"When he couldn't find any witches to burn, the king widened the definition to any ugly woman who owned a cat. When he couldn't even find any of those, he made the women of the village hold a beauty contest. First prize was a night with the king, last prize was a cat."
In medieval European superstition, it was thought that one way to identify if someone was a witch was if they owned a cat. This cat was believed to be some form of demon
or evil spirit in disguise, acting as the witch's Familiar
and aiding her in her spells. These days witches and cats don't have such bad reputations, but their association with each other persists. If a show has a witch, there is an extremely good chance that witch has a cat. Sometimes simply owning a cat is used as a hint or foreshadowing that a woman living alone might have a secret magical nature.
And doesn't that make purrfect
sense? Everyone knows that Cats Are Magic
, not to mention the best
, so of course
any witch worth her broomstick would be owned by one, if not a whole clowder of cats. In fact it's not uncommon for a witch to have a such a soft spot for her feline friends that she doubles as a Crazy Cat Lady
, owning a dozen or more. Such witches are usually considered quirky and tend to be of the good variety, the same if a witch owns cats with coat colors outside the stereotypical black. The cat is the most common Familiar
for a witch by far, though sometimes the association is so strong that it's not that the witch owns
a cat, but she is
The association is most concrete between female witches and cats, though occasionally if a work allows male witches, or warlocks and wizards are simply male witches, the association will spill over. In European folklore, black cats have been considered to be familiars of witches since the Middle Ages, so this trope is Older Than Print
Compare Right-Hand Cat
, Cats Are Magic
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Anime And Manga
- In the first episode of Soul Eater, what Maka and Soul thought was a witch, turned out to actually be a cat that had a human form and magic and merely dressed like a witch. The actual witches however, have their own Animal Motifs, none of which have been cats.
- The Sailor Soldiers, a Magical Girl Warrior group, from Sailor Moon, have three guardian cats Artemis (white), Luna (black - though sometimes appears dark blue) and their daughter Diana (grey). This is most likely a spill over from the fact that MGW trope descended from the Cute Witch.
- In the Lyrical Nanoha franchise, cats are one of the most common animals used as Familiars by mages in the setting, with wolves being the only other animal we've seen used. Specific examples include Rynith and the Lieze Twins.
- Honerva of Go Lion and Voltron has a cat, Jaga, whom she uses in various evil schemes.
- Male example: Klarion the Witch Boy in DC Comics and his cat Teekl, who has the ability to take a humanoid form.
- In Harry Potter a cat is one of the animals which wizarding students can bring as a pet to Hogwarts. In this case the cats are merely pets, not familiars. In book three, Hermione gets a very perceptive (part-Kneazle) cat named Crookshanks. A witch and teacher, Professor McGonagall, can turn into a cat. Umbridge has a Cats Are Mean motif whenever she's not being compared to a toad, but doesn't actually own one. Instead, she has a cat Patronus and a collection of rather tacky cutlery with enchanted pictures of cats on them.
- There's also Mrs Figg, a Crazy Cat Lady who lived near the Dursleys who turned out to be a Squib.
- Not to mention caretaker Argus Filch's cat, Mrs. Norris, who patrols Hogwarts looking for troublemakers with her master.
- In Enchanted Forest Chronicles Morwen, a famous witch, owns a large number of cats of many different colors as her familiars. Other witches think she's strange for numerous reasons, but one of those is that she owns a dozen cats, none of them black.
Deep in the Enchanted Forest, in a neat grey house with a wide porch and a red roof, lived the witch Morwen and her nine cats. The cats were named Murgatroyd, Fiddlesticks, Miss Eliza Tudor, Scorn, Jasmine, Trouble, Jasper Darlington Higgins IV, Chaos, and Aunt Ophelia, and not one of them looked like a witch's cat. They were tabby, grey, white, tortoiseshell, ginger, seal brown, and every other cat color in the world than a proper and "witchy" black.
- In Dark Lord of Derkholm, Querida, the most powerful witch on the continent, owns three cats.
- A Discovery of Witches features a precognitive cat named Tabitha, who is owned by the main character's witchy aunts.
- Discworld has Nanny Ogg and her tomcat Greebo, and, later, Granny Weatherwax's kitten, You. Magrat, on the other hand, is mentioned in Wyrd Sisters as not liking cats much.
