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In my world, the dominant life-form is sentient cats, brought by humans to the Earth-like planet K-IIT98 as pets in a mining operation. After the workers left this planet, the cats became the dominant species. They evolved to be 2' long with very strong prehensile tails that allowed them to use tools. After 5000 years, the first primitive kingdoms began to take shape. Conflict is very common.

What kinds of ranged and melee weapons can the cats use with their tails? What kinds of armor? What kinds of war tactics and defensive fortifications?

Notes: My cats already use fire, forge crude but effective weapons, and communicate verbally. They are 100% bigger and stronger than a domestic cat. They are on the equivalent of early Iron Age. The Felis Sapiens prefer living in the top of mountains near bodies of water because its an easy place to get food. The cats are still quadruped.

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    $\begingroup$ I really wish you could have given them cats nine tails instead of just the two... $\endgroup$ – Snow Feb 23 '17 at 11:42
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    $\begingroup$ You might want to read Andre Norton's book 'breed to come' which has a similar theme. Cats left behind after a human apocalypse develop human level intelligence, primitive civilization, and warfare. They don't develop your suggested 'two prehensile tails', though. $\endgroup$ – Mark Ripley Feb 23 '17 at 11:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Pᴇᴛᴇ 9 are too many tails. $\endgroup$ – Seraph Myrmidon Feb 23 '17 at 11:43
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, I have difficulty in the concept of tails being developed into a tool/using appendage - tails are at the wrong end of the body. Front paws and mouth/teeth I can see as tool users - tails, not so much. $\endgroup$ – Snow Feb 23 '17 at 11:46
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    $\begingroup$ I propose the suppositions that either a) cats are too lazy to take over the world or b) already have and they're just waiting on the command to slit all our throats in the middle of the night. $\endgroup$ – Draco18s Feb 23 '17 at 16:55
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Preamble

Whilst the preference of evolution would point towards a tool-using appendage being near the eyes and mouth (feeding yourself and at least seeing what you're doing) there are still possibilities for their evolution. The most likely scenario is one where they evolved to grip with their tails to climb/manage difficult terrain. On earth we have these tails in all sorts of animals, monkeys, marsupials, mice etc.

Based on earth creatures we see prehensile tails used for climbing, anchoring in bad weather and carrying. We can assume our creatures evolved their tail for other uses and then, as they became more sentient they realized the tail could be used for other things.

To your question:

What kinds of ranged and melee weapons can they use with their tails? What kinds of armor? what kinds of war tactics and defensive fortifications?

So we don't have just one question here but if we decide on weapons that would be used we can narrow down the others.

Throwing weapons I would imagine the long tail is useful for projectiles as some form of Atlatl to provide more power and stability to the spear. Though here we should note that the whole body needs to be used, it is unlikely the spear could be thrown any distance from tail strength alone. I imagine the spear would be held in the tail and then, after a couple of bounds, the front half would bear down and the back end buck upwards, providing extra power to the throw.

Melee

The problem we reach with melee weapons is the fact that the tail is unlikely to be well protected, it is mostly muscle which can be cut fairly easily. Armouring the tail would reduce its flexibility drastically and it is unlikely to have enough strength for iron-age armour to be practical protection whilst keeping the tails useful. If your opponent holds their weapons in their tail and you focus your blows on those you could well sever the tails and leave them, mostly, harmless. Training in using a melee weapon in your tail would not lend itself well to holding a weapon in your paws.

It could well be that it pays the front-lines to already have their tails cut off and cauterized before any battles to remove the easy target that could result in them bleeding out on the battle field. This would take some getting used to but they could still balance okay with practice - perhaps something which is done to younger potential soldiers.

Long flexible melee weapons would suit tails best so things like whips, light maces and such. Swords would be difficult to support against a parry. As such the body of the front lines should be well armoured and their tails (if you want to keep them) should hold such weapons.

Without the tail you could have blades attached to the armour on the front legs (since the paws aren't suited for grip). That way the body can support the blows a little better.

Tactics

  • Aim for the tail if your enemy has one.
  • Light armour keeps the flexibility and graceful motion that is often seen in cats - this would probably be leather (a potential cover for the tail).
  • Throwing spears - this would need to be practiced a lot to build up the strength in the tail but bear in mind the muscle is heavy too and with no real bone structure to support it some strength would have to go into not dragging the tail along the ground.
  • Front line melee should aim mostly to hold back the enemy from the spear throwers behind.
  • Some could, perhaps, mount weapons on their backs and use their tails to operate these. For example a cross-bow attached to the back (and avoiding the head) could be drawn back by the one tail and loaded with the other for quick firing.

In the end, though, there are many possibilities and the only limit is your imagination.

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I don't think a prehensile tail has enough dexterity to do much. Most animals that have prehensile tails just use them for holding onto branches.

I would have the prehensile tails hold onto overhangs, freeing the forepaws for use in delicate work.

Also, what do you get with a furred creature working at a forge? The lovely smell of burnt fur. Though that won't be the only issue. They don't have the body mass to swing a hammer hard enough to work iron or steel. Silver, gold, or copper? Yes. Bronze or brass? Maybe.

They would need the body mass of at least a jaguar (probably more) to hammer steel without mechanical help.

Now, for building design...

Castles would have to have very smooth outer walls if they want to do anything other than just slow down the enemy. I think that there will be very few stairways. They might just use angled logs. For up only, they could use vertical logs but cats have a hard time going down those. One defensive possibility would have vertical logs on the inside of a wall. that would allow defenders to quickly reach the top of the wall but attackers will have a hard time getting down. The defenders could then have ramps in the city that can be brought to the wall when danger is over to allow easy egress.

Make sure that nothing is within jumping distance of the wall.

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  • $\begingroup$ Spiked ground at the inside of the walls, with narrow walkways? That could potentially slow down an attacker quite a bit even if they take the risk of jumping down, while not being too much of a hindrance to defenders who can simply spread out as soon as they reach the wall. Attackers are going to be much less efficient as fighters with bleeding paws. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Feb 24 '17 at 7:31
  • $\begingroup$ The blacksmith cats shave their tails. $\endgroup$ – Seraph Myrmidon Feb 24 '17 at 10:36
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling, yes, rather than long "body piercing" spikes, you need needle like spikes. However. some kind of hard food cover that is just used for the jump down would help minimize that threat. The reason I don't like big spikes is that unless they are very densely packed, they can be avoided by a nimble jumper. If they are that densely packed, jumping with any kind of board under you would totally nullify that threat. I think the real solution is to just make the wall too high for a good jump. The larger body mass of these cats will increase the damage they take from heights. $\endgroup$ – ShadoCat Feb 24 '17 at 19:17
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexDarkshine, Shaving would do it but they would also lose their whiskers and face hair. Unless they have eyes in their butts, they still need to have their faces in it to see what they are doing. Now, if you had two tentacles coming out of their shoulders, they could manipulate things better without getting their faces into it. As it is, the tails have to cross the length of their bodies to work where they can see. $\endgroup$ – ShadoCat Feb 24 '17 at 19:24
  • $\begingroup$ A possibility may be to have the head able to rotate 180 so they can look straight backward. That would work much better since they wouldn't have to reach across their bodies to do everything and would be minimal reengineering. $\endgroup$ – ShadoCat Feb 24 '17 at 19:24

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