Cats who become Ayakashi are called Bakeneko. Bakeneko literally means “changed cat”. Ayakashi that become cats are Nekomata. The Bakeneko, in their Ayakashi form, look like regular cats. The Nekomata, however, have a tail that has been split in two, making it seem like they have two tails.
They generally keep to themselves and do not like to interact with humans or other Ayakashi. Though they are not banded together, nor do they live together like most other Ayakashi clans, they are known to come together in times of need or conflict. They are ferocious fighters. Usually seen in their original Ayakashi form (that of a cat), but have been known to shapeshift to look like a human on occasion. The reason that cats are seen as Ayakashi in is attributed to many of the characteristics that they possess: for example, the way the irises of their eyes change shape depending on the time of day, the way their fur seems to cause sparks due to static electricity when they are petted (especially in winter), the way they sometimes lick blood, the way they can walk without making a sound, their wild nature that remains despite the gentleness they can show at times, the way they are difficult to control (unlike dogs), the sharpness of their claws and teeth, their nocturnal habits, and their speed and agility.
Cats in particular have acquired a great number of tales and superstitions surrounding them, due to the unique position they occupy between nature and civilization. As cities and towns were established and humans began living farther apart from nature, cats came with them. Since cats live close to humans yet retain their wild essence and air of mystery, stories grew up around them, and gradually the image of the Bakeneko was formed. One folk belief concerning the Bakeneko is that they would lick the oil of oriental lamps, and in the Edo period encyclopedia, the Wakan Sansai Zue, it is said that for a cat to lick this oil is an omen of some strange event about to occur.
The abilities attributed to the Bakeneko are various, but include shapeshifting into humans, wearing a towel or napkin on the head and dancing, speaking human words, cursing humans, manipulating dead people, possessing humans, and lurking in the mountains and taking wolves along with them to attack travelers. As an unusual example, on Aji island, Oshika District, Miyagi Prefecture and in the Oki Islands, Shimane Prefecture, there is a story of a cat that shapeshifted into a human and wanted to engage in sumo.