Prior to the invention of synthetic medicines, most methods of curing disease lay in plant matter; for example, opiates. Now, let's say I have a species of carnivorous cat people. Being based on cats, this species is strictly carnivorous and eating any kind of plant matter could make them fatally ill. Obviously, conventional pre-industry medicine cannot be used here.

Assuming an Earth-like planet with earth like plants and animals, what can a civilization of strict meat eaters use as medicine?

To be clear, this question is focusing on sources of medicine other than plants.

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    $\begingroup$ Cats also use to eat some type of plants when they need medication. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    May 29, 2017 at 19:32
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    $\begingroup$ I think the idea you're looking for is "obligate carnivores". It's not that these cat people can't eat plants, it's that they can't not eat meat. If they are merely obligate carnivores then they can eat whatever plants do them good. $\endgroup$
    – Green
    May 29, 2017 at 20:12
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    $\begingroup$ Cats eat plants all the time. Carnivorous means their diet requires meat/they have trouble extracting enough nutrients from plants. They can totally digest them for other purposes. Look up cat grass and catnip. $\endgroup$
    – Mormacil
    May 29, 2017 at 20:29
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    $\begingroup$ Idea that any plant could make them fatally ill is medically impossible, so tagging this with medicine makes very little sense to me. You already have food magic in this world, you can just add more of this magic to make healing mice, or something. $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    May 30, 2017 at 7:50
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    $\begingroup$ @Will I can't say for sure, but the only problem I see with the question is the disagreement between the premise "medicine for cat people", and the question "non plant based medicine". All the answers made before that was clarified say something along the lines of "The fact that they are cat people doesn't preclude using plants for medicine". $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    May 30, 2017 at 13:21

5 Answers 5


Those diseases which medicines do not cure, iron cures; those which iron cannot cure, fire cures; and those which fire cannot cure, are to be reckoned wholly incurable. https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Hippocrates

Surgery. If you do not want your cats to use medicine, have them rely on surgery (iron). Even up to 150 years ago, things we now would treat with ingested or injected medicines were treated with bleeding which is essentially a surgical technique. I could imagine your cats having a medical philosophy that was half medieval barber-surgeon and half acupuncture. That seems catlike and also would be easier to write.

You could go Hippocrates all the way and also have them use fire. I think the principles of moxibustion combined with acupuncture would be great cat medicine and exciting reading.

Nonplant medicines.. If you want medicine but cannot use plants, there are many, many inorganic options, especially if you go back 75 years or more. Calomel is mercury chloride and was used as a purgative for hundreds of years, up until the middle 20th century. Arsenicals were also used for hundreds of years; the first effective antisyphilitic Salvarsan was an arsenic compound. Arsenic still finds use against cancer and certain parasites. Copper sulfate and potassium iodide are formidable antifungals, the latter still used today against certain fungal infections. Gold compounds are effective anti-inflammatories. Sulphur is good against many skin diseases. Salts of potassium, magnesium, sodium, and calcium all had and have medical uses.

There are hundreds of inorganic medicines based on metals, minerals and salts. If you want to go that route and get into detail then I propose you first pick the disease you want your cat doctor to treat, then use google books to research that disease limiting to texts pre-1940.

ADDENDUM: Animal medicine These plantophobic cats probably would like medicine made out of prey animals. One they could use is salt pork. Substances in the pork can stimulate the clotting cascade. Salt pork or bacon up the nose has been used to stop nosebleeds for a very long time. I suspect the preservation method is not as important except to have some pork handy when needed.



Cats eat plants all the time. Carnivorous means their diet requires meat/they have trouble extracting enough nutrients from plants. They can totally digest them for other purposes.

Our housecats eat cat grass to throw up and get rid of hairballs. Catnip is another thing they ingest regularly if they have access to it. It simply gets them high. In humans it's a sedative that aids with sleeping though we tend to use Valerian for this it behaves similarly.

Now what medicines work on your catlike humanoids I don't know. I'm not a vetenarian. But we use many medicines still based on plants. The most widely used painkiller is a synthetic version of willow bark. Garlic exposed to oxygen holds anti bacterial properties. Ginger is known to aid against both stomach ache and sore throats. Now which of these works with your humanoids is entirely up to you, they're not a creature we've encountered in science.

  • $\begingroup$ I asked what medicines can be made without plants. $\endgroup$
    – TrEs-2b
    May 29, 2017 at 20:43
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    $\begingroup$ You asked "Assuming an Earth-like planet with earth like plants and animals, what can a civilization of strict meat eaters use as medicine?" Given how you listed the misconception about cats eating plants I assumed this "No plants limit" was based on a misconception. $\endgroup$
    – Mormacil
    May 29, 2017 at 20:49
  • $\begingroup$ True, I supose I could have been more clear in my wording $\endgroup$
    – TrEs-2b
    May 29, 2017 at 21:00

Most herbal medicine isn't foodstuff for humans either. Last I checked willow bark wasn't something humans ate. Yet willow bark tea and synthetic willow bark (aspirin) are one of the most common medications humans use. Similarly foxglove extract, which is considered the start of modern therapeutics, is toxic to humans. Plants are only useful because they synthesize medicinal chemicals naturally.

The purpose of any medicine is to cure not to feed. Assuming the biochemistry is roughly similar to humans and assuming an earthlike planet with earthlike plants and animal, your cat people will use similar herbal remedies to what humans have used.


The first problem is that there are a lot fewer animal species then plants, but there are an incredible lot of insects.

So the hunt begins for the animals that have medicinal value. Might want to dry them for storage. (Traditional (Chinese) medicine)

And then you get into the insects, and all bets are off. There will be ones with the chemicals you want.


Cats eat plants as medicine. They don't get nutritional value from plants, but a cat who is feeling nauseous or has an upset stomach will eat grass to settle their stomach. Similarly, cats also eat catnip and similar herbs, which have physiological effects on them. So if your race is as carnivorous as cats, plant-based medicine absolutely makes sense.

If you're looking for animal-based medicines, though, I'd look at venoms. Properly diluted and prepared, some venoms can be used as medications. This website lists a bunch of them:


In addition,there's a long tradition of extracting hormones from animals, such as insulin or progesterone, and using them in medication.

I wouldn't buy sentient cats never using plants for medicinal purposes, given that nonsentient cats already do this. But I would buy them placing more emphasis on medicinal animal products.


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