The True Story Behind Dwarf Fortress’ Mysterious, Vomit-Covered Dead Cat Problem

The True Story Behind Dwarf Fortress’ Mysterious, Vomit-Covered Dead Cat Problem
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Dwarf Fortress is the insanely complicated and goblin-infested procedurally generated gift that keeps on giving. There are plenty of stories to be found in the world of Zach and Tarn Adams’ decade-old, ASCII creation, but none are quite as fascinating as the mystery of the dead cats.

Few games have issues quite as bizarre as Dwarf Fortress. Thanks to its intricate simulation of, well, everything, weird and wonderful occurrences are a dime a dozen.

However, as Eurogamer’s Chris Bratt explains in this clip, there’s one that holds a special place in the hearts of players and indeed, Tarn Adams himself:

In late 2015, Dwarf Fortress players started finding dead cats … we are talking about a lot of dead cats.

Wait, wait… that’s not the best (or worst) part:

… there’s no real nice way of saying this: they were also found typically covered in their own vomit.


It was quickly determined that the cats had perished from alcohol poisoning, which made no sense at all. The cats weren’t programmed to like beer or wine, in fact, it wasn’t even possible for them to drink the stuff.

But I won’t spoil the story. Bratt covers the machinations that resulted in this strange turns of events in detail in the video, which is well worth watching.

Why Dwarf Fortress started killing cats — Here’s A Thing [YouTube]


  • The gist of it was that in the then-new taverns, the patron would quaff their alcoholic drinks and spill them everywhere so the floor was covered in alcohol.
    Cats would wander through and get alcohol on their legs.
    Cats clean themselves by licking.
    Cats would lick up the alcohol that were on their legs.
    Because DF doesn’t have a way to do fractional amounts of things consumed, each time a cat licks to clean itself it would imbibe a full unit of alcohol.
    Cat then succumbs to alcohol poisoning and dies.

    • Thanks @gz – I didn’t click on a title “The True Story…” only to be told at the end of the article “But I won’t spoil the story” and have to click on another link to find the answer.
      Now that I have some context I’ll happily watch the vid in the link, the whole concept of DF sounds hilarious.

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