The kif are a dark race, unaccustomed to bright light and unable to discern colors that most other oxygen-breathing species use for art or information. They are hunters, pack hunters; inhabiting a slice of space in C.J. Cherryh's Compact (from the Chanur books) they tend to wear black robes to both hide their numerous personal weapons as well as their gaunt, grey-skinned bodies.

The kif operate on the principle of sfik, which is a mostly-untranslatable word but which can be loosely equated to 'prestige', if prestige were a noun that could be quantified. Kif will follow a strong leader, but if that leader stumbles (loses sfik) then it is perfectly accepted that his followers will turn on him at the moment of maximum personal advantage. Therefore as a leader among kif (hakkikt, or even ship captain, hakkt) one must be careful to maintain not only strength but the image of such. Killing reluctant subordinates is a preferred method; eating them, occasionally, to make a most solid point of the power balance. Kif are fetishistic about their weapons; due to the rough nature of their society, ones' weapons are ones' life, and they are not often neglected or ill-used.

Kif trade with the other species of The Compact. However, they are known for piracy and general deviltry. Usually they are not a threat beyond such normal predations because they understandably have great difficulty acting as a group. When they get hold of a strange being from an unknown starfaring race, however, a game of great urgency and import begins among the members of the Compact as each member race (stsho, hani, mahendo'sat) begins to maneuver to exploit the as-yet-unknown capabilities and trade of this unknown group, humanity.

For more information, see the Chanur books.