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Is My Cat a Witch's Familiar? The History of Pets in Halloween Lore

Ever wondered if your cat could be a witch’s familiar or if folklore has some truth? Dive into the history of pets in Halloween legends and discover how cats and dogs have been linked to the mystical world.

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So, Your Cat's Been Acting Strange?

We've all seen it—the chilling gaze of a cat locked onto something you can't see, or the unexplained late-night barks from your dog. What's up with that?

Ever wondered if your cat could be a witch’s familiar or if folklore and myths have some grounding in our pets' mysterious behaviors? Let's dive deep into the enthralling, kind of creepy world of pets in Halloween folklore.

The OG Familiars: A Brief History

So what’s the deal with familiars? In witch trials that swept Europe and later, the American colonies, cats, especially black ones, were considered witches' companions. Familiars were believed to be demons that took animal forms to help witches with their magic.

Since these sweet felines were regularly accused of being witches' familiars, it was a tough time to be a cat. But familiars weren't exclusive to cats. Dogs, toads, and even birds were sometimes considered to be in cahoots with witches.

Beyond Cats: Dogs and Other Familiars

Cats usually get all the 'fame' when it comes to being familiars, but dogs were also part of this narrative. In Scottish folklore, the magical “Cu Sith” was a giant dog that roamed the highlands. It wasn't a demon, but it was said to steal souls—a super fun party trick.

Birds like ravens and owls have also made appearances in folklore as messengers or protectors of witches. So, if your pet bird is squawking at odd hours, maybe it’s chatting with the spirit world. Or it could just be acting annoying; I'm not judging.

Why the Association?

Ever wonder how cats and dogs got this 'witchy' rep? Cats are independent creatures; they roam free, they're awake at night, and they seem to know things they shouldn't. They’re wicked smart and a bit mysterious. Essentially, all the reasons that modern pet parents love our feline companions are also the reasons historical cultures demonized them.

Dogs on the other hand often react to things humans can’t perceive. They can be human-like in their emotional understanding and have magnified senses which could be seen as supernatural sensitivity.

Celtic legend states that cats are magical beings and even thought that if one crossed a sailor’s path, they’d walk away with good luck. Now, before you take your cat with you to buy a lottery ticket, remember that these are ancient beliefs, and most of us don't rely on cat magic for good luck these days.

Cultural Relevance: More Than Just Stories

The concept of familiars hasn't entirely left modern thought. Shows like "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" portray cats as magical creatures.

In some Native American traditions, animals are seen as guides or spiritual teachers. So, while the spooky season might reignite these discussions, the curiosity persists year-round.

How to Tell if Your Pet is a Familiar: A Not-So-Serious Guide

So, now the burning question: is your pet a familiar? Here's a tongue-in-cheek checklist:

  • Stares at empty corners of the room

  • Acts weird during a full moon

  • Sudden, unexplained bursts of energy at witching hours

  • Chooses to sit on your spell books (if you have any, no judgment)

If your pet checks all the boxes, congratulations! You’ve got a mystical companion. Or a perfectly normal pet doing perfectly normal pet things.

Okay, So Now What?

In all seriousness, the idea of familiars is rooted in folklore and shouldn't be taken as fact. Your pet's strange behaviors are probably just quirks or instincts. But it's fun to explore these myths, especially as Halloween approaches.

So, whether you're putting out protection circles for your pet's safety or just giving them extra treats because it's the season, remember to appreciate the mystical, enigmatic aura that pets bring into our lives. They may not be real-life familiars, but they certainly make our lives more magical.

Lizz Caputo is the Manager of Content Strategy at Figo, animal enthusiast, and owner of a rescued senior American Bully. Her hobbies include checking out new restaurants in her area, boxing, and petting dogs of all shapes and sizes.

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