In Japanese folklore, a nekomata, also known as a bakeneko, is a type of yokai that appears as a cat with supernatural abilities akin to those of the fox or raccoon dog. A cat may become a bakeneko in a number of ways: it may reach a certain age, be kept for a certain number of years, grow to a certain size or be allowed to keep a long tail. In the last case, the tail forks in two and the bakeneko is then called a nekomata. This superstition may have some connection to the breeding of the Japanese Bobtail.
Nekomata can only be found in the dungeon the priest in the Taishidou temple sends the protagonist to.
Shin Megami Tensei
"Origin: Japan. A split-tailed cat youkai that speaks. It's said that they are cats who are over 50 years old, and can take human forms. They are normally harmless, and may even perform good deeds, or act out of revenge."
—Shin Megami Tensei A-Mode DDS dictionary
Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne
"Incarnations of long-living cats in Japanese mythology. They can speak to humans and, depending on their power, can do various things. Some can turn into humans, while others can have the dead do their bidding."
—Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne compendium
Nekomata first appears in the Shibuya disco "Club Inferno" and talks suggestively. Demi-fiend approaches her for information to proceed the story, which turns out to be a challenge in battle. After defeating her, she reveals the Assembly of Nihilo which is ruling over the Ginza area. Nekomata can evolve into Senri upon reaching level 27.
Shin Megami Tensei IMAGINE
"The supernatural incarnation of a cat who has lived to an extraordinary age. The time it takes for a cat to become a Nekomata ranges from 10 years to 40 years depending on the source. The name "Nekomata" comes from the Japanese word for "cat straddling," referring to a ritual where a cat would straddle someone to lay a curse on that person. Nekomata understand and can speak human language. They are distinguished by their forked tails. They sometimes take human form, in some cases changing into women and seducing and eating men. On the other hand, they are faithful to their owners and will avenge them if their owners die tragically. Nekomata are thought to have originated from Xian Li, fairies of Chinese folklore. Some say that Nekomata who posses vast magical power become Xian Li."
—Shin Megami Tensei IMAGINE compendium
Nekomata appear within the bronze instance of Suginami Tunnels. They act as NPCs within the gold and unknown instances. Players are able to acquire a Nekomata tail and female players can dress completely like a Nekomata. The NPC called Nora in Shinjuku Babel is known for dressing as a Nekomata.
Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey
"Long-lived cats are said to become these. They can speak human languages. Their powers vary according to how long they lived, ranging from shape-shifting to controlling the dead."
—Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey compendium
Shin Megami Tensei IV
Nekomata can be found in Ginza or evolved from Senri once it reaches level 32. She can teach Flynn the Scratch Dance and Pulinpa skills through her Demon Whisper.
Shin Megami Tensei IV Apocalypse
Nekomata can be found in Shibuya or can evolve from Senri once they reach level 31. Nekomata can teach the Axel Claw, Pulinpa and Mazanma skills through her Demon Whisper. She also benefits from learning Physical, Fire and Force skills.
Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers
"Long-lived cats are said to transform into these malevolent cat demons, and are distinguishable by their partially forked tails. They can speak human languages, and their powers vary according to how long they lived, and how cruelly they were treated in life. Their abilities range from shape-shifting to controlling the dead."
In the 3DS remake, a variant Nekomata is available from Nemechi, unlocked with the octopus form. She costs 100 D-Souls and uses her artwork from Shin Megami Tensei II and the Devil Survivor series. This Nekomata can use strong wind magic.
Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. The Soulless Army
"Cats that live a long life are said to become these. They can speak human languages. Their powers vary according to how long they lived, ranging from shape-shifting to controlling the dead."
—Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. The Soulless Army devil chart
As a Persona, there's no difference in comparison to Innocent Sin, however, the Nekomata of Eternal Punishment is brown, and the one in Innocent Sin is white. A special Rumormonger Nekomata appears as an NPC in the Kuzunoha Detective Agency. To unlock the Rumormonger Nekomata, the player must either donate ¥100,000 to the cat statue in Kuzunoha Detective Agency or do a Mansearch. Importing save data from Innocent Sin (not available in the English release) will make any money donated to the statue in the previous game carry over, reducing the money needed to ¥90,000 or less. The Mansearch asking for Nekomata only appears after Tatsuya Suou joins the party and if the Rumormonger Nekomata isn't unlocked yet. Doing the Mansearch rewards the party with ¥30,000 so it's more profitable to wait until that point of the game and do the Mansearch rather than donate money.
"Incarnations of long-lived cats in Japanese mythology. They have various powers, including human speech and control over the dead."
—Persona 3 FES compendium
Nekomata returns in Persona 3, as a Lv 5 MagicianPersona, and can be obtained via fusion or through Shuffle Time when exploring Tartarus' first block, Thebel. Her skill set specializes in Fire and Physical attacks as well as negative status effects.
"Long-lived cats are said to become these malevolent cat demons. Their powers vary according to how long they have lived, ranging from shape-shifting to controlling the dead."
—Persona 5 background
Nekomata is the third Persona of the Magician Arcana and can be found as a Shadow in Kaneshiro's Palace and the Kaitul area of Mementos, with the title of "Ascended Feline." Nekomata is the first usable Persona to naturally have access to the Magaru skill, as well as Hysterical Slap and Wind Break. When itemized through Electric Chair execution, Nekomata yields the Pawzooka grenade launcher for Haru Okumura, which has 140 ATK, 89 ACC and adds the +Confuse (med) effect.
DemiKids Light & Dark
"Long-living cat with two tails. This demon can change into a girl and walk among humans."
"Long-lived cats are said to become these. They can take the form of human women. When a pet cat lives for 50 years, it becomes a Nekomata. The name comes from its tail, which is split in two. They can speak human languages, and there are tales of them telling humans about themselves. They can stand on two feet and even dance."
—Devil Survivor 2 compendium
Shin Megami Tensei: Liberation Dx2
"A cat yokai in Japanese folklore. Long-lived cats are said to become these creatures that have mastered human speech. The powers of the Nekomata vary, some were even strong enough to turn into people or command the dead."
—Shin Megami Tensei: Liberation Dx2 compendium
Nekomata is a common 1-star demon and Rika Ryuzouji's starting demon. There is also an alternate version, introduced as a random 4-star uncommon summon, based on the earlier design that possesses the unique skill "Pussyfoot."
I'm Beast Nekomata. And for your information, I'm not your average cat!
Bye-Bye. I'm... I'm not sad this is goodbye, okay!?
Poster fanart in the Shin Megami Tensei Poster Book
Nekomata as she appears in Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne
Nekomata as she appears in Shin Megami Tensei IMAGINE
Nekomata in Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. The Soulless Army
Nekomata as she appears in Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey
Nekomata design in Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. The Lone Marebito
Nekomata as she appears in Shin Megami Tensei Trading Card: Card Summoner
Nekomata as she appears in Devil Survivor
Nekomata as she appears in Devil Survivor 2
Shin Megami Tensei II Nekomata tribute illustration by toi8
Nekomata in Persona 5 Royal
Nekomata in Persona O.A.
The only Megaten games with an American release to portray the folkloric forked-tail are Persona 2: Innocent Sin, Persona 2: Eternal Punishment, Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers, Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. The Soulless Army, Devil Summoner 2: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon and DemiKids: Light & Dark Version.