- In the novel Operation Chaos by Poul Anderson, the witch Virginia "Ginny" Matuchek has a cat named Svartalf as a familiar.
- In the Arcia Chronicles, Gerika keeps pet lynxes before and after she gains powers, but switches to ordinary cats when she pretends to be a swamp witch while healing Alexander in book five (which is lampshaded). She can also possess her cats and use them as conduits for her power (which probably explains it).
- In The Hollows Rachel lives with a cat, though the cat doesn't seem to like her very much.
- The House of Night may also count if you think the vampires in that series are more like witches.
- In The Worst Witch all witches receive a black cat. Except the loser protagonist, who gets a striped cat that can't balance on a broom (she then settles for carrying it in a bag).
- In the short story The Incredible Elopment of Lord Peter Wimsey, Wimsey poses as a wizard in a remote and backwards village. Nine white cats form part of his disguise.
- In The Wheel of Time series, it is noted that female channelers known as Aes Sedai tend to attract cats. They're not familiars or magical in any way (although some promote the myth to increase their air of mystery), it's just one of those odd things that happens. Once male channelers start showing up, the same thing happens with dogs. Also, a channeler tends to drive away the animal of the other gender (men repulse cats, women repulse dogs).
- Blackmalkin and Greymalkin in The Midnight Folk by John Masefield. Nibbins also used to be a familiar, but is now a household cat who sides with Kay.
- Most witches mentioned by name in Septimus Heap own cats.
- In Time Cat, one of the adventures the boy goes on with the time-traveling cat leads to the boy and the cat being accused of witchcraft. The accusers may have had a point, because again, it's a time-traveling cat.
- Dorrie the Little Witch has a cat named Gink.
- Gobbolino The Witches Cat centres around this trope, obviously enough. The eponymous Gobbolino has no interest in being a witch's familiar, and would prefer the life of a humble house cat.
- Cas' mother in Anna Dressed in Blood has a cat named Tybalt.
- Eleanor Estes' 1960 novel The Witch Family has real, right, regular witches — Old Witch, six-year-old Hannah and six-month-old Beebee, who dress in black, ride broomsticks and have cats. Beebee has a tiny kitten who clings upside down to his mistress' broomstick. Fans of Harry will like the scenes where Hannah goes to witch school.
- In Rosemary's Baby, Mrs. Sabatini is the only coven member mentioned as having a cat. There is a Persian cat breeder in the building but he's not involved with the coven.
- In Tituba Of Salem Village by Ann Petrie, Tituba is suspected for a number of reasons, including her skill at spinning and her male calico cat. This kind of cat is called a money cat and is usually regarded as attracting good luck, similar to Maneki Neko. She has to drive him away when the serious hysteria starts.
- The titular characters of the Meg and Mog series of children's books are a classic witch and her black and white-striped cat.
- In Witch-Cat by Joan Carris, cats from the Order of Greymalkins act as witches' teachers, showing them how to use their magic responsibly. In the case of the protagonist Rosetta, her initial job is just trying to show twentieth-century witch Gwen that magic exists in the first place, but all of her attempts keep getting hand waved away with practical explanations.
Live Action TV
- In Charmed the main characters are three witch sisters, and they inherited a cat along with their powers.
- The cat later becomes human as a reward for being such a successful familiar.
- In Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Sabrina owns a black cat named Salem, who used to be a warlock. (He was a criminal, and being turned into a cat was part of his sentence after being caught.)
- Witches Tara and Willow of Buffy the Vampire Slayer get Miss Kitty Fantastico, but she rarely shows up and dies offscreen.
- Miss Kitty Fantastico is an inversion of the normal trope. When Tara suggests to Willow they get a cat, Willow assumes that she wants one because she is a witch (Willow is still pretty much a novice). Tara say simply she likes cats.
- A few witch/warlock characters in Bewitched have cat familiars, which can assume human form (usually attractive and female). One episode indicates that transformed familiars automatically revert to their feline forms at midnight, but this isn't touched upon in other episodes.
- Subverted: In Switch2012 Stella puts her boss's cat in the microwave.
- Supernatural: Some witches have familiars, though at least one of them is a dog rather than a cat and the familiars have a human form.
Myth And Legend
- Subverted with Hecate, the Greek goddess of witchcraft. Her sacred animal was, among other things, black dogs.
