Anyone who has ever lived with a cat (I won't say "owned" because no one actually owns a cat) knows that they are magical. Some of that magic is good, like when you are having a bad day and they start purring and magically make you feel better. Some of it is not so good, like when they magically get into the catnip you swore you'd hidden securely in a cabinet they couldn't possibly reach.
Then, of course, there is the other kind of magic. The association between cats and witches goes back centuries, and modern days witches often find themselves drawn to cats, even if they don't use them in their magical practice. Cats were worshipped in Egypt, and many of us today still have a statue of the cat-headed goddess Bastet to adorn our altars. They were important in many other cultures, including those of India, Persia, China, Japan, and Greece.
Unfortunately for cats, the Catholic Church didn't share that sentiment, and around the 1200s, declared that they were associated with witches and the devil. Countless numbers of cats were tortured and killed because of it. To this day, many people are superstitious about black cats, and they are the least likely to be adopted from a shelter. (Quick—go to a shelter and get one. No, really. I'll wait.)
Thankfully, most modern witches think having a black cat is a good thing. I myself have two at the moment (Koshka, who looks like a little lion complete with a mane, and Harry Dresden, who looks like a miniature black panther) and my beloved familiar, Magic the Cat, was beautiful and black as well.
Mind you, a cat doesn't have to be black to be magical. Familiars come in all shapes and sizes and colors. You can tell if a cat is a familiar by how he or she reacts around magical work. Most of my cats couldn't care less, to be honest. They will either leave the room or ignore me when I am saying a spell or performing a ritual. Magic's mother, Minerva, occasionally came and sat next to me when I was doing something, but I suspect she was drawn to the energy.
Magic the Cat, on the other hand, was the first (and so far only) true familiar I have ever had. When my group, Blue Moon Circle, gathered in my living room to do ritual, we knew it was time to get started when Magic strolled into the room and walked around the circle, greeting each person in turn. (She always walked deosil, or clockwise, by the way.)
Once we began, she would either sit under the round altar table next to me, or behind me on the couch, overseeing all our magical work. We knew the ritual was over when she jumped down and strolled out of the room. (She also had a thing for sage and loved it when we burned it. You couldn't leave it sitting unguarded on the altar table because she would jump up and steal it!)
Familiars lend their energy to the witches who work with them, tapping into the unseen in ways we can't understand. Some cats also appear to sense spirits or possibly elementals, whether or not they are familiars. Ever see your cat staring fixedly at nothing? Do you know what they see? Nope, me either. But whatever it is, only they seem to be able to sense it.
Don't worry if none of your cats appear to be familiars—that doesn't mean you can't do magical work with or for them. In my new book, The Little Book of Cat Magic, there are a lot of suggestions for cat-loving witches. First of all, there are a number of cat-centric gods and goddesses you can call on when you need a little help of the feline variety, and the book shows you both how to find the one who appeals to you and suggestions for how to best contact them.
There are also a lot of spells to improve the lives of cats and those who live with them. Spells for how to find a new cat, discover the perfect name, and integrate the new kitty in with any cats you might already have. There are spells to deal with various feline issues like the one to ease the stress of a move, find the perfect sitter, or protect a cat that goes outside. There are also healing spells and even one to ease the passing of a beloved companion.
In addition, there is a section on feline power animals, using your cat to help with divination, and even a few recipes (for the cat, not for you, sorry) as well as some fun craft ideas.
Whether your cat is a familiar or not, you can utilize some of the things that come off of them in your magical work. You can clip a small section of fur, for instance, or use the fur from when you brush them. Cats also shed nails and whiskers, and if you look in the places where they usually hang out, you can probably find some of these discarded bits to use in the spells in the book or others you come up with on your own. Of course, you would never pull out a whisker or take a piece from your cat in a way that would hurt them, right?
Don't forget to use your cat's example to help you channel your own inner feline. Napping is good, and everyone likes treats. Cats can also remind you to take the time to rest and to play. Taking ten minutes a day to relax with your kitty and play with a piece of string or a mouse-shaped toy will help you bond and make you both happier. If your kitty is older and no longer wants to cavort about, try a nice snuggle—it's almost as as a glass of wine at the end of a long day.
Most of all, just remember to appreciate the innate magical nature of cats, and thank yours for sharing that with you and making your life just a little bit more blessed.
Deborah Blake is the author of over a dozen books on modern Witchcraft, including The Little Book of Cat Magic and Everyday Witchcraft, as well as the acclaimed Everyday Witch Tarot and Everyday Witch Oracle. She has also ...