Alien Species

The Kzinti (sing. Kzin) are a sapient, spacefaring race of mammalianoids. Females of this species are known as Kzinretti (sing. Kzinrett).


Kzinti are often described as resembling anthropomorphic tigers, but there are significant and visible differences. Kzinti are larger than Humans, standing around 8 feet (2.4 m) tall and weighing around 500 pounds (230 kg). These tiger-sized bipeds have large membranous ears, a barrel-chested torso with a flexible spine, and large fangs and claws. One Human gave an apt description of Kzin as "eight feet of death".

Kzinti stand on two legs like Humans do; they do not have digitigrade or "backward-bending" legs. Their hands end in three fingers and an opposable thumb, all with retractable claws.

They are covered with a thick coat of long fur that comes in various combinations of orange, yellow, and black. Full black coats are rare, however, and all who have them are taken by the black priests.

Their tails are naked and are similar in appearance to a rat's tail, and their noses are black. Kzinti ears have fur only on the outside of the ear and only about half-way up the ear itself, usually appear pink, and are shaped liked a segment of a Chinese parasol (or cocktail umbrella; they have also been described as "bat-winged"); they can fold back flat against the head for protection during a fight.

Culture and society[]

Kzin society is extremely male dominated. The leader of the race is called the Patriarch, which is a hereditary title. The Kzinti 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. Kzin honor is similar in many ways to the samurai code of Bushido. Strakh serves as almost a sort of currency or favour system, since they do not use money in their culture. 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 Kzinti gained access to 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.


The Kzin homeworld is called "Kzin" by all other races save the Kzinti, who call it "Homeworld" or "Kzinhome". It orbits the star 61 Ursae Majoris, has stronger surface gravity and both a longer day and year than Earth. The Patriarch rules from a large palace on the world. At the end of the last Man-Kzin War, around 2618, Kzin was occupied and disarmed by Human armies.


They speak in a hissing language called the Hero's Tongue, which in its written form resembles commas and periods.


A small percentage of Kzinti are stunted, and forced into addiction of a drug derived from the lymph of an animal called a sthondat. Ninety-nine percent of such Kzinti are driven insane by the process, and the few that 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.


Most Kzin females (s. Kzinrett, pl. Kzinretti) are sub-sapient, with a vocabulary of fewer than a hundred words/sounds and primarily instinct-driven behavior, and are treated as chattel by males (s.Kzintosh, pl. Kzintoshi). This was not always the case: archaic Kzinretti were sapient until the Kzin used Jotoki biotechnology to drive them to their current state while boosting the males' martial prowess.

Kzin society explains this by stating that the Fanged God removed Kzinrreti's souls as punishment for an attempted rebellion against him shortly after he created the Kzinti. Even by the period of the novels, certain bloodlines still produce sapient females, as do some, if not most, primitive tribes. These tribes, long isolated from the Patriarchy, avoided the genetic modifications. At least two sapient females exist on Wunderland and a population also exists on the Ringworld.

Interactions with other races[]

The Kzinti are the first on-going alien contact that humanity has met in history. The first contact with humanity ended the Human golden era of peace, where even history had been rewritten in a non-violent whitewash; organized violence was virtually eliminated, being reduced to roughly 1 in 1000 people, and there was no interpersonal violence, except occasional outbursts in the asteroid belt where medical and psychological care were spread thinly.

Naming convention[]

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.

In rare instances, a sufficiently illustrious accomplishment will earn a nameless one a full name in one fell swoop. An example of this is the granting of a full name to Trainer-of-Slaves, who single-handedly delivered a fully working hyperdrive to the Patriarchy[1], thus earning the full name Graaf-Nig

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", did not receive a name until it was earned by deed.[2]

Usually, only those Heroes that have earned a full name are allowed to breed, but there might be exceptions to this. Kzaargh-Commodore apparently already had a harem before he had earned a full name.[3]

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


Kzinti evolved from a plains hunting felid on a slightly colder, drier planet than Earth. The Kzin word for their home planet translates as Homeworld. The world is often known as Kzinhome by the Kzinti themselves. The Kzin home world is the third planet orbiting the star 61 Ursae Majoris.

