Code of the Clans


Code of the Clans

Erin Hunter

Illustrated by Wayne McLoughlin

For Mr. Pugh, with love

The Dawn of the Clans

Many moons ago, a community of cats settled in dense woodland close to the edge of a moor. Some were kittypets intrigued by the idea of exploring beyond their housefolk’s backyard; others had been born and raised in the wild, by cats who knew how to catch their own prey and find shelter in the cold nights of leaf-bare.

The woodland, with the river running fast and deep at the edge of the trees, proved to be good territory for the cats. There was enough shelter for every cat, enough prey to feed them all, and the freedom to hunt among the trees, on the open moor, and along the fish-filled river.

The cats began to settle according to their preferences for hunting and prey. The fish-eaters kept mostly to the banks of the river, making their dens among the reeds and twisted willow roots; the mouse-pouncers stayed under the densest trees, perfecting their leaps among the tangled undergrowth; the rabbit-chasers, faster and leaner than the other cats, kept to the open moor; the squirrel-stalkers settled in the sparser woodland, where they learned to climb trees and hunt among the branches; and the cats who had a taste for snakes and lizards, and the cunning to catch them on marshy ground, settled among brittle grass stalks and rattling pine trees on the farthest edge of the territory.

There were no borders at first, and within each hunting ground the cats lived separately, meeting only as they went in pursuit of the same prey. Occasionally cats clashed over a piece of fresh-kill or a good place for a den, but battles between large numbers of cats were unheard of.

Then a time came when prey was scarce, and there were too many mouths to feed and bodies to shelter in each hunting ground.

Battles broke out, just a few cats at first, but more and more until hunting ground took on hunting ground, fighting for survival, not just for themselves, but for the cats who lived alongside them.

After one dreadful battle, when the ground beneath the four great oak trees turned red with blood, the spirits of the dead cats came back to plead for peace with the strongest cats from each hunting ground: Wind, River, Thunder, Shadow, and Sky.

The five vowed to their fallen companions that they would find a way to put an end to the fighting, to live in their separate hunting grounds in communities that would preserve each territory for generations of cats to come.

The time of the Clans had begun…

The Warrior Code

1. Defend your Clan, even with your life. You may have friendships with cats from other Clans, but your loyalty must remain to your Clan.

2. Do not hunt or trespass on another Clan’s territory.

3. Elders and kits must be fed before apprentices and warriors.

4. Prey is killed only to be eaten. Give thanks to StarClan for its life.

5. A kit must be at least six moons old to become an apprentice.

6. Newly appointed warriors will keep a silent vigil for one night after receiving their warrior name.

7. A cat cannot be made deputy without having mentored at least one apprentice.

8. The deputy will become Clan leader when the leader dies or retires.

9. After the death or retirement of the deputy, the new deputy must be chosen before moonhigh.

10. A gathering of all Clans is held at the full moon during a truce that lasts for the night. There shall be no fighting among Clans at this time.

11. Boundaries must be checked and marked daily.

Challenge all trespassing cats.

12. No warrior may neglect a kit in pain or in danger, even if that kit is from a different Clan.

13. The word of the Clan leader is the warrior code.

14. An honorable warrior does not need to kill other cats to win his or her battles, unless they are outside the warrior code or it is necessary for self-defense.

15. A warrior rejects the soft life of a kittypet.



Welcome to the Warrior Code

Hello! Firestar told me you’d be visiting today. Come in.

Watch out for the brambles at the entrance; they’ve grown faster than ever with the warm rain we’ve had this moon. Sorry, did that one catch on your pelt? I have some marigold leaves if it’s cut you. No? Good. My name is Leafpool, by the way, and I’m

ThunderClan’s medicine cat—but I expect you knew that, didn’t you? I forget how well-known our Clan has become, even among loners and kittypets.

Sit down, please, and make yourself comfortable. We have a lot to talk about!


Firestar said that you wanted to learn about the warrior code.

I can see how it would fascinate you, born and raised outside the Clans. Does it seem as if our lives are governed by strict, ancient rules? Your life must feel free as air in comparison; you can hunt when you like, eat what you catch, and choose friends and enemies wherever you please without having loyalties and responsibilities forced upon you. I can see by the glint in your eyes that you sometimes pity us for the code that binds us like bramble tendrils to our Clanmates, our territories, and our long-dead ancestors.

But the warrior code isn’t like that. If you’re born to it, raised in its nurturing paws, it feels as obvious as breathing.

You hunt just for yourself, yes? But what would happen if you got injured or sick? In the Clans, the strongest cats, the warriors, hunt for all of us. And when it is their turn to have graying muzzles and trembling paws, new warriors will catch prey for them until they walk with StarClan and hunt like young cats once more.

You think the Clans hate one another and fight all the time.

It’s true, we live in close quarters with the other Clans, and that can lead to tension, but we also unite against common enemies—you heard about the badger attack, yes? We would have been destroyed if WindClan hadn’t come to help us. And when we had to leave the forest, four Clans succeeded in making the Great

Journey where one alone would have starved or frozen to death.

Being part of a Clan means knowing that you’ll never be alone.

The life of the Clan surrounds you and stretches into the distance as far as your imagination can see. You follow in the paw steps of Clanmates born moons before you and those who are younger will follow your paw steps in moons to come. You will always be part of your Clan, even when you walk among your ancestors in the stars.

You’re still uncertain, aren’t you? No matter. Wait until you hear how each part of the code came about. No, I am not going to tell you stories. Relax your mind and together we will travel back through the ages, through many generations of cats. Just as grass grows even on the bare cliffs around the hollow, each code arose from the Clans’ daily lives as a way of ensuring that every cat was safe, nurtured, and fed from its very first breath. You will see that while the warrior code is still a force for good, for protection and balance among the Clans, many cats have challenged it—for it can bring terrible conflict to individual lives.

Are you ready? Let us begin with the first code…



Code One





It’s hard to imagine a time when cats were allowed to have friendships with cats in other Clans. I know better than most cats the agony of loving a cat from a different Clan—and of knowing that I had to return to my own Clanmates because they needed me, and because I wanted to remain loyal to the warrior code. Come with me, and let me show you the sad fate of Ryewhisker and Cloudberry. Though it breaks my heart, you will see why this terrible piece of the code came to be.

As every cat must learn, the strength of the entire Clan depends on the loyalty of each one of its members.

The Beginning of the Warrior Code

“Race you to the hawthorn bush!”

“Not fair, Ryewhisker! You know you’ll win!” protested Cloudberry.

Ryewhisker turned to look back at the dark gray she-cat.

Cloudberry was slender for a RiverClan cat, but her fur was thick and sleek.

“I’ll give you a head start,” he offered. Cloudberry tipped her head on one side, her blue eyes sparkling. “Or… or I’ll close my eyes, or run backward, or carry a stone in my mouth…”

“Bee-brain,” she purred. She padded up to him and rubbed her head against his cheek. “I’ll race you to the hawthorn if you race me across the river.”

Ryewhisker backed away, shaking his head. “No way! You can’t tell me it’s natu ...