In the Harry Potter series we don't get to know a lot about pet cats. We know of Hermione Granger, Millicent Bulstrode, and Argus Filch, having a pet cat. Also, Professor McGonagall's animagus form is the one of a cat. But cats have had a strong relation with magic and were greatly feared. Even nowadays, superstitious people are scared of cats. Want to know more? Well, let’s the lesson begin!
Cats and Magic
Like with toads, cats have also been related with magic, and especially with witches, since ancient times. In the 16th century, cats were believed to be the witches’ pets, and people thought that they could communicate with their owners. In some places of Scotland, for example, this belief was so rooted, that people wouldn’t address important issues if a cat was in the room. This was because they feared that the cat would talk about it with a witch and later she would use that information against them.
But for some people, cats were not only witches’ spies! Some people believed that cats were actually witches! A judge from the 16th century that led lots of witch trials, called Nicholas Remy, assured that most of the witches he had met could easily transform into cats when they wished to enter somebody else’s home. It was said that witches could only transform into cats seven times, or nine if they were English, because each transfiguration represented one of the many lives that cats were supposed to have.
Cats were seen as demons that served a witch and helped her to accomplish all her cruel ideas, which could be to kill cattle or other animals, bring diseases to her enemies, or even the death. In the west of England, many witnesses declared that they had seen “the black evil witch of Fraddam”, flying over a big black cat, whenever she went looking for venoms and magical herbs. It is no wonder that with all these rumors and beliefs that were going around, people would be terrified of cats as much as they were of witches!
But this reputation of cats has not always been the same! Before muggles started to be afraid of them, cats were well treated. Even more, in ancient Egypt they were worshiped! At first they were related with Bastet, the goddess of fertility, who was represented with the body of a woman and the head of a cat. All cats that were selected to live in temples were treated very well, feeding them with bread, milk and fishes. Then, cats started to be considered gods. Killing a cat, even if it was by accident, was considered a crime that could be punished with death. When a cat died it was important to bury it with the best of respects, which meant that it must be embalmed because it was believed that embalming allowed the death to come back to life.
All this worship that Egyptians had towards cats may have come from the fact that they protected barns against rats because they didn’t like them. Also, since some Egyptians had seen cats killing snakes, they believed they were their natural enemies, which was well seen because snakes were a symbol of evil. Besides that, the excellent night vision cats have and the way their eyes can reflect light, made them believed that cats could read the mind and see the future. Finally, the static in the cat’s hair, which varied depending if the air was dry or wet, made them believe they could predict the future. I bet cats enjoyed being attached with these characteristics, for it caused Egyptians to treat them well and with great respect!
Cat Superstitions and Beliefs
If a cat is playful or passes a paw over its ears, it will rain.
If a cat cleans its whiskers, you will have a visitor; but if the cat stretches its legs towards the fire, the visitor will be a stranger.
If a cat sneezes near a bride on her wedding day, she will have a happy marriage.
If a cat sneezes three consecutive times, everybody in the house will catch a co
A black cat is lucky or unlucky, depending on where you live
If a cat crosses or jumps over the coffin, the dead person’s spirit will return as a ghost.
Cats “suck the breath” of the babies.
It is considered of good luck if a cat is onboard a ship.
Care of your Cat
There is a controversy regarding which housing system is better. Some people like to keep their cats indoors, while others prefer outdoors. Some people choose both, and some cats spend all day outside and only return to their homes at night to sleep, or to protect from bad weather. Some people say that to keep cats indoors is better because it protects them from outside dangers like cars or diseases. Others argue that is better an outside cat because it will know how to take care of itself. It’s up to you which type of cat you want, but no matter what your decision is, it is important that you identify your cat with a tag or collar, which, as seen in lesson 1, must include your name, address, and telephone number.
If you choose to keep your cat outside, a box with a blanket or towel, or even a small doghouse, will be fine to shelter your cat, and protect it from cold weather.
If your cat stays indoors, you may want to purchase a cat house, although some cats may only seek for a chair or pillow in a quiet room.
