For reference, here are some of the words that were said regarding what that rule means:
"The game rules, mechanically define unarmed strikes by animals as natural attacks."
"Give me a rules citation where that is true that directly refutes the citation above from the bestiary that says that unarmed strikes from creatures are considered some form of natural attack.
This is essentially already a creature version of IUS."
So you said (twice) that the rule in question from the Bestiary means that if an animal were to make an unarmed strike, it would be a "slam" natural weapon instead.
I don't see the functional difference between "an animal's unarmed strike is a slam, not an unarmed strike" and "animals can't make unarmed strikes". Therefore, I don't understand how exactly I misrepresented you.
And in any case, neither statement is a legitimate conclusion to be drawn from the rule you cited.
I can refute that unarmed strikes are natural weapons:unarmed strike:
Unarmed strikes do not count as natural weapons (Core Rulebook 182).
PRD: Universal Monster Rules wrote:Some fey, humanoids, monstrous humanoids, and outsiders do not possess natural attacks. These creatures can make unarmed strikes, but treat them as weapons for the purpose of determining attack bonuses, and they must use the two-weapon fighting rules when making attacks with both hands. See Table: Natural Attacks by Size for typical damage values for natural attacks by creature size.
Sorry, I thought the quote was on this board, but it was on a private message board. I have quoted the relevant info and given a link.
The fact that animals are not listed as a creature type that can make unarmed strikes is quite telling.
The difficulty I have with your argument is that when asked for a cite for your claim of what the rules say you provide a cite of what the rules don't say and then build inferences from what the rules don't say.
That isn't a cite of the rules saying what you believe. It is a rules interpretation on your part. And more it's a rules interpretation based on things not said, which is the weakest type of rules interpretation.
1) The rules specifically say that if you have INT 3+ you can take feats. It also specifically includes Animals in this.
2) The Rules specifically say you can use natural attacks and unarmed strikes.
3) The rules don't specifically comment on whether animals can or can not use unarmed strikes.
You are using 3) to claim that because they don't specifically state animals can use unarmed strikes that they can't. As one poster pointed out (and you were offended by) the rules also don't specifically say humans can breath.
That isn't the question.
The question is, do animals have the anatomy to mechanically make use of IUS.
I say no.
The game rules, mechanically define unarmed strikes by animals as natural attacks. As such, teaching an animal to hit with its head or fist would become a slam attack. Not an unarmed attack.
IUS does not grant a slam attack and both in real life and in game mechanics terms, an animal needs to have been taught a trick to make non lethal attacks. And in some cases may need to be pushed.
The game mechanics just do not support an animal learning IUS.
Based on the question above (anatomy), you're wrong. If you believe otherwise, you have never seen an animal, acting as an animal without training, act. The llama's "natural attack" in the real world is a kick, when fighting off predators. When reprimanding offspring, they perform untrained, nonlethal strikes with their heads. Goats do the same. Horses kick opponents, and headbutt to both reprimand /and/ to make Diplomacy checks; it can be a sign of affection. Cats claw, but headbutt and make nonlethal paw strikes.
[EDIT: You can't argue that the untrained nonlethal strikes listed above are Diplomacy/Intimidate checks, because animals that are not trained do not have those skills mechanically. And since it is not a trick that can be mechanically taught, the mechanics do not support representing those as skill checks, only as "beating my children until they somehow learn, which I am not intelligent enough to know if it works this way or not".]
Again, the mechanics of animal companions simply state: Animal companions with an Intelligence of 3 or higher can select any feat they are physically capable of using. No other checks are required. Unarmed strikes only ask for a body that is capable. Any creature with moving parts can make unarmed strikes. Regardless of what those strikes are considered based on type, the only check for "are you capable of unarmed strike?" is "Do you have a body that could be capable of it?", not "Do you naturally choose to do so?"
Those two checks are /all/ that matter. "Is the animal's INT 3 or higher?" and "Do they have a body that is capable?" If they are both yes, and all animals will be a yes to the second one, then they can take the feat. This is RAW. This means that the mechanics you're referring to completely support animal companions have IUS.
Feats do not care if you can use them or not, provided you meet the prereq. An intelligent tree can take Fleet or Run, even if it has no locomotion abilities, because it has no prereq. I has a fighter can take Combat Casting, even though I have no spellcasting, because it has no prereq; in fact, there are several builds that "prebuy" feats for later. In fact, I may be wrong on this, but I can't find where most metamagic feats have a prereq of actually being able to cast spells.
All the potential gateway feats later could be explored outside of this discussion, but I'm having a lot of problems picking out ones that would be physically impossible for an animal to accomplish as well.
Andy, can we just narrow this question down to what you really want answered?
Which is, Can a snake, specifically, take Improved Unarmed Strike?
If that is the question, then the answer is YES.
A snake is physically capable of using a head butt (which is explicitly mentioned as a type of unarmed strike), instead of a bite. In fact, an intelligent (3+ Int) snake may find it useful to do so if fighting a creature with poisonous flesh/blood (like a vishkanya, for example).
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