Anthropomorphic cats certainly don't fit the fresh-and-new category in the realm of alien species. Sure, characters like Garfield and Puss-in-Boots are cats that take on human qualities, but even in the science-fiction genre, the Na'vi and even the Thunderans possess cat-like qualities. The funny thing is that Cathar are not even the first cat-like species in Star Wars. Although players of Star Wars Galaxies liked to call Bothans dogs, they are actually more cat-like, and that species was first mentioned in Return of the Jedi, making their first appearance in the 1991 novel Heir to the Empire. Cathar make their first appearance in one of my favorite comic book series: 1994's Tales of the Jedi.
Cathar stand straight up, unlike the Bothans, who tend to be more bent over. And although the Ultimate Alien Anthology place Cathar as being about the same build as humans -- about 1.8 meters for the average male -- they are usually drawn taller and thicker than humans. All Cathar are covered in short soft fur from head to toe; male Cathar usually have large thick manes. This might be a cultural thing versus natural since female Cathar have been seen with very long hair on their heads (Sylvar) and male Cathar have been seen nearly bald (Aric Jorgan).
Interestingly, little is known about the larger government of the planet Cathar. Yes, the planet and the species share the same name. We know that Cathar live in tree-cities and that holymen hold some sort of leadership position. But most of the other information is limited. However, we do know a lot about how the Cathar people interact with each other and the cultural drives of the species.
Although individual personalities will vary greatly among the Cathar, all are extremely loyal to whomever they deem as family. Usually, family consists of other Cathar, but some have become attached to other species as well. This loyalty runs extremely deep and even beyond death. It was not uncommon for a Cathar choose a mate and then never choose another spouse even after the first has died. Of course, that can be an issue for the Cathar Jedi, but we will discuss that more later. This also works in reverse as well: If a Cathar holds a grudge against you, he's not likely to let it go. Many Cathar, even 300 years after the event, hate Mandalorians because of atrocities during the Mandalorian wars.
Beyond loyalty, the biggest stand-out trait of the Cathar as a species is ferociousness. Although anger might be a part of it, most Cathar fight instinctually. Oftentimes, this makes the species look feral when they fight. The retractable claws probably help solidify this perception. However, this doesn't mean that the Cathar cannot be in control of their anger.
The majority of Cathar we know in the Star Wars universe are Jedi. Besides Aric Jorgan, we have Sylvar, Crado, Juhani, and Rasi, who are all Jedi. Obviously, the Force is strong in the Cathar species, much as it is in humans.
Although it's probably not unheard of for a Cathar Jedi to be skilled in other areas, the majority of Cathar have an an affinity toward the marshall skills, specifically lightsaber combat. Crado, in his time, was supposed to be the best in his class with the lightsaber, until Exar Kun defeated him. A few thousand years later, Rasi also showed a heavy emphasis on dueling and using the physical side of the Force. That said, Rasi also used a lot of telekinesis during battle. And unlike their human counterparts, the Cathar have also been known to be quite lethal while fighting bare-handed, thanks to their clawed fingers.
Common issues among Cathar Jedi include attachment and revenge. If we use Sylvar and Crado as examples, you will note that their attachments helped them fall to the Dark Side. Crado admired Exar Kun as a warrior and did not accept the Dark Lord's words as deception, even though it eventually killed him. Sylvar nearly killed Ulic Qel-Droma years later, even after Ulic's redemption, because she held him directly responsible for the death of her mate. Not that honor and loyalty are bad things -- Rasi's loyalty to the Jedi Order and to the Light Side of the Force allowed him to reconcile his issues with Jariah Syn.
Although I could postulate for quite awhile about Cathar and the Force, we should move on to how Cathar appear in The Old Republic and what it's going to be like playing one in the game.
Cathar fit neatly into nearly every class story in The Old Republic. Cathar Jedi are common. Cathar are warriors, so Troopers fit nicely; the planet Cathar is loyal to the Republic. Sith Cathar can be fallen or captured Force Sensitives. Even Cathar Agents work if for some reason they grew up in Empire territory, although they are likely to make Light-Sided choices. Bounty Hunters work if your particular Cathar has let go of the historical issues that Cathar have with Mandalorians; Cathar love the hunt. The hardest fit has to be Cathar Smugglers. I mean, a Cathar is generally not above stealing or making profit off the misfortune of others, but there generally has to be a "greater good" like his family is starving back home or maybe Nok Drayen killed his brother or something.
Are you going to play a Cathar in SWTOR? Do you think they are a good addition to the game? If you are going to play a Cathar, what type of Cathar will he be? Do you like cat-people? Let me know in the comments.
The Hyperspace Beacon by Larry Everett is your weekly guide to the vast galaxy of Star Wars: The Old Republic, currently in production by BioWare. If you have comments or suggestions for the column, send a transmission to firstname.lastname@example.org. Now strap yourself in, kid -- we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!