The raid or group composition sucks

You can't do much about this, particularly if you do most of your raiding in PUGs. No cat, regardless of skill, will do optimal damage in a raid lacking key melee buffs like Windfury/Icy Talons. These days, it's rare not to have all of your buffs covered in a 25-man raid, but raid composition is more of a concern if your DPS is being evaluated in a caster-centric 5-man or 10-man.

Your latency or FPS sucks

This is another problem you probably can't do much about. Don't beat yourself up over lagging DPS if you're lagging in the game as well. Cat damage is hugely dependent on timing your abilities correctly, and any interference with that is going to screw you over now matter how well you play. (Take it from someone who's currently enjoying 5K latency spikes for some unknown but highly irritating reason.)

Fox Van Allen recently did a guide on troubleshooting shadow priest DPS and noted that -- absent the effort to compensate for latency by using addons like Quartz -- the difference between 225 and 1,100 ms latency is almost 1,500 DPS, or a 22% DPS loss in the gear he was in.

Glyphing incorrectly

I still see a few cats running around with Glyph of Mangle, but at least it's easy to fix. The three glyphs you should be using for cat DPS are:

  1. Glyph of Rip
  2. Glyph of Savage Roar
  3. Glyph of Shred
Gemming incorrectly

Truthfully, this isn't the big deal that most people think it is, and if you're having problems with DPS, your gem choices are probably only a small part of the cause (unless you've gone completely off your nut and started gemming spirit or whatever). How well you can pull off the cat rotation is -- conservatively -- a million times more important than whether you gem for agility or armor penetration.

The default cat gem is the Delicate Cardinal Ruby. The meta gem should be the Relentless Earthsiege Diamond, with the meta requirements satisfied by a single Nightmare Tear socketed anywhere you'd get a useful bonus from an otherwise troublesome (read: blue socket) spot.

But when should I gem for armor penetration?
Whether you gem for agility, armor penetration, a mixture of both or even something else entirely is a question that can really only be answered by the use of programs like Toskk's and Rawr. The answer you'll get depends entirely on your gear and raid buffs. Armor penetration as a stat becomes better and better the more of it you have, up to the hard cap of 1,399 (i.e., you won't get any more benefit from the stat beyond that point). So, as a general rule, you'll be advised to gem for armor penetration under the following situations:
  • You have a trinket with a huge armor penetration proc: Grim Toll, Mjolnir Runestone or the Needle-Encrusted Scorpion. If you do, you'll only want to have a certain amount of armor pen so you're not wasting a portion of the proc.
  • You would have enough passive armor penetration between gems and gear to reach 1,399 passive armor pen. Assuming you're not a jewelcrafter and would thus be socketing Fractured Cardinal Rubies, you can probably slap between 240 and 340 armor pen on your gear from gems (subject, of course, to how many sockets you've got on your gear). In other words, you'd be looking at a gear set with more than 1,000 passive armor penetration before you even started gemming for it, and you won't realistically have to worry about that outside of ToGC-25 or ICC gear.
If all else fails and you have no idea what to do, gem for agility and just make sure you're not over 1,399 armor penetration at any time. You'll never waste either stat.

Mistiming Berserk

One of our commenters, Brewa, made an excellent point in a recent WoW Rookie on how different classes handle Bloodlust and why it's not the buff to end all buffs for cat DPS. Bottom line? You really don't need to worry about popping your trinkets and going for broke when it hits, because half of Berserk's point -- the ability to save a ton of energy -- is wasted with a Bloodlust-induced Omen of Clarity-paloooza.

You're much better off saving Berserk for a Mongoose/trinket proc (ideally both if you can swing it). If you can convince a blood death knight in your raid to give you Hysteria (this will most often be a tank), always pop Berserk and trinkets in conjunction with that. They're both on three-minute cooldowns, and together they will turn you into an absolute killing machine. Incidentally, they will also turn you into an absolute threat machine, so begging for it at the start of a fight is probably a bad idea.

Not using activated trinkets on cooldown

You aren't saving these things for a rainy day! You obviously don't have to worry about them if both trinkets have passive procs (as most worthwhile cat trinkets do), but if you have to manually activate them and are chronically late in doing so, you can macro them to your rotation so they're popped automatically:

#show tooltip Shred
/console Sound_EnableSFX 0
/use 13
/use 14
/cast Shred
/script UIErrorsFrame:Clear()
/console Sound_EnableSFX 1

You'll need to do this for most cat abilities and not just Shred to guarantee that your trinkets will be popped regardless of where you are in the "rotation" when they become available (just replace Shred with Mangle, Rake, Rip, etc., as you're creating all the different versions you'll need). 13 and 14 here refer to both trinket slots on your character, and the extra bits will keep you from getting an endless stream of "Not ready yet" error messages and sounds.

Failure to abuse Berserk and Swipe on trash

Berserk + Swipe + whelp pulls before Sindragosa = 40,000 DPS. Have fun!

Every week, Shifting Perspectives treks across Azeroth in pursuit of truth, beauty and insight concerning the druid class. Sometimes it finds the latter, or something good enough for government work. Whether you're a bear, cat, moonkin, tree or stuck in caster form, we've got the skinny on druid changes in patch 3.3, a look at the disappearance of the bear tank and thoughts on why you should be playing the class (or why not).