The Kzin civilization was at a roughly 20th-century technological level when an alien race called the Jotoki landed and made stealthy first contact with a tribe of primitive hunter/gatherer Kzinti. The Jotoki were interstellar merchants looking for a species they could use as mercenaries.

Once the Jotoki had taught the Kzinti how to use high-technology weapons and other devices, including spacecraft, the Kzin rebelled and made their former employers/masters into slaves, as well as the occasional meal. The crest of the Riit (Royal) family appears to be a bite mark, but is in fact a dentate leaf, with the words "from mercenary to master" written around it in Kzinti script.

The Man-Kzin Wars[]

There have been at least five wars between mankind and Kzinti, taking place between the 24th and 27th centuries. The net effect of these wars has been summed up by a retrospective comment from Beowulf Schaeffer: "The Kzinti aren't really a threat. They'll always attack before they're ready".

With decreasingly impressive logistical and technological advantages, each Man-Kzin War has resulted in the confiscation or liberation of one or more Kzinti colony planets by the Humans. In this way humanity has contacted the Pierin and Kdatlyno, former slave species, and took over worlds such as Canyon (formerly Warhead) and Fafnir (formerly Shasht). The Human colony at Alpha Centauri, called Wunderland, was occupied by the Kzinti for over 50 years.

Eventually, it's been discovered that the Kzin reverses had been deliberately engineered by the Pierson's Puppeteers, who lured the Outsiders to the Human colony of We Made It in the first place. This allowed the mayor of We Made It to purchase a Faster-Than-Light drive on credit from the Outsiders. Once the Humans had FTL warships, the Kzinti couldn't defeat the Humans in space combat. 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 instantly trying to kill and eat them. 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 the wars with Humans, and the more moderate, intelligent, and cautious Kzinti surviving, presumably to think long and hard about the consequences of starting yet another pointless 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 mused that the Kzin have learned that it would be safer for the young Kzin to eat arsenic than a Human being.

One of the reasons 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. It has been further claimed that 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. On Wunderland the leader of Kzin has developed a bond with a Human female of which only they understand.


Alternate universes[]

Star Trek[]


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. Manny Coto, who produced the final season of Star Trek: Enterprise, had made plans to include the Kzinti in an episode called "Kilkenny Cats", but the series was cancelled before this could occur. They were mentioned by William Riker in a Star Trek: Picard episode: their only canonical reference in live-action Star Trek.

The Kzinti 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.

The Kzin are also represented in the lore of the Star Fleet Battles universe tabletop gaming system, with a number of scenarios and starship sheets devoted to them.

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 Caitian 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 The Draco Tavern stories). Kzin appeared on a star map seen in several episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and a triple-breasted feline stripper from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier was referred to backstage as a "Kzinrrett". The name of the Tzenkethi, mentioned in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, was rumored to be an almost-anagram of "Kzinti". Had Star Trek: Enterprise not been canceled, 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[]


Kzinti Hegemony

An example of a Kzinti from the Star Fleet Universe.
Government: Feudal Monarchy led by the Patriarch
Capital: Kzintai
Known species: Kzintis, (formerly) Cygnans
Neighboring powers: (Carnivons), Lyrans, WYN, Klingons, Federation
Affiliation: Alliance
Major enemies: Lyrans (Y48+); Klingons (Y50+); Carnivons (Y55-Y106); Federation (Y88-c.Y160); Romulans (Y173-Y185); Seltorians (Y182-Y185); Andromedans (Y190-Y203)
Known allies: Hydrans (Unk+); Federation (Y160+); Gorn (Y174+); Tholians (Y177-Y185)

The Kzintis in the SFU - who have traits setting them apart (no bat ears, sapient 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 & Dragons[]

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.


  1. "The Heroic Myth of Lieutenant Nora Argamentine" by Donald Kingsbury, appearing in Man-Kzin Wars VI (1994)
  2. Destiny's Forge, by Paul Chafe (2006)
  3. "Catspaws", by Hal Colebatch, appearing in Man-Kzin Wars XI (2005)

External links[]