Numerous different types of shapeshifters exist in the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter universe, including werewolves and wererats. Anita distinguishes between lycanthropes, which includes solely persons infected by contact with another lycanthrope's bodily fluids, and shapeshifters, a class that includes both lycanthropes and persons who are able to shapeshift as a result of magic, such as a personal or family curse.
In the Anitaverse, lycanthropes are barred from certain professions and can in fact still be killed on sight in some states. The status of non-lycanthrope shapeshifters, being far more rare, is less clear. To what extent, if any, human society recognizes the authority of lycanthrope social groups (packs, pards, etc.) -- whether criminal acts undertaken at the order of one's alpha might be regarded as actions taken under duress, for instance -- is similarly unclear.
- Main article: Lycanthropy
Lycanthropes are humans inflicted with a supernatural virus which allows them to take on the power and appereance of a specific species of animal. The virus can be caught by being scrached by a lycanthrope, and possibly through bites too; the process is unpredictable, and a victim of a lycanthrope attack might survive a serius wound uninfected, or be turned by even the most slightlest scratch. Inoculations to those for rabies exist for lycanthropy, and can be effective if given quickly enough following initial infection; however the innoculation can also cause infection, so using them is a calculated risk. An infected individual will transform for the first time at the next full moon; after that it appears that though full moons trigger an involuntary change, lycanthropes can chose to switch forms at will the rest of the time. The transformation is extremly painful, as bones and flesh reshape. Most lycanthropes have two forms, human and animal. However, the strongest are able to take the form of a hybrid man-beast.
Panweres have the power to transform into more than one type of lycanthrope. The one panwere mentioned in the Anitaverse was Chimera, who was capable of transforming into a werelion, wereleopard, werehyena, wereanaconda, werewolf, and werebear; there was also the possibility that he had obtained werecobra as well and would have the powers if he had lived to the next full moon. Anita Blake was also believed to be a panwere by Chimera because he sensed that she was part leopard and wolf. Since the Harlequin, Anita is shown to have five beasts residing inside of her. Leopard, wolf, lionness, tiger, and as of yet an undefined animal. Although she does not shift she comes close a few times and her animals can appear in spirit form when she is in danger.
Some humans born with the ability to shapeshift. This ability is generally not affected or governed by the full moon. Some of the groups of inherited shapeshifters are:
- Weretigers (some)
Witches could potentially shape-shift, with the proper spell and with the skin from a werecreature. Shifting this way has benefits since the person gains all the power of the skin but is not tied to simply changing with a full moon. Unfortunately, for the spell to work properly, the werecreature has to die at the end of the spell.
A witch was also responsible for Kaspar Gunderson's ability to shift into a swan, she cast a spell on him, hoping it would make him more compassionate.
A Lamia is a half human, half snake. They were presumed to be extinct, but at least one still survives. Melanie was Mr. Oliver's servant but when he died she began working at the Circus of the Damned. They are also believed to be "true immortals", as Anita Blake tried and failed to kill her. They can change from human to a half snake form (snake tail/human torso). They have retractable fangs that can inject a lethal poison. Their fangs also inject a substance that can change a human into a Lamia, which was what she was trying to do to her harem in Circus of the Damned.
A Naga is a snake-like Hindu creature that is immortal. In The Lunatic Cafe one naga survived being skinned alive, by someone who wanted the skin for shape-shifting. However, that plan was foiled since Nagas are immortal and the spell for skin shape-shifting requires the original occupant of the skin to be dead by the end of the spell.
Nagas are known as the guardians of pearls and raindrops, in Hindu legend. Their skin has a pearl on the forehead. They are usually shown as cobras/snakes, or human-headed snakes, but could take on a full human form.