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Kzinti on the cover of Man-Kzin Wars III.

The Kzinti (singular Kzin) are a very warlike and bloodthirsty race of felinoid aliens with whom humans fight several brutal interstellar wars. Kzinti tactics are somewhat cat-like in nature, 'Scream and leap' being the primary mode of attack.


Kzinti and Humans have a similar biochemistry which hints the existence of a common ancestor in the remote past.[1]

Kzinti are larger than humans, standing around eight feet (2.4 to 2.8 meters) tall and weighing around 200kgs[1]500 pounds. They have large membrane ears with fur only on the outside of the ear and only about half way up the ear itself, usually appear pink; they can fold back flat against the head for protection during a fight. Their noses are black.

They have a barrel-chested torso with a flexible spine, and large fangs and claws. They stand on two legs like humans (no digitigrade or "backwards-bending" legs), their feet have five toes, their hands end in three fingers and an opposable thumb. Their tails are naked and are similar in appearance to a rat's.

They are covered with a thick coat of long fur (except the ears, the tail, palms and soles[1]) that comes in various combinations of orange, yellow, and black. Though full black coats are rare, and all who have them are taken by the black priests.

Background and history Edit

Kzinti evolved from a plains hunting cat on planet Kzin a slightly colder, drier planet than Earth.

The Kzin civilization was in the midst of its medieval feudal period when the Jotok interstellar merchants looking for mercenaries landed and made stealthy First Contact. The Jotok taught the Kzinti how to use high technology weapons and other devices including spacecraft, only to see them rebel and become from employers/masters into slaves (or meal).

They are the first on-going alien contact that humanity has met within the Known Space universe. The first contact with humanity ends the human golden era of peace.

The Man-Kzin WarsEdit

The Kzinti were the first alien species encountered by Humans, at the same time when they attacked the Earth colony of Wunderland, beginning a series of bloody wars that lasted for 2 centuries.[1]

A total of five additional Man-Kzin wars take place by the time Beowulf Schaeffer commented "The Kzinti aren't really a threat. They'll always attack before they're ready".[2] With decreasingly impressive logistical and technological advantages, each war results in the confiscation or liberation of one or more colony planets by the humans. In this way humanity contacts the Pierin and Kdatlyno, former slave species, and takes over worlds such as Canyon (formerly Warhead) and Fafnir (formerly Shasht). Several of the stories of the Man-Kzin Wars depict the nearest Human colony at Alpha Centauri, called Wunderland.

During wartime, and at other times, Kzinti interrogate humans using a device called the hot needle of inquiry. The ship piloted by Speaker-to-Animals is called the Hot Needle of Inquiry in honor of this torture device.[3]

The Kzin reverses were deliberately engineered by the Pierson's Puppeteers, who lured the Outsiders to We Made It in the first place. The Puppeteers had hoped that the culling of a quarter to a third of the more aggressive members of the Kzinti with every war would result in a more peaceful race, or at least one that was capable of coexisting with other species without trying to kill and eat them at every turn.[4] This shift in Kzin attitudes succeeded spectacularly, although the Kzinti themselves do not think very highly of the changes, nor of the price they paid to achieve them. In fact, a fringe faction of the Kzinti known as the Kdaptists, frustrated with the reversals their race had suffered against humanity, went so far as to adopt the human concept that God had created humanity (not Kzinti) in His image, and that He favors and protects humans over other races.

As the Puppeteers expected, a form of "natural" selection occurred, with the more mindlessly aggressive Kzinti dying in ill-advised wars and the more moderate, intelligent, and cautious Kzinti surviving, presumably to think long and hard about the consequences of starting yet another war. By the time the Kzinti attained the level of sophistication and foresight needed to win against humans, they no longer had the numbers or the drive to do so.

At one point, Louis Wu, while visiting the Kzin homeworld and given access to the Kzinti Patriarch's game preserve, was confronted by a young Kzin and his father. When the youngster asked "Are they good to eat?", Louis Wu responded with a grin (baring of the teeth being a Kzin challenge to battle) and the older Kzin responded "NO". Wu muses that it would be safer for the young Kzin to eat arsenic than a human being.

