It’s one of those classic witchy images: a witch and her cat. A lot of witches we know have at least one cat, but in the realm of familiars, that’s not your only option, and in the realm of witchcraft, it’s by no means a requirement to have one.
A familiar is an animal (or spirit) companion who lends you extra energy, helps to keep you centered both in and out of ritual situations, improves your quality of life, and often will serve as a guide through the spirit world during meditations and trancework (this is, perhaps, one of the reasons why it’s so often a cat; cats are thought to be very familiar with the spirit world and at getting around in it).
If you think you might want a familiar of your own, there are some questions you should ask yourself:
– What animal most calls to you, and where can you find it? Cats and dogs are easy to find from pet shelters and newspaper adds and friends, but if you’re pulled to something more exotic, it might take you a long time or a lot of money to get one as a pet. Additionally, if the animal you’re most drawn to is a wild animal or a large or dangerous one, you won’t be able to have it as a pet, and maybe you should look into working with a Totem instead of a familiar.
If your unusual animal is the reason for a local rescue or a farm, maybe you can get a job there or can volunteer there so you have a chance to build a personal and working relationship with the creature– but doing direct spellwork in a farm or rescue might be… frowned upon, to say the least.
– Do you have the time and space to share your life with a new animal? There’s all the issues of having any pet here: can you afford to spend time with it? Can you take the time to help it adapt to your house and your schedule and life? Can you afford to feed it and take it to the vet and get it registered? If these basic-needs questions are ‘no’, then having a living creature in your house is probably a bad idea.
– Do you have the time to develop a working relationship with the animal? And if you do, do you also have the flexibility in your practice or tradition to incorporate what they teach you? Especially with cats, since they’re basically little balls of entropy and chaos covered in fur, things frequently go a different direction then you thought, spiritually, and physically, they tend to like knocking things over and stealing shiny objects off the altar– can you support that sort of disruption, and even thrive on it?
If you can answer yes to all or most of these questions, congratulations! You’re ready to find yourself a familiar and start learning from them! Just remember: this is a spiritual partnership. You aren’t the boss of that little creature or it’s free will, and if you don’t work well together, you can’t force it. Just keep looking. The Universe will bring you what you need if you honestly need it.