails tucked forward, under the seat.)

Some less formal seats may also incorporate this; for example, a fiberglass or molded plastic seat probably would, while a "simple" wood or folding-chair often will not, due to the added complexity and because it necessitates a taller seat height.

For vehicle "bench" seats:

Here we come to the real focus of the question. Again, in consideration of Nosajimiki's comments, we want our people with tails to be able to move them around. This means that the design in human cars, where the bench is essentially "molded" into the interior pan of the vehicle, is out. Our benches will have to be open underneath and, at least to some extent, behind, and will incorporate the same open lower back as bucket seats. This should be practical without other serious modifications for "sedan"-type vehicles, although we're probably looking at some body elongation and/or elevation, since that space would otherwise be available for stuff like drive components and fuel tanks. The center seat is going to be the real problem; because the drive shaft may run through here, center seat passengers may well be restricted to sitting on their tails. Us humans are already not big fans of the middle; my tailed people probably will really hate it. "Bench" seats will thus necessarily incorporate the same "tail canyon" for the middle seat, and probably for the sides as well. We'll just have to assume our passengers' ability to shift side to side is limited.

Restraints (i.e. seat belts) can be as in human vehicles.

This doesn't cover everything... for instance, whether backless benches could be practical would be an interesting question as well, but this question is focused on vehicle seating.