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My character has a Cat familiar (lvl 16) with an INT of 11 and a DEX of 15. Previously our DM has ruled that the Cat can retrieve a potion from the characters Heward's Handy Haversack. The question for today is could the Cat familiar open the potion after he retrieves it, and what sort of action would it be (move, standard or full round)?

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up vote 14 down vote accepted

It's a magical cat. It doesn't sound any more or less crazy to have it be able to uncork a potion and drink it. Sounds like a full-round action, though.

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Trying To stay inside the realms of reality is sort of absurd when we consider the cat as magical. So I agree with you, a full round action to uncork and drink it seems fair. I think it provokes an attack of opportunity though, as it would for anyone. – Vethor Mar 10 '12 at 4:05
Saying that a touch of magic turns anything into a full human PC capable creature is nonsensical especially in a magical fantasy world where lots of things are magical. – mxyzplk Mar 10 '12 at 14:50
Quote from my DM "As long as your potions don't have childproof lids, I'm happy" so I have accepted this answer with a nod to Loren Pechtel's answer – jsecker Mar 12 '12 at 10:24
Considering if there was something in a corked bottle that they wanted my entirely non-magical house cats could probably get to it so an intelligent magical cat should be able to get to it no problem – mirv120 Mar 12 '12 at 16:33
@mirv120 Searched youtube for "cat opens bottle", this is the first result. That's more complicated than a corked bottle. And that's not a magical cat either. – Roflo Oct 28 '15 at 16:05

There is nothing about it on the SRD about cats, but I do remember about a race called Tibbits that could transform into house cats, and the description said something along the lines of "while in cat form, Tibbits function as normal cats and cannot manipulate fine objects or activate magic items", so I'd rule the same for cat familiars.

EDIT: Found it. "A tibbit's cat form is unable to speak or use her paws to manipulate fine objects. She cannot cast spells with a verbal or somatic component, use scrolls, or otherwise activate magic items." it's from the Dragon Compendium, though.

Other relevant quotes:
* "A familiar is a normal animal" (SRD)
* "Only a normal, unmodified animal may become a familiar." (SRD)
* "Among humans and other humanoids tibbits usually remain in their cat form. The stray cat that prowls a neighborhood, the mangy cat adopted as a temple's unofficial pet, and the lazy feline always close at hand at the local taverns might be tibbits." (Dragon Compendium p22)
* "They arose from felines kept as familiars in ages past. The powerful magic that allows a familiar to gain intelligence and magic abilities slowly filtered from one generation of cats to the next." (Dragon Compendium p21)

EDIT 2: Whatever the answer of whether it can open the potion or not, it can sure enough drink it. "Any corporeal creature can imbibe a potion. The potion must be swallowed."

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Wouldn't a potion bottle fall under "Tiny" not "Fine"? – Zibbobz Dec 17 '14 at 20:12
@Zibbobz: Leaving aside the question of whether or not the text is actually referencing size categories, the SRD defines a Tiny creature as 1 ft. - 2 ft. tall. Clearly that's not the case with a potion, unless you have really big ounces where you come from. – Yandros Dec 18 '14 at 0:38

The mechanics of the stopper matter a lot here.

Could a cat uncork a potion bottle? Under a literal interpretation I would say yes. Two paws grab the bottle, the cat uses it's mouth to grab the cork (it's teeth will sink in and grip) and pulls.

I would likewise let it open any bottle whose stopper was some sort of bulb and wasn't too big to go in the cat's mouth.

However, if the stopper were neither of these things and something a human would remove by simply squeezing to get a grip the cat would be unable to do so.

Drinking the potion is another matter. A cat isn't going to be able to upend the bottle and drink the contents, period. Assuming a suitable surface is available, though, the cat could deliberately spill the bottle and then lap it up. I would not require the cat to lap it all up, I would say it has it's normal effect when the cat laps up something like 5-10% of it (the cat's size vs a normal PCs size.)

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I would modify that ever so slightly, to say that either the cat must consume more than 50% of the liquid (to prevent one potion from affecting two cats, for example), or simply that once the cat has lapped up enough of the liquid to gain the benefit of the potion, the magic is used up and any remaining liquid becomes a mundane substance. – Dan Henderson Jul 31 '15 at 3:38

I would say probably not. Typically, creatures that don't have hands can't manipulate objects designed for those that do. As a DM, I might allow a DC 15-20 Dex check as a full-round action to let a cat open a potion. Looking at the potion activation rules in the DMG, there's nothing explicitly preventing animals from opening potions, but it does say you need to remove the stopper and drink, which is difficult with paws.

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Also beware that failing the check by 5 or more would probably result in the potion being wasted. – dlras2 Mar 10 '12 at 2:41

I'd let the cat break the bottle if the terrain allows for it (i.e. if the bottle was stored on a table or shelf) and drink a cat-sized dose from the spill, losing the rest, but not allow it to open the bottle intact and get a human-sized dose out of it.

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I don't think you'll find anything definite in the rules. It's something that falls into the grey area of "GMs call".

As a game master, I would look at the campaign frame. Is it gritty realism or a cinematic tale of high adventure? If the latter, I would ask myself, would this be something I would expect the pet sidekick of the hero(es) to be able to do? If so, allowing it would probably be reasonable, and what fits best with the frame of the campaign. In that case, I would probably decide how long it takes based on what's most dramatically exciting.;)

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I would suggest that it takes a dexterity check for anyone to open a bottle which utilizes a mechanism not optimized for its species' grip style. I would further suggest to the owner of said cat that these issues can be dodged in the future by purchasing, for a slight markup, cat-friendly potion bottles.

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