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)?
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."
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.)
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.
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.;)
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.