Cat Scare
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CHORUS: Goodness me! Why, what was that?
DICK: Silent be, it was the cat!
CHORUS: It was, it was the cat!
CAPTAIN: They're right! It was the cat!

The H.M.S. Pinafore by W.S. Gilbert

Basic Information

A Cat Scare is a horror trope. In it, a moment of tension is relieved by something harmless appearing - such as a cat. This will make it much more effective when the real monster appears shortly afterward, as the protagonists are already off-balance from the Cat Scare itself.

Even unseen cats can knock over stray items, move small items and generally lead to heightened paranoia.
For variety, possums, trash pandas, foxes and other small mammals can stand in for the cat.

Compare and contrast that poor cat - where the scare goes the other way.



Game and Story Use

  • These can be very effective in horror adventures, so think of something harmless that could nevertheless trigger a false alarm among the player characters when they expect something horrible or dangerous. Don't do that too often, though - or the whole scene will get silly.
    • Especially if one of the characters has ailurophobia. Ah… comedy gold.
    • Or the cat actually turns out to have been the real monster making a run for it.
    • Trigger happy PCs may need to make self control rolls.
    • A long chain of these can get the PCs to start ignoring them, until something rolls a flat-footed attack against them.
  • Also, a good way of getting by guards who are too genre savvy and pass off all strange noises as the villain's pet cat making a nuisance of itself.
  • Speaking of which, and falling somewhere between the cat scare and the poor cat, is that moment where the PC botches a stealth roll and plants his foot squarely on the tail of some previously undetected moggy (or other small, noisy creature).
  • Also, in Aliens style contexts, a cat might well create a motion sensor ping that gets everyone stood-to … and possibly looking in the wrong direction.
    • Lower tech security systems, from sentry lights, through trip flares and rattle-can alarms can all be triggered by small animals about their legitimate business. Rattle can alarms particularly if the cans have not been properly cleaned before hanging, or if they have trapped water or small prey animals.
  • Of course, in some editions of "that RPG" a house cat is a significant threat to an unlevelled character…
  • Subversion … someone goes to chase off the stray cats/trash pandas/whatever that are raiding their bins and finds … a bear (or even "just" a wolverine). Which is much harder to chase off.
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