Part of the reason humanity is such a dangerous enemy is the psychological blind spot the Kzinti have toward human females. Since the Kzinti have bred intelligence out of their own females, an inexperienced Kzin is sometimes careless enough to leave human females to their own devices, usually with fatal results to that particular Kzin. A combat-trained human female is a Hero's worst nightmare. The Kzinti term for any particularly competent human female soldier is "Manrret" (singular) or "Manrretti" (plural), so named out of a sense of gallows humor regarding lethal encounters with same. From the Kzinti point of view a Manrret's stamina, speed, reflexes, pain tolerance, and reasoning capability (enhanced intuition by virtue of increased interconnectedness between the left and right halves of the human female brain) are far superior to a Man's. This gives some Kzin reason for considering each of the genders of humanity to be a separate alien species.

At the end of the last Man-Kzin War, around 2618, Kzin was occupied and disarmed by human armies.


Kzinti society is extremely male-dominated and aggressive[1]. The leader of the race is called the Patriarch, which is a hereditary title.


The Kzin call themselves "Heroes" or the "Heroes Race" and because they believe themselves to be "heroes", their society places a very high value on "acting Heroic" and behaving in a heroic fashion. To Kzin society, "heroic" means being honorable and having integrity. Honor being more important than profit, they don't lie nor bluff and promises are binding, and personal danger is never taken in consideration.[1]

Strakh is a sort of currency or favour system since. For example if the patriarch gets meat from a sellers market stand the seller gains considerable strakh which will bring honour to the seller allowing him to get better customers which leads to more strakh, which gives the seller a higher status within the community.


Once Kzin gained access to Jotoki genetic manipulation technology, they started manipulating themselves in order to bring out the most "heroic" qualities and recede undesired ones. To this end, because females are not valued except as bearers of children, the male-dominated Kzin society bred (most of) their own females into sub-sapience. Kzinti females (s. Kzinrett, pl. Kzinretti) have a vocabulary of less than a hundred word/sounds and primarily instinct-driven behavior, and are treated as chattel by males (s. Kzintosh, pl. Kzintoshi). Kzinti society explains this by stating the Fanged God removed Kzinrrets' souls as punishment for an attempted rebellion against him shortly after he created Kzin. However some tribes, long isolated from the Patriarchy, were spared the genetic modifications and still produce sentient females, as well as certain bloodlines.


Kzintoshi are born without names which they must earn through valorous deeds. They are originally known by their relation to their father when they are kittens. After maturity, they are known by their rank or occupation. A Kzin who has performed a great deed will be granted a partial name by a superior; a further, greater deed earns a full name, the second of which is the family name. Only those Heroes who have earned a full name are allowed to breed.

In rare instances, a sufficiently illustrious accomplishment will earn a nameless one a full name in one fell swoop. An example of the latter is the granting of a full name to Trainer-of-Slaves, who singlehandedly delivered a fully-working hyperdrive to the Patriarchy thus earning the full name Graaf-Nig.[5]

An exception to this rule seems to accrue to the members of the -Riit family, who have held the office of Kzinti Patriarch for uncounted generations. These appear to earn names upon reaching adulthood. However, the heir-apparent to the Riit throne, "Pouncer", does not receive a name until it is earned by deed.[6]

An example of a Kzin's naming transition would be:

  • Birth description: Third-Son of Khral-Hrag
  • Occupation description: Weapons-Technician
  • Partial name: Frep-Technician
  • Full name: Frep-Hrag


A small percentage of Kzinti are stunted, and forced into addiction of a drug derived from the lymph of a sthondat. 99% of such Kzinti are driven insane by the process, and the few who survive are left with telepathic ability. Telepaths are tolerated by the warrior class due to the specialized use of their skill, otherwise they endure a low-caste position in society; just above the status of slaves, with the occasional slave being considered of a higher social status. Telepaths rarely, if ever, earn a name, and they aren't legally allowed to breed.


