The pleem, colloquially called "Stretchers", or "Long-Cats" look like a cross between a starved, tail-less, caracal and an over-large yet underfed dachshund. An exaggerated, unusually long body, taupe in color and almost always gaunt, rib cage straining against the skin, is the creature's predominant, physical feature. Low to the ground (one foot tall at the shoulder at best), pleem can be anywhere from four to five feet in length, with most of this length comprising the creature's torso. Stumpy, thick legs and furry paws (with claws sharp as syringe tips), as well as peculiarly tiny, triangular heads, crowned with impossibly tall, pointed and tufted, black ears, complete the image of these pseudo-felines.
Upon closer inspection, one could make out that the hind legs of the pleem are very muscular and significantly thicker than their frontal counterparts, creating an almost hare-like effect, along with the disproportionately long, vertical ears.
The pleem's topaz eyes are slits so narrow that it seems the pleem is asleep at all times, even when wide awake and alert.
Like the creatures they vaguely resemble, (basically, cats) pleem enjoy hunting small birds and rodents, lazing about, acting insolently and petulantly, and otherwise generally behaving as house cats tend to behave.
A few bizarre attributes help separate them from true felines however. The pleem enjoy standing on their hind legs whenever possible, their weasel-thin torsos, straining ramrod straight. They enjoy having hard surfaces to lean back against when doing so; walls, trees, rocks, and particularly the corners of various rooms and chambers. Pleem can stand this way vertically (and motionless) for many hours without tiring, and actually prefer to rest in this position. They are so thin that most pleem can actually "hide" behind standing fishing-rods and leaning brooms.
The pleem have also the uncanny ability to leap higher than would seem physically possible. The creature can clear forty feet vertically or horizontally, in a single body-stretching bound, without a running head start. The pleem in fact are loathe to "run" on most occasions, preferring to hide (stretch up between two corner walls) or jump its way out of trouble.
They are ambivalent to "combat" as they are to most situations. Their claws will cause wounds to linger and fester, yet strangely, they are averse to using their feline teeth for anything other than chewing. A bite from the pleem is rare. Permanent scars left by the pleem's claws being much more common.
Lastly, the pleem are mysteriously and utterly, (occasionally much appreciated, sometimes it's just creepy) silent at all times. They neither purr nor mewl nor hiss. Instead, once every forty days the pleem lets out an anguished, ear-shattering howl, that seems to be some sort of cathartic release of pent-up sound, much like a cat spitting up a hairball that has accumulated inside its gut over time. This pain-inducing shriek will deafen and stun anything capable of hearing, in a forty foot radius.
Apart from these sonic eruptions, pleem make decent pets, able to form bonds with bipedal sentients quite readily. Despite their inherent shyness and generally aloof and ambivalent attitudes, pleem know a meal ticket when they spot one.
Their favorite food is honey. A pleem will go to great lengths to acquire the stuff. Some pleem have been known to fearlessly raid the hives of even giant bees, sometimes suicidally so.
The pleem have the intelligence quotient of house cats. They tend to live twelve to sixteen years. Hearing is their strongest sense, followed closely by their sense of smell. The pleem's eyesight is good but not great, and they lack a cat's night vision, being diurnal creatures. When a pleem is hiding upright in some corner of some gothic cathedral, casting no shadows in the darkness, it's as "blind" as a typical human.
Additional Ideas (2)
Almost always the pleem are solitary creatures.
"...At last we found the abandoned temple which the mad hermit spoke of and its silent guardians. At first we thought the creatures were statues, tucked up vertically in rows along the shadowy walls, motionless. Then we realized they were simply weird-looking starving cats and proceeded to ignore them. They likewise ignored us, not even a single meow escaping their weird little heads, as we looted. The ransacking of the temple was going quite well. When the cats got in our way we would simply shoo them off (granted, we kicked a few as well), and the timid things would leap away to safety. This proceeded for some time when suddenly to our surprise, several of the cats began to "scream".**
The whole temple seemed to shake from the unimaginable sound. I watched in horror, as Yokpo our thief, grabbed at his head with his hands in agony. Blood burst forth from his ears, and only the incessant howl of the devil-cats drowned out his own pathetic screaming. Gargan, our fighter, merely stood in place, seemingly paralyzed, his eyes glazed over. Blood flowed freely from his ears as well. Disoriented, and likewise suffering from mind-numbing sonic pain, our wizard Maphael staggered and fell down a staircase, snapping his neck like a twig.
Only I escaped that day, and am still permanently deaf from the experience, haunted by nightmares and those ear-piercing, demonic howls.
But I have not forgotten the temple and its "silent guardians". And as soon as I can gather a group of like-minded individuals again, I plan on returning to avenge my comrades, put those devil-cats to the torch, finish looting that forsaken place, and maybe find the mad hermit who first told us about the temple, to put him to the torch as well!"
~Tywas the (angry) deaf bard
**The pleem were not attacking or defending the temple. It just so happened that five (of thirty) pleem were "due" for a howl that very day, and simply synchronized their screams.
A few facts on these creatures, usually left out of anecdotal tales...
--the pleem sense of hearing is unmatched in the animal kingdom. The pleem can hear a mouse fart from a mile away, their rabbit-like ears twitching like antennae at all times.
--it is these hare-like ears that are perhaps the least understood and most powerful of the creatures organs. Sound magnets, they somehow absorb all the noise harmlessly, allowing the pleem to let out its one concentrated scream every two fortnights.
--the pleem are immune to the sound of their own intense, sonic eruptions, or those of other pleem.
--the tongues of pleem are disproportionately long, like their torsos. A typical pleem tongue can spring out from the creature's mouth like a chameleon's, where it sits coiled, extending an impressive sixteen to twenty inches. The pseudo-feline uses this spectacular tongue to get to its favorites, honey and nectar.
--pleem mating habits are poorly understood. Almost always these faux-felines are solitary. Gestation lasts a surprisingly long time, considering their lifespan and size. A pleem carries a pup for almost eighteen months before giving live birth.
--It is always assumed that like cats the pleem are nocturnal at heart. The opposite is (weirdly) true. They are active by day, and slumber by night (usually vertically against some hard surface.) Their narrow eyes are bizarrely human-like and in fact identical to the human eye, apart from the intense, queer topaz color.
--true cats despise the pleem for some reason not yet understood. They will avoid or sometimes even attack the imposters known as "Stretchers" on sight.
--pleem make for desired familiars. They are low on maintenance, while high on self-preservation, and somewhat attuned to magic.
--the habitat of the pleem is like that of any real cat. They can be found everywhere, though they are generally rare in any environment. The rule of thumb suggests that one pleem exists for every six hundred mundane house-cats.