I'll say upfront that my favorite ships are escorts... That said, I think it makes sense to look at the mythic/idiomatic interpretation of cats in mythology and literature when imagining a Caitian ship.
First of all, cats are seen as curious animals.
Second, cats are associated with their distinctive eye pattern. In ship terms, this would likely take the form of a deflector. Deflectors are science systems in STO.
Third, cats are seen as having a sultry quality. They are stealthy and also emblematic of beauty in cultures like Egypt. Seduction is a form of crowd control in STO (a more science-y role, along with scramble sensors) whereas stealth is most pronounced in stealth are science/escort hybrids (the BoP) and science abilities (Mask Energy Signature).
Fourth, the mother cat is seen as protective of her pack/pride/clowder.
Fifth, the major sci-fi and anthropomorphic iterations of cat people I can think of presents them as a group of distinct members who are more than the sum of their parts. In particular, yes, I'm thinking about Voltron and Thundercats. But also T.S. Eliot's cat characters who were the basis for the musical.
My overall feeling is that whereas the Flight Deck Carrier is a combination cruiser/carrier (it has cruiser stat bonuses), the Caitian ship would make sense as one of two concepts:
- A hybrid science/carrier. This would be a science ship capable of launching fighters from a single hangar bay, halfway between the Varanus and the Marauder.
- A hybrid science/escort. Cats are known for being equal parts ferocity and curiosity, reflected here.
Now, playing with that second concept a bit, we have a cruiser that can equip cannons (the dreadnaught) but no science ship that can. I can see this being a really interesting combo since a science ship could actually make some good use of cannons and it would be especially interesting with subsystem targeting cannon attacks.
In terms of special abilities, a hangar bay is one possibility. Another is the "Reverse Multi-Vector Mode" I'm fond of promoting as a ship concept. (Ie. split by default, capable of merging.) That seems to vaguely echo Voltron here, which has a nice synergy to it in terms of space cats in popular culture.
I think you could be dealing with something very interesting if what you're looking at is a hybrid of the MVAM Prometheus with a science ship and with a hangar bay. It would require some serious counters to make it balanced. (Weak hull, probably. BO stations skewed towards sci and tac -- maybe even no engineering at all or only an ensign given the other powers I'm suggesting. Maybe shields innately weaker than other sci ships and a bit lower turnrate than other sci vessels but not much; not the highest turnrate for a sci ship anyway.)
What I'm thinking is... Science ship with cannons, MVAM (weaker than a Prometheus, on by default: merging is the special ability -- would also propose the pet ships have a lower turnrate than the main ship so it feels "like herding cats"), hangar bay (weaker fighters than standard hangar bay), very engineering deficient in BO and console layouts, better turnrate than a cruiser but not the best for a science ship.
In honor of Jack Emmert's new car, call it a Caitian Prowler Fleet. A Caitian Predator Fleet might also be a cool idea. Other idea being to simply refer to it as a "Bast Pack Fleet" whereas "Bast" is an Egyptian cat goddess. If you want to conceal that more, maybe a "Bastion Strike Fleet."
In general, I could see Klingons getting a Feracian counterpart when they get Feracians but their version would probably be without the MVAM, lower turnrate, plus cloak and plus hangar bays to emphasize that the Feracians, as outlined by Cryptic so far, are the xenophobic racial purists/separatists. So their ship would split less as I assume they value independence from the pack/pride less and represent strength through unity.
Feds dont need carriers. This isn't Star Wars where we rely on fighters doing dogfights and blasting critical subsystems, Star Trek has no actual use for fighters except police duty or guarding space stations/planets to intercept long range projectiles.
I really like carriers and fighters, but I never missed them in Star Trek. I also dislike the Klingon carriers, but you can kind of justify those, but a Caitian single-deck carrier? Launching even LESS fighters than the Klingons makes even less sense than these do. One phaser/torp spread instantly cost so many pilot's lives and material, almost all ships in Star Trek have a nearly 360 degree field of fire (that's what beam arrays are for) so there are no dead angles fighters could exploit anyway.
I'd really love Caitian ships, Andorian, Bajoran, Vulcan etc. for that matter to support Starfleet, but I don't think we should explore the "fighter theme" anymore.
I myself am a crazy cat person. reading through this I just wanted to point out Lev, that in all that lovely description above, you have missed what I believe is arguably the defining feature of cats...they are the top predators among land mammals, and in fact, only the Crocodile/Alligator and arguably the Komodo Dragon could best a Bengal Tiger of all the animal kingdom, and even then, it would have to be a very very big alligator. Tigers have taken down elephants.
House cats and Cheetahs have the best power to weight ratio of all warm blooded creatures. Their musculature compared to their bodyweight is like having a Bugatti Veyron engine in a mini cooper (the original one, not that awful BMW effort). An athletic house cat can scale a wall 12 times it's height in a single leap. That would be like a human leaping up a 24 metre wall. You could say some frogs can beat that, but a frog is a specialised animal, jumping is the only thing it can do. A cat has the power in all areas.
Anyway, enough cat worship, my point is that if a cat race did develop, it would also be BY FAR AND AWAY, the most feared warrior race in the galaxy, their physical strength would make Klingons and Vulcans look positively pathetic. Also Cats are utterly ruthless (although you could say that civilisation has bred into them a higher sense of right and wrong).
So, their incredible martial prowess and athleticism is not adequately reflected in the game either, not that I feel it needs to be, I just like speculating about a cat race.