By Dan Murphy
Nibbles is a dark grey and black striped tabby cat with piercing yellow eyes who appears in several different key scenes throughout The Witcher 3. Be it Oxenfurt or Toussaint, Novigrad or Skellige, this pesky feline shows up everywhere.
Nibbles first appears in Oxenfurt, during the much-covered Family Matters quest. The Bloody Baron asks Geralt to travel to the university city and find his missing daughter, Tamara. Upon walking into the dockside house, Geralt is greeted by Nibbles, who sits on the table and occasionally interrupts licking himself to stare at Geralt.
The first sign that Nibbles might not just be an innocent cat (at least to those who are familiar with Witcher lore) is that Nibbles did not hiss, shriek, bare its fangs and run away from Geralt as quickly as he could. In Andrzej Sapkowski’s Witcher books, cats detest Witchers, despite sharing the same eyes, and hate being near them. Geralt isn’t too fond of them, either. Even in Wild Hunt, if you come across a cat in the world it will arch its back at you and hiss. So why does Nibbles seem so comfortable around Witchers?
Interestingly, cats are also the only other animals in the Witcher universe that sense the world’s natural supply of magic and actually absorb it.
Nibbles later appears on a Novigrad rooftop as he observes Geralt’s hopeless attempts at acting, on a table during a meeting with recently freed sorceress Margarita Laux-Antille and during the scene when Geralt and Ciri drink together in the Witcher stronghold of Kaer Morhen.
It doesn’t stop there, however, as Nibbles also makes cameos in both sets of The Witcher 3’s DLC.
He casually walks in front of a confrontation at the beginning of Hearts of Stone, while the tavern that Olgierd von Everec and his crew had been staying in burns into the night.
In Blood and Wine, the massive expansion pack that adds the Southern, honour-ruled land of Toussaint, Nibbles shows up in the very first quest as bandits arrive in a town under the protection of Geralt and two Bouclair knights.
The cat then appears for a second time, once again shamelessly licking himself, in Blood and Wine during the Paper Chase quest – a really funny side mission which pastiches the frustrating rigamarole of banking protocol. Nibbles can also be spotted sat on a table during the great feast in Kaer Trolde, Skellige, and is even mentioned by a sleepy dwarf on the Isle of Mists.
Eagle-eyed players have been driven mad by Nibbles’ many conspicuous appearances, which happen without explanation. Why does this creature keep turning up in so many vastly different places?
Naturally, without an answer to be found, those people then began to theorise just who Nibbles really was and what it was doing. Shapeshifters are plentiful in the world of The Witcher 3. Magician Philippa Eilhart is able to morph into an owl and the mystical creatures known as Dopplers are able to change into anything they have a clear image of in their heads. Maybe Nibbles is a magician or a Doppler that is following Geralt around for whatever reason?
Others drew from their knowledge of the Witcher books, in which Ciri often had visions of events that were happening to Geralt through the eyes of a cat, unconsciously, in her sleep. Maybe Nibbles is being controlled by Ciri in her slumber from the Isle of Mists? But nope: Nibbles continues to appear even after Geralt finds her.
Maybe Nibbles is the nefarious Man of Glass, the creepy villain of Hearts of Stone, determined to stalk and follow Geralt wherever he goes? Maybe he’s a cursed dwarven child from the Isle of Mists? Maybe he’s just a secret character? Or maybe someone at CDPR just wanted to put their own cat into the game as a joke?
Nibbles is none of these. Instead, the explanation is a lot more practical.
“The truth is Nibbles was born as a filmmaking trick due to a technical necessity that came up,” reveals CD Projekt Red cinematic artist, Kajetan Kapuściński.
“When Nibbles first appears in the Family Matters questline, Tamara Strenger is walking down a set of stairs before meeting with Geralt for the first time, and we needed a diversion for that short period of time. So I sat down with one of the quest designers and we added a cat sitting on a table to the scene. We had it play a small role where it would interact with Geralt by exchanging stares with the Witcher, distracting players as Tamara would descend the staircase.”
Like many cats, Nibbles proved inexplicably endearing once the team got to know him. “To this day we have no idea who named the cat Nibbles, but we liked the end result so much that it became an inside joke in cinematics department. So we gave it a few more roles to play,” says Kapuściński.
“We never expected the few appearances it makes in Wild Hunt to be noticed, but we’re happy for Nibbles that they were. We’ve put that cat through a lot of life-threatening situations and it’s been there as a brave observer of Geralt’s story unfolding before players. Nibbles might not be part of some bigger plan, or a cursed character, or a mage practising the art of polymorphy. But he’s our little actor that started out small, and, through hard work, has managed to become the star of its own little internet legend. We couldn’t be any prouder of Nibbles!”
Those who have been ripping their hair out for well over a year trying to figure out just what, or who, Nibbles the cat is all about can now rest easy knowing that he is, in fact, just a cat.