Catfolk are exactly what they sound like... humanoids with catlike features. They are an excellent choice for several different character types, so don’t discount them just cuz they’re covered in fur!
Ability Scores: +2 Dexterity, +2 Charisma, -2 Wisdom. Catfolk make extremely good Rogues and Ninjas, and can also be good Charisma-based casters, though most of their racial options are made for sneaky characters.
Size: Catfolk are the same size as humans.
Speed: Catfolk move at the same speed as humans, but pay attention to the Sprinter feature, which makes them faster in some situations.
Cat’s Luck: Once per day, a Catfolk can choose roll a Reflex saving throw twice and take the better result (though they have to choose to do so before the throw is rolled). This is an excellent ability and can definitely save your character’s life!
Natural Hunter: A +2 bonus to Perception, Stealth, and Survival is almost too good to be true as a racial bonus. Not only do you get a bonus to the best skill in the game, but also to Stealth, and you know your catfolk Ninja is gonna love that!
Sprinter: You move at a speed of 40 feet when you’re charging, running, or withdrawing. The charging part is definitely the most exciting, as there are many bonuses you can get from a charge, including getting free sneak attack damage if you take the Scout archetype! You should also pay attention to the Catfolk Exemplar feat, which gives you ANOTHER +10ft boost to your speed when charging!
Low-Light Vision: We’ve talked about this before. Most GMs ignore the benefits of low-light vision, only worrying about darkvision, so I don’t give this a huge amount of value.
Alternate Racial Traits:
Cat’s Claws [Natural Hunter]: This choice would be great for characters who want to focus on natural attacks, and there are some good reasons for taking this trait (such as the Claw Pounce feat and the Vicious Claws rogue talent that is only available to catfolk rogues). However, you’re giving up a LOT to get these claws, because +2 to three skills is essentially 2 feats. There are other ways to get claw attacks (such as the Natural Weapon Ranger) but for a Rogue that wants to use Claw Pounce, this is still probably your best option. You should also look at the Catfolk Exemplar feat, which can give you this racial trait or make your claws better if you already have it.
Clever Cat [Natural Hunter}:I don’t care how much you think you’ll use these three skills, giving up a bonus to Perception and Stealth isn’t worth it.
Climber [Sprinter]: This is an interesting choice. For a character who doesn’t plan to charge into battle, having a climb speed could be extremely useful, and in places like forests can even be a cheap replacement for flight in early levels. Overall, if you aren’t planning to charge much, this is probably worth your time. You can also always grab Catfolk Exemplar to get the Sprinter ability back in addition to this one.
Curiosity [Natural Hunter]: Hmm... so here’s the thing... getting Knowledge skills as class skills isn’t that exciting, but for some characters a +4 to Diplomacy could be a HUGE boost. For a party face Oracle or Sorcerer, or a Wizard who still wants to be able to barter with people, I’d probably choose this over Natural Hunter.
Nimble Faller [Sprinter]: This option is very cat-like, and can come in very handy in a pinch. If you fall into a pit full of enemies, you’re not going to be prone, and that’s great. A bonus versus trip attempts can also be a huge help. I would probably still choose Sprinter over this one in most cases, but it’s still a good choice. You can also always grab Catfolk Exemplar to get the Sprinter ability back in addition to this one.
Scent [Low-light vision]: This... is awesome! Seriously, scent essentially means no one can ever sneak up on you undetected, unless they’ve specifically prepared for you, and that’s a really big deal. Compared to low-light vision, scent is just amazingly good. Take this option! If you really want the low-light vision back, pick up Catfolk Exemplar later to get it in addition.
Alchemist: There’s no reason a catfolk can’t make a great Alchemist, but there’s also nothing that specifically makes them good at alchemy either. I would probably choose a more optimal race if I wanted to build an Alchemist.
Barbarian: The catfolk’s Sprinter ability lends itself nicely to a run-in-and-smash Barbarian, and the bonus to Perception from Natural Hunter is great. If you want a barbarian that attacks with natural weapons, you could take the Cat’s Claws racial option to save yourself a Rage Power on it, and you might even want to pick up Claw Pounce. Also make sure to check out the Nimble Striker feat, which lets you Cleave and charge without taking a penalty to AC! Overall, catfolk is a pretty good option for a Barbarian.