- Also subverted in African mythology, where witches rode dogs.
- Played straight with Norse Mythology: Freyja is the godess of seidr, a form of magic considered exclusivly feminine, and her cart is driven by two cats. That possibly makes her an Ur Example.
- Both played straight with one sisterhood of witches and handily subverted with all other sisterhoods in The Dark Eye. Most witches do have some type of Familiar though.
- In Dungeons & Dragons, Player Characters who can cast Arcane Spells (like Wizards) can summon familiars, and cats are one of the of the available choices. (Not the only choice, however, and in some editions, the caster had no control over what animal he got.)
- One of the witches in Shakespeare's Macbeth has a cat named Graymalkin.
- In some versions one of the witches is called Graymalkin, instead.
- A line in the "Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats" from Lloyd-Webber's Cats goes "Can you ride on a broomstick, to places far distant?" referring to cats being associated with witches.
- In Bell Book And Candle, Gillian Holroyd's familiar is a cat named Pyewacket note , though at least one other witch has a non-feline familiar.
- Bomamba in NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams has a whole swarm of black cats. They're the source of her magic power.
- The sorcerologist Tessa from Red Earth owns four cats, two of whom (Al and Ivan) actually aid her in battle from time to time. The catch is that Tessa owns several other pets, such as a bird (Hato), a frog (Kaeru), and a dragon spirit which doubles as her cape (Manot).
- The twin witches of Brain Dead 13 each have a black cat in their room, which is very obvious.
- The Student Witch enemy in the Castlevania series will turn into a cat and run away when defeated. In Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, absorbing her soul even lets you throw a cat of your own.
- The full-grown Witch enemies in the same games often also has a cat that rides on her broomstick. She also turns into a cat, still wearing her hat, with her own cat now riding on her hindquarters as a kitten.
- In The Sims 3, witches (which can be male) get bonuses from having a familiar nearby. Nearly any small animal can be a familiar, but the only major animals that can be familiars are cats, not dogs or horses.
- Witches in The Sims 2 also have cat familiars they can summon.
- In The Witch's House, a black cat guides the protagonist and helps her escape. Though it is revealed in the third ending to be the Big Bad in a sense, as it is currently possessed by the demon who gave the witch her powers in the first place.
- In Professor Layton Vs Ace Attorney, Espella Cantabella owns a black cat named Eve, adding weight to the claims that she is a witch, specifically the Great Witch Bezella.
- Elyzia Grimes of the Whateley Universe is a powerful witch and a member of Whateley Academy's Magical Arts Department. She even looks like a witch, since she's described as looking uncomfortably like what Morticia Addams would look like in real life. Her familiar is a solid black cat named Merlin. Fortunately, she has a sense of humor about the whole thing. (Not all familiars in this world are cats: Foxfire has a fox kit for a familiar.)
- Likewise, Gateway's friend Rythax may not be technically her familiar for all that he was the first creature she ever managed to summon, but he's definitely a cat. Of the occasionally-giant-winged-black-panther variety.
- In one Tom and Jerry short, Tom answers an ad to be a companion for what turns out to be a witch.
- One episode of Beetlejuice dealt with a neighborhood witch taking Lydia's black cat, forcing Lydia and Beetlejuice to crash a witchs' Halloween party to retrieve the animal.
- In one episode of The Real Ghostbusters, the Ghostbusters discovered a cat familiar that had been seperated from its witch. Before they could find its owner, Slimer started to unintentionally make good use of its powers, causing them a LOT of trouble.
- Sabrina: The Animated Series. Like the live action series, the younger Sabrina and her family own a wise-talking black cat who was once a powerful wizard. In the spin-off, "Sabrina's Secret Life", Sabrina's Alpha Bitch witch rival, Cassandra, owns a white rabbit who may also have once been human.
- Though, inverted in the Filmation series. As in the comics, Salem is an orange marmalade.
- Rarity in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Well, kinda. She's a unicorn, who are magically inclined, and she has a pet cat, Opal.
- Practitioners of Wicca and other forms of Neo-Paganism do seem to favor cats above all other pets. Of course, this trope might be partially responsible—if you grow up associating witches with cats due to media, then when you become a witch, it might seem only natural to get a cat yourself.