There are many types of familiars, and one is the witch’s pet. Within the witch community there is argument whether the witch’s familiar was a regular animal like a magical pet or if it is only something in the otherworld or created by the witch. The folklore I have read and studied suggests to me that actual pets and animals were considered familiars. I read a wonderful story about a minister that went to check out the rumors of a woman who kept a toad. He “proved” that witches weren’t real by proving her familiar was a real toad and not a demon. Toads are a common witch familiar, but the most famous of course of witch familiars is the cat. In Irish lore, the demon cat gray malkin is witch’s familiar.
However really almost any animal can be a witch familiar, it just matters that the animal displays a magical connection to the practitioner. Not all witches pets are familiars, but I think that when your pet displays special interests or talents you will know it. It can’t be forced. I have had many pets in my life, but so far only one familiar, my cat.
My Cat came to my life from a box in a friends basement, although there were seven in her litter, from the first time I visited her box, she just stared up at me purred and ignored everything else, all her brothers and sisters writhing around, her mother, everything but me was not there for Cat. I kept visiting Cat from 2 weeks to seven weeks every few days until I could wean her and take her home with me. We brought one of her brothers along too, and he was a good cat, but not as magical as her. My familiar displayed an interest in my magical objects right away, and always had to inspect them. Cat will sit on top of any novel I am reading, but she just rubs her cheek on magical books. When I started astrally traveling, I was surprised that Cat joined me right away and started showing me places and things. Cat can do all sorts of amazing things like sprout wings in the otherworld. My Cat is talented at charming birds, she sings to the crows and they watch her from the neighbors roof curiously. I am so blessed with such a skilled and loving familiar.
Often it seems as though a familiar chooses you. Many a familiar were the runt of the litter that won the witch’s heart, a stray or wild animal that came into the home and joined the household. And of course some familiars were chosen special from a pet shop and a special ritual was done to cement the magical relationship.
The next sign that the animal is a familiar is that it displays unusual abilities, or shows an interest in participating respectfully in your witchery. A dog might help with warding by barking or growling while the ward is being cast. A cat might charm birds. A familiar can usually can keep bad spirits away or at least mark their presence.
Some familiars will join you while you cross the hedge and others will invite you to see through their eyes or ride them. Legends tell of witches who traveled to Sabbats by turning into animals or by riding their familiars there. If your pet communicates that it wants you to try seeing things from its point of view you might be very surprised at the new world you are opened up too. Your familiar might have you actually ride its consciousness or it might just show you new perspectives to take.