Bard: Catfolk have a bonus to Charisma, so that’s one point for them right off the bat. Dexterity is usually also important for Bards, so that’s another good reason to choose a catfolk. The favored class bonus is also pretty nice, boosting your bardic knowledge ability by +1/2 per level.
Cavalier [Samurai]: Catfolk are meant to stay on their own feat, not be mounted on some horse. For this reason, the only Cavalier archetype that makes sense for a catfolk is the Musketeer, who trades his bonded mount for a gun. You all know how I feel about guns in fantasy, but as far as abilities, this could be a good choice. For a Samurai, the only non-mounted option is the Sword Saint, which I actually really like.
Cleric: Catfolk are weak on Wisdom, so in general they don’t make the best Clerics. There are also no racial options or feats that lend specifically to the Clerical lifestyle, so I would pick a different class, personally.
Druid: Catfolk are very nature-oriented, so thematically it makes sense for a catfolk to become a Druid, but the penalty to Wisdom hurts. Obviously if you do go Druid, you’ll probably want to take the Lion Shaman archetype because it just makes way too much sense. Several of the catfolk’s more bestial racial options work well for a Druid also, such as Scent and Cat’s Claws. Finally, the catfolk Druid favored class option is nice, letting you give your animal companion some extra hit points in lieu of yourself. Overall, while not optimal, a catfolk Druid has a lot of thematic options, so I can’t rate it too low.
Fighter: With natural weapons available, increased speed during charges, and Scent as an option, catfolk Fighters can be vicious and deadly, especially if they take the Savage Warrior archetype. A catfolk’s increase to Dexterity can also lend itself quite nicely to an archery-focused Fighter. I definitely recommend Catfolk Exemplar to boost your speed during charges by another +10 feet, and it can also increase the damage done by your claws, so you could choose it a second time for that.
Gunslinger: With the standard Gunslinger’s grit points being reliant on Wisdom, you’re definitely going to want to go the Mysterious Stranger route if you want a catfolk Gunslinger. Given the catfolk’s focus on speed, you may also want to pick up the Shot on the Run feat so that you can make ranged attacks while moving.
Inquisitor: Like Clerics, the Inquisitor’s reliance on Wisdom makes them a poor choice for a catfolk, and there aren’t any other redeeming abilities available, so I suggest choosing another option.
Magus: With no Intelligence boost, there’s nothing that makes a catfolk any better or worse at being a Magus than many other races.
Monk: Catfolk have a racial archetype for the monk called the Nimble Guardian. The coolest part of this archetype is a beast shape ability at 7th level, but you’re still going to be hurting for ki points thanks to the Wisdom penalty, so this isn’t an optimized choice.
Oracle: A catfolk’s boost to Charisma is great for an Oracle, and you can give your Oracle a natural theme with the Nature mystery. The racial favored class option is very nice, giving you extra spells known which are not easy to come by for spontaneous casters.
Paladin [Antipaladin]: The boost to Charisma can help your Paladin with spells and Lay on Hands, but without an increase to either Strength or Constitution I can’t recommend a catfolk Paladin that highly.
Ranger: A catfolk natural attacking Ranger is a great option, thanks to a boost to Perception, Stealth and Survival checks from Natural Hunter. The Climber alternate racial trait is also attractive for a Ranger. Catfolk even have a pretty sweet racial favored class option, boosting critical hit confirmation rolls with a chosen weapon. With the Wisdom penalty, I recommend picking an archetype that drops spellcasting, such as Skirmisher or Trapper.
Rogue [Ninja]: Catfolk seemingly were MADE to be Rogues, because they not only have a decent racial archetype, the Cat Burglar, but they also gain several racial Rogue talents. Deadly Scratch lets you apply poison to your claws if you have the poison use class feature. Disarming Luck gives you a second attempt at a failed Disable Device check once per day. Graceful Faller gives you the nimble faller racial trait, or if you already have it allows you to reduce falling damage by 2d6. Nimble Climber gives a +4 to climb checks, and if you have the Climber alternate racial trait you can take 10 on any Climb check. Single-Minded Appraiser lets you take 10 on Appraise checks for gems or jewelery. Finally, and most excitingly, Vicous Claws allows you to use d8 dice for your sneak attack when using your claws! This last one is definitely the reason a catfolk can make an amazing Rogue, especially if you pick up the Scout archetype, which lets you apply your sneak attack dice after charging, and you get +10 feet of speed on your charges! Couple this with Nimble Striker and Claw Pounce, and you’ve got a seriously scary Rogue! A ninja does even better, since not only can they choose these excellent racial Rogue talents and the Cat Burglar archetype, but the boost to Charisma helps with extra ki points!