For both type of cats a litter box will be needed because they will try to bury their wastes. This litter box must be cleaned and disinfected regularly.
Most cats will need a scratching post to shape their claws. Outdoors cats may use a tree to do this, but indoors cats most likely will use furniture. Save the house elves the job of repairing the armchairs of your common room, and construct your own scratching post!
In the supermarkets you can find a big variety of commercial cat foods. These foods are formulated differently according to age, athleticism, or general heath. Choose what best suites your cat! Also try to find food that your cat likes.
The most common type of foods that are sold are dry kibble and canned wet food. The first ones are less expensive and can be stored for longer periods of time without spoiling. Also they can help to keep your cat’s teeth clean. On the other hand, most cats will find more delicious the canned or wet food than the dry one. This food spoils quicker, so if your cat doesn’t finish it you can cover it and place it in the refrigerator or if you are not sure if the food is still good, you may prefer to discard it.
Limit the amount of treats you give to your cat. Many of these treats do not have good nutritional value, and if offered very often, your cat may not be hungry for its nutritious meals. Treats may also lead to obesity if offered very often.
Remember; avoid feeding your cat with table scraps. They can cause digestive upset, obesity, and bad behaviors. Also some human food like chocolate, onion, or onion salt can be poisonous to cats. In addition, you shouldn’t feed bones to your cat. They can choke them and cause damage to their digestive track.
Health and Cleaning
Grooming requirements will depend on the type of coat your cat has. Most cats will spend hours grooming themselves, but since they do that by licking themselves, they may ingest a big amount of hair every day, causing them problems. It is suggested that you brush your cat regularly. This will not only help you to identify problems like bumps or external parasites, but also to strengthen your bond with your beloved cat. Be gentle while grooming your cat, s/he will appreciate it!
Cats bath themselves on a regular basis, but despite of that, it is recommended that you bath your cat form time to time. Just don’t do it very often since it can irritate or dry its skin! When bathing your cat, remember to use warm water, not too hot and not too cold. Uses a shampoo specifically formulated for cats, and after the bath, make sure your cat stays warm.
Nail clipping and teeth cleaning will also maintain your cat clean and healthy. The first one will be more difficult and two people may be needed to do this. When clipping your cat’s nails, do it carefully. If you cut too far from your pet’s claws, you can harm it! About teeth cleaning, do it in a regular basis and using special cat toothpastes and toothbrushes.
Exercising will also keep your cat healthy. Spend some time with it and play with it! There are a great amount of toys out there that will make your pet happy!
Vaccinations are also important for keeping your cat healthy and avoiding that it contracts an illness. Don’t forget to go whenever your veterinarian tells you is your cat’s next injection. Keep a journal in which you note down these important dates.
Finally, your cat is healthy if: it is active and has bright, clear eyes; teeth and claws are strong; the coat is shiny, doesn’t have bald patches, and its free of large tangles; your cat appears bright, alert, and responsive.
Diseases: Again, the following is just a description of some diseases that your pet cat can suffer, that will help you to recognize symptoms. Please consult your vet if your pet happens to be ill.
External parasites: Parasites, like ticks, mites, and fleas, living on the cat by sucking its blood. Transmitted from one infected animal to another or through contact with infected carpet or vegetation. Symptoms: Itching, irritation, itchy or smelly ears.
Diabetes: Disorder in which the cat’s body is unable to produce insulin. May be caused by diet, but usually, the cause is unknown. Symptoms: increased drinking, increased urination, weight loss.
Distemper: Highly contagious viral disease transmitted by contact with infected animals, body fluids, parasites, or food or water bowls. Symptoms: diarrhea, yellow or white vomit, anorexia, excessive drinking, lethargy, depression.
Infectious Peritonitis: Viral infection in the respiratory or digestive tract. May be transmitted through contact with infected animals, although transmission is not fully understood. Symptoms: eye or nasal discharge, vomiting, diarrhea, dark urine, lack of appetite, depression.
