So, these are the same cats detailed in previous questions. Intelligence is equivalent to 'human in cat bodies', they have mildly opposable thumbs, they can be bipedal temporarily (Think like bears or rabbits), and have a technology level summed up by lacking tools for the most part, but having basic transportation, vague domestication, some mild agriculture, and navigation good enough to traverse to entirely different continents. So, a bit above primitive in some places.

I decided that due to them not being able to create things such as compasses, they'd use the stars and sun to navigate, although I am not positive if they would be able to see stars, or at least well enough to use them for navigation. To cross oceans, they'd rely on ocean currents, due to lacking sails, and simply drift across the world. They also have their own maps, so I assume someone would have made a map of ocean currents after enough trial and error as well as collaboration with other explorers.

But, would this actually work? The boats can only hold one cat and some supplies, maybe two if the cats are small and/or lightweight. They are essentially canoes. I also didn't plan on them using oars, but if that is required, I'd be fine with having them use them. And, anything along the lines of 'they can't since they'd get tired' or 'they can't without oars' should be excused. I can easily change their energy limits since it isn't vital to the story, and I have explicitly stated that I would be fine with letting them use them.

  • $\begingroup$ How do you "navigate" a piece of driftwood? $\endgroup$ – Karl Nov 11 '20 at 20:27
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ They either "drift" or they "navigate". Can't do both at the same time. (And if those cats are like Felis catus, they won't be able to row over distances of more than, don't know, maybe one mile. Felids tire very quickly.) (And a cat-sized boat will capsize and sink in any kind of water more agitated than a tranquil pond. No way to go to sea in such a tiny boat, unless for purposes of suicide.) $\endgroup$ – AlexP Nov 11 '20 at 20:31
  • $\begingroup$ Yes it works, there are countless examples of people drifting to different continents even. It doesn't matter if it's a human, cat, rat or dog on that boat, intelligent or not. I mean a piece if wood does it with 0 intelligence. The issue with the mismatching title has already been pointed out $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Nov 11 '20 at 20:39
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Please link to your previous questions if you want people to use them as source material for understanding your world. Thanks. $\endgroup$ – Nosajimiki Nov 11 '20 at 20:39
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35: The difference between navigating and drifting is that navigating is done on purpose, with the goal of establishing a route of trade where a vessel is much more likely to arrive at the destination than to be lost. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Nov 11 '20 at 21:13

Most felines are nocturnal hunters, their eyes are better adapted to see in low light conditions than human eyes are; so, seeing the stars will not be an issue. While cats are often cited as being near-sighted, this is mostly a consequence of the the reflective tapetum lucidum behind their retinas. Animals with this adaptation get blurred vision during the daytime kind of like having astigmatism, but between this structure and the incredible number of rod receptors they have, cats have a minimum-light-detection threshold about seven times better than that of humans. Even if they are rather nearsighted on top of this, the difference in light reception would hugely make up for it when looking at something like a night sky. While humans with farsight can see tiny sharp dots in the sky, your cats would most likely instead see large glowing spots:

enter image description here

With their intelligence being on par with humans, and primitive humans being able to navigate by the sun and stars, your felines should be able to navigate by the sun and stars as well.

As for propulsion, you will need to give them something other than currents for navigation to be a thing. Many stone aged civilizations had canoes with oars. Since oars are simpler to construct than the boat itself, it stands to reason that they would have them even if they do not have the textile skills for making sails.

There is also historical context for stone aged humans using sail-less canoes to migrate around the Pacific Ocean; so, there would not be any serious believability issues with your felines being able to do it too. Stone aged Polynesians are well known for having traveled great distances in their outrigger canoes. While they did not have sails, the out-rig made the boat stable enough that it would not easily flip from large Ocean waves. Even smaller cat sized outriggers would be able to traverse the Oceans because their design allows them to maintain a center of gravity inside of its points of buoyancy. Instead of plowing through waves like a larger vessel, outriggers are designed to ride up and down them without tipping over in a way that makes their small size inconsequential.

enter image description here

As for supplies, your cats actually have 1 huge advantage over human sailors. A healthy cat can survive for long periods of time off of seawater. Feline kidneys are much better than human ones when it comes to filtering out excess salt in their diet; so, they can go for long periods of time off of just salt water without dehydrating. When you combine this with an ability to fish, your cats need nothing more than their fishing gear in the canoe with them to survive a fairly long journey.

  • $\begingroup$ Seeing the stars will definitely be an issue, given that cats have abysmal visual acuity and are short-sighted by design. At distances beyond a ten meters or so, a particularly sharp-eyed cat might be able to see a house... They may be able to point in the general direction of the full moon, but they absolutely cannot identify a star. (And those Polynesian boats were very much larger than a cat. The question asks for boats which are barely able to carry two cats; a long-distance Polynesian canoe could carry thousands of cats.) $\endgroup$ – AlexP Nov 11 '20 at 21:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @AlexP I've added some more details to address these concerns. As for a more anecdotally rebuttal, I've seen my cat spot and respond to small distant objects like a bug or a laser pointer from distances that suggest at least 20:50 vision. A person with 20:50 vision can still see some stars at night, but add to this the fact cats are 7 times as sensitive to light as a human, they can certainly see enough stars to navigate by. $\endgroup$ – Nosajimiki Nov 11 '20 at 21:55

Travelling seas can be split into three problems - propulsion, navigation, and supplies.

Navigation has three subproblems:

  • Maps - you said they exist so - tick.
  • Knowledge of latitude, which be measured by the peak angle of the sun;
    • A sextant or similar tool to measure this.
    • A vertical stick in flat seas.
    • Or your cats can tell due to their superior senses "Hmm the shadow from my 3rd whisker just touched my chin - that only occurs at midday when we're between the 9th and 10th parallel".
  • Knowledge of longitude, which can be measure by precise timing;
    • A decent clock is how we typically measure this.
    • Cats are very good at knowing when to sleep - they can compare this to when mid-day occurs and know "Oh it's mid-day here, but my body clock says its 11:51am and nearly time for my 3rd nap - I guess we're 9/1440th of the globe west."

Propulsion is going to be tricky. You have no sails, and prefer not to use oars. However your cats could discover that a rudder can travel at an angle to the currents. This can allow you some control of your travels - you wont be able to travel upstream (sailboats can travel upwind - allowing a sail and your cats can travel anywhere.).

Your cats will need a good stockpile of water, or a solar desalinator, I can imagine them being great at fishing, and most but probably not all water needs can be supplied by fishing


Sacred journey.

A cat who sets out to sea in a boat that cannot be steered is not going anywhere in particular except out to sea. Such a cat is going on a mystic voyage. It will be separate from the land and the world of smells and fleas and things of the cat worlds. It will live on fish it catches with its claws and rainwater. It will have the boat, and sea, and sky, and itself.

The cat might be out there for a year, or more. It will have visions. Strange entities will visit it. If it winds up back home, or on another continent, that is what the journey was meant to bring.

Some cats live out there on the ocean, blind from cataracts and fur bleached platinum blond. They are like hermits of old. They might be sought out by those who wish to know what they have learned.

If such a cat arrives on your shore, be aware: these are not your typical cats.

  • $\begingroup$ Even if this isn't quite what I was looking for and thus won't be accepted, this is an amazing and interesting idea! I actually am planning to implement this idea now. $\endgroup$ – Jay Nov 14 '20 at 22:48
  • $\begingroup$ Bon Voyage Jay! Bring a hat, and a spare hat! $\endgroup$ – Willk Nov 14 '20 at 22:55

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.