Sorcerer: Like an Oracle, the catfolk bonus to Charisma makes for a great Sorcerer base, and you couldn’t find a better race to use the Rakshasa bloodline with, since Rakshasas look like humans with cat heads! The favored class option is also decent, letting you use one of your bloodline powers (such as the Rakshasa bloodline’s Silver Tongue power) more times per day.
Summoner: As another Charisma-based caster, the Summoner works well for catfolk. I imagine a catfolk would summon a cat-shaped eidolon, and the First Worlder archetype makes a lot of sense, as it makes your eidolon into a fey creature, and that fits the catfolk nature theme very nicely.
Witch: Without a boost to Intelligence, a witch isn’t the greatest choice for a catfolk. If you do decide to go this way, I suggest the Beast-Bonded archetype for relatively obvious reasons.
Wizard: Similar to the witch, there are no really great reasons to choose a Wizard, and there aren’t any really great archetypes that make sense either, so I suggest picking a different class.
Racial Favored Class Options:
Bard: A bonus to bardic knowledge can be helpful, though many would argue that an extra skill point is more generally useful since you can use it for a Perform skill.
Cavalier: If you decide to be a catfolk cavalier, a bonus to the banner ability can definitely come in handy.
Druid: Extra hit points for your animal companion is a great choice for any druid, so this one’s worth your time for sure.
Oracle: All spontaneous casters suffer from a small list of spells known, so gaining extras is an excellent option for your favored class bonus.
Ranger: For a natural weapon ranger, choosing a bonus to critical hit confirmations for your claws is really excellent!
Rogue: Unless you’re planning to feint and hide weapons a lot, this one’s not worth your time. Take the skill point instead.
Sorcerer: This is the same as the Oracle option, and just as good.
Arcane Trickster: A catfolk with levels in Ninja and Sorcerer can make a seriously excellent Arcane Trickster, though it’s not the strongest prestige class in general.
Magaambyan Arcanist: If you do decide to go with a prepared arcane caster for your catfolk, I would definitely consider picking up levels in this prestige class, since it has strong ties to nature and lets you pick spells from the Druid spell list that you wouldn’t otherwise have access to.
Dawnflower Dissident: I like this prestige class for a catfolk Oracle who also wants to add a bit of sneakiness and some more melee ability to his build. Though this prestige class was obviously written for an Inquisitor, it could add some seriously excellent abilities to your Oracle.
Catfolk Exemplar: This feat is actually three different feats, and each of the options has merit. The enhanced senses option can give you the Scent ability if you kept low-light vision at first level, or vice versa. Fast sprinter either gives you the Sprinter racial trait or boosts the speed bonus given by it by 10 more feet. Sharp claws is one of the several ways that your catfolk can gain claw attacks, and my personal favorite since I don’t think you should trade away the Natural Hunter racial ability.
Claw Pounce: This is a great option for a Scout Rogue or for a Monk with the Feral Combat Training feat, as it lets you make a full attack with your claws at the end of a charge. It has steep requirements, and for either a straight Rogue or Monk will have to wait til level fifteen, but it’s absolutely worth the wait!
Feline Grace: This feat gives you a bonus to your CMD against five different combat maneuvers, which is almost a flat bonus to CMD. I like it, though most builds won’t have enough feat slots sitting around to use on this one.
Nimble Striker: This one is a prerequisite for Claw Pounce, and it allows you to charge, Lunge, or Cleave without taking a -2 to your AC, and that can be a huge deal for a character who can’t wear heavy armor, like a Rogue.
Black Cat: This feat is definitely thematic, allowing you to cause an enemy that hits you to reroll the attack at a -4 penalty once per day. However, like I pointed out with Feline Grace, most builds just won’t have the feat slots to use on this one, and there are better feat options out there.