They speak in a hissing language called the Hero's Tongue, which in its written form resembles commas and periods. It is extremely difficult for Humans to learn, however the Kzinti show an affinity to learn alien languages.[1]

Conquered Races Edit


The Kzin were initially introduced in Niven's story "The Warriors" (originally in Worlds of If, 1966) and "The Soft Weapon," (1967), both collected in Neutron Star (1968). A Kzin character, Speaker-to-Animals, subsequently played a major role in Niven's award-winning Ringworld (1970), giving considerably more background of the Kzin and their interactions with human civilizations. Following this, Niven gave permission to several friends to write stories taking place in the time following "The Warriors" but before "The Soft Weapon;" these stories (including a handful by Niven) were collected in a number of volumes of The Man-Kzin Wars, which eventually reached eleven volumes, the first published June 1988.

In other science fiction Edit

Star TrekEdit

The Kzinti also appeared, along with allusions to slavers and stasis boxes, in The Slaver Weapon, an episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series written by Niven, as a proud and carnivorous species. The Slaver Weapon was an adaptation of Niven's story The Soft Weapon. They were incorporated into the Star Fleet Universe where they became a powerful empire known as the Kzinti Hegemony, mortal enemies of that universe's Lyran Star Empire - although it is alluded that the Kzinti and Lyrans share common ancestry, a claim both sides violently reject.

In the Star Trek Logs written by Alan Dean Foster, it has been hinted that the Caitians are an offshoot race of archaic Kzinti (where both genders are intelligent) who have renounced conquest. According to a memory of Lieutenant M'Ress, secondary communications officer in the Star Trek Logs, the Catian and Kzinti languages are similar enough that M'Ress can pass as a Kzin just long enough for her to send off a distress call from a Kzin raiding ship.

The Kzinti reappear in the comic The Wristwatch Plantation, also by Niven (and which included the Bebebebeque from his Draco Tavern stories). Kzin appeared on a star map seen in several episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and a feline stripper from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier was referred to backstage as a kzinrret. The name of the Tzenkethi mentioned in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was partially based on the Kzin, and had Star Trek: Enterprise not been cancelled, the Kzinti would have appeared in the fifth season.

The instruction manual for the PC game Star Fleet Command clearly refers to the Kzinti by name in the background story for the rival race, the Lyrans. This race is introduced in Star Fleet Command II: Empires at War by simply changing the Kzinti Hegemony to the Mirak Star League.

Star Fleet Universe (SFU)Edit

Please note that in the Star Fleet Universe, the Kzin/Kzinti distinction between singular and plural is replaced with Kzinti/Kzintis.

The Kzintis in the SFU - who have traits setting them apart (no bat ears, sentient females, Kzinti/Kzintis as singular/plural etc) from the Kzinti of Niven's works - have fought wars with all of their neighbours, the Federation, the Klingon Empire and their perennial nemesis, the Lyran Star Empire, and are long-standing allies - or more accurately, co-belligerents - of the Hydran Kingdom. The Hegemony eventually formed a tentative accord with the Federation and allied with them in the General War, but they have been involved in major wars with the Klingons and Lyrans, such as the Four Powers War and the General War itself, in which a substantial region of their territory was occupied by their Coalition enemies and two full-scale assaults were made on the Kzinti homeworld of Kzintai. Eventually with Federation assistance they forced the Coalition forces from their territory, but after the War ended they were involved in a Civil War as a disgruntled faction - which had been opposed to the Hegemony's ruling Patriarch and sought refuge and developed a power base in the WYN Cluster - launched an attempted coup of the Hegemony itself in the WYN War of Return.

In the fictional variant of the Star Fleet Universe as represented in the games Star Fleet Command II: Empires at War and Star Fleet Command: Orion Pirates from Taldren, the Kzintis were renamed as the Mirak.

Dungeons & DragonsEdit

The fifth anniversary issue of Dragon magazine (#50, June 1981), included an article detailing the Kzinti as a race for the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game.

Wing CommanderEdit

The PC game series Wing Commander features a race of anthropomorphic cats very similar to the Kzin called the Kilrathi. In tribute, a scenario in Wing Commander II takes place in the "Niven System".

Kzinti Characters Edit

An incomplete list of known Kzin


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Concise Encyclopedia
  2. Grendel
  3. The Ringworld Engineers
  4. Ringworld (novel)
  5. "The Heroic Myth of Lieutenant Nora Argamentine" by Donald Kingsbury (appearing in Man-Kzin Wars VI, 1994)
  6. Paul Chafe Destiny's Forge (2006)

External linksEdit

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