The Cat Arks were two shuttles built (or modified from existing shuttles) aboard the massive spacecraft Red Dwarf by the Felis sapiens who had evolved on the ship from their progenitor Frankenstein three million years earlier.
Almost the whole species left Red Dwarf aboard the Cat Arks, a decade or so before the last human, Dave Lister, came out of stasis. Lister emerged to find only one of them (and an old blind Cat Priest) still aboard Red Dwarf.
After the breaking of the Cat Commandments and their "holy wars" which had consumed the species, the survivors took the two arks and left, leaving behind only the Cat Priest, the The Idiot and The Cripple in Supply Pipe 28. The latter two would eventually have their own child, the last of the species aboard Red Dwarf and perhaps the last of the species in entirety, became to known simply as The Cat. (Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers)
As for the Arks, they followed the divine plan of Cloister the Stupid (actually one of Dave Lister's old laundry lists) looking for Fuchal and one of them, the blue Ark, flew straight into an asteroid, blowing up. The other one, the red Ark, flew onward assured of their righteousness. (RD: Waiting for God)
What occurred with the remaining Ark is not said in the television series or the novels, although there are hints that those cats survived.
It is likely that the remaining Ark may have survived to set up a colony somewhere in Deep Space, since the Felis sapiens species was recognized by Binks of the Holoship Enlightenment, who noted correctly that they were descended from common house cats, about half as smart, and of no further use as study, so the Holoship must have encountered and studied them before. Others were also familiar with the species, such as and the rogue mechanoid Hudzen-10, who recognised the species and so must have encountered them in his Diva-Droid Shuttle whilst tracking Red Dwarf, and he didn't consider them human and therefore a "viable target".
This idea was explored in the "lost episode" of Series VII, Identity Within, where more Felis sapiens are discovered who had apparently survived by adopting a military structure, likely as they were preyed upon as snacks and slave labour by Brefewino. Zural was Cat platoon commander, and Ora Panzil his lieutenant, who later becomes the Cat's mate.
Behind the scenes
- The Cat Arks are an important element of the Red Dwarf the Roleplaying Game, although this evidently follows a differrent canon to the Red Dwarf novels and TV series.
- As taken from the cats' holy book (from the official Red Dwarf website):
- Thus the Cat War became a sacred quest. And the journey to Fuchal was begun. And Cloister gave to Frankenstein the sacred writings, saying "Those who have wisdom will know its meaning." And it was written thus: "Seven socks, one shirt." And the Ark that left first followed the sacred signs, and lo! They flew straight into an asteroid. And the Righteous in the second Ark flew ever onward, knowing that they were indeed righteous.