Cats as Familiars Part 3: Advice for Beginners
by Elisa Black
There are three types of familiars recognized in the magick world. Physical, astral and spiritual. My research on cats as familiars will be solely on cats.
Keep in mind that although many cats live inside and under many different geographic conditions, they retain a certain wild element that connects them with nature and the primal instinct never dies. There's something wondrous in watching a cat using its basic instincts to hunt, climb and commune with nature. That is one reason cats as familiars is thought of as a primary example in modern witchcraft.
This article will examine only the tip of the iceberg on how cats are chosen and includes beginners training. For advanced training there is plenty of information in books and on the internet. To better understand the psychology of a cat Love Your Cat Familiar is a good read. I would recommend this article for ANYONE who loves cats.
There is some debate on whether a witch chooses the cat or the cat chooses the witch. Both arguments are in agreement on several criteria for choosing a cat to act as familiar. Many times a cat will be drawn to the person who needs it the most. At others a cat and a witch make an instant connection when they meet. Love and trust are obtained over time. Most references are in agreement that only one familiar is allowed and it's usually a life long commitment. A few state more than one familiar is allowed.
Whether the training begins as a kitten or a cat is not as important as finding YOUR familiar. You can't just grab the first cat you see and begin training.
One good method to call a cat as familiar is to find a peaceful natural area to meditate. A quiet wooded area would be ideal. Send out your thoughts into the world. Wish for your cat soul mate. Some cultures even teach that every human has an animal soul mate who will find us when called. This concept is no stranger to me than having and finding a soul mate in our human world.
During the first weeks with your cat you need to observe. Does the cat seem curious around items used in your rituals? Does the cat insist on staying in your lap while you practice magick. A cat should have an intense curiosity if it is to be trained in witchcraft.
Your cat must be taught to sit by your side for long periods of time. Face your cat in the same direction and at the same time for each session. Teach yourself to see the world thru it's eyes. Your cat has extremely useful instincts and can warn you of anything out of the ordinary. Cats as familiars make a "magickal" eternal connection if all of the above are met. Research has shown that petting a cat reduces negative energy.
A witches power is twice as strong once a familiar is trained. There is a misconception that a cat is only an extension of a witch when in reality the witch and the cat form a bond. That is how the craft becomes more powerful. One good article I found is at Totem Animals
The cat is to be treated with respect. If any of you have family members or friends with obsessive/compulsive disorder (basically a necessity for a strict pattern in all things) you will understand the needs of the cat and what the cat expects. To ensure proper training the cat should be fed at the same time each day in the same bowl. It should be high quality food. If fresh meat is used a supplement may be required to maintain health. Fresh water should always be available. A clean litter box kept in one place is necessary. Also frequent brushing to avoid hairballs. Stay on a strict routine with all of these things. Always provide a scratching post, a comfortable bed and a clean environment.
This is also good advice on the care of any cat.
One major concern is the safety of everyone around fire. Teach your cat to respect candles. This doesn't take long as cats are highly intelligent where heat is concerned. Do not leave a cat alone with a lit candle. I don't mean to belittle anyone to use caution but there are plenty of fires started from candles being accidentally knocked over.
The cat should have three names and one should be a secret name between familiar and witch. There are many sites that have suggestions Here's the link to a site that has a lot of subcategories. http://web.archive.org/web/20140517040659/http://cats-names.net/. Personally I have a difficult time in naming a cat. Sometimes I change the name 2-3 times until I'm satisfied. Maybe I should stress until the CAT is satisfied. I believe the cat plays a part in choosing a name because most of the time the name just pops into my head. I like to choose a name that describes my cat. Then I pick a secret name that describes the temperament of my cat. I'm pleased that research suggests any cat have three names as I've been teased about changing the name several times the first week.
Please keep in mind I'm writing on this subject as an observer and I do not practice. I've made an attempt to keep it factual with references for further study and a little personal opinion thrown in for good measure. There are a number of pagan sites available on the internet that offer more in depth study on this subject. Even within the subject of cats as familiars there is a lot of conflicting information. A lot of studying is required and you must form your own opinion and beliefs.
My goal in Cats as Familiars Part 3 is not only to inform but to bridge the gap between the different beliefs of cat lovers. Whether Christian or Pagan we all love our cats and want them to be part of our lives. We want them to be with us as we do what we enjoy and keep them safe at all times.