Leukemia: Highly contagious viral infection that suppresses the immune system. Transmitted through contact with infected cats, body fluids, feces, or food or water bowl. Symptoms:They may not be presented until years after the infection. Includes abdominal tumors, anemia, and swollen lymph nodes.
Lower Urinary Tract Disease: Combination of infections that affect the urinary tract, causing residue building in the urinary tract due to aging or poor diet. Symptoms: bloody urine, frequent urination, difficulty urinating, inability to urinate, depression, loss of appetite.
Rabies: Disease that affects the central nervous system and leads to death. Transmitted by infected saliva, usually through a bite, that penetrates the skin. Symptoms: depression, lethargy, loss of appetite, convulsions, paralysis.
Respiratory Infection: Viral agents that affect the cat’s respiratory tract. It is what we may commonly call as a cold. Transmitted through contact with other infected animals or viruses found in the air. Symptoms: nasal discharge, sneezing, eye discharge, nasal congestion, depression, lethargy.
Cat Hall of Fame
Crookshanks: Part cat and part kneazle, Crookshanks is Hermione Granger’s pet cat. First met in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Crookshanks is big, ginger-colored, and with a “squashed head”. He was purchased by Hermione at the Magical Menagerie in Diagon Alley, using the money her parents gave her as a birthday gift. Crookshanks played an important role in Prisoner of Azkaban, helping Sirius Black to enter Hogwarts Castle, and stealing Neville Longbottom’s passwords so Sirius could enter the Gryffindor Tower and finish with Peter Pettigrew.
Mrs.Norris: The pet cat of Argus Filch, Mrs. Norris is a very unpleasant cat that students can’t stand! Mrs. Norris wanders the hallways of Hogwarts searching for troublemakers. It seems that she has a mental connection with her owner, for whenever she finds someone breaking the rules, Filch appears within seconds. Mrs. Norris has big yellow eyes, dust-colored fur, and skeletal body.
Salem Saberhagen: This cat appeared in the T.V. show “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch”, which was based on an American Comic with the same name. Salem is a warlock who was sentenced by the Witch’s Council to spend 100 years as a cat with no magical powers, due to his attempt to take over the world. Salem lives with the Spellman family (Hilda Spellman was one of his followers when he was trying to take over the world, and her punishment was to keep Salem free of worms while he was a cat!), and often advices Sabrina to use magic whenever she is in trouble. Unfortunately, his advices often cause her even more problems! Salem was voiced by Nick Bakay in the T.V. show.
Thackery Binks: Is a cat that appears in the movie “Hocus Pocus”, a film made by Disney. Victim of the Sanderson sisters (Winifred, Mary, and Sarah), Thackery Binks was a boy that was turned into an immortal black cat when he tried to save his sister from the evil hands of these three witches. His attempt fails, and his sister dies. The sisters are judged and killed, but before dying they cast a spell in which they promise to return when someone with certain characteristics lights the “Black Flame candle”. 300 years after, the candle is lightened by Max Dennison, causing the witches to come back.Thackery Binks joins Max, his sister Danni, and Allison, the girl he likes, to help them get rid of these witches once and for all!
Garfield: He is the main character of Jim Davis’ comic strip “Garfield”. Garfield is a lazy, fat, selfish, orange cat, born on June 19, 1978, in the kitchen of Mama Leone’s Italian Restaurant, weighting 5 pounds and six ounces. His love for Italian food, and specially lasagna, forced the restaurant owner to choose between the cat and closing his restaurant due to lack of lasagna! Of course, he chose to keep his restaurant, and sold Garfield to a pet store, where he was found by Jon Arbuckle and lives with him since then. Garfield loves eating, but don’t give him cat food or vegetables because he dislikes them! After eating he longs to sleep! He really hates Mondays, but he loves scaring the mailman; stealing his neighbors’ food; tormenting Jon; kicking Odie, the dog, of a table; and Pooky, his teddy bear.
The Master Cat: Also known as “Puss in Boots”, this cat comes from an European fairy tale that has many variants and adaptations, although the most known one is the version collected by Charles Perrault in his Mother Goose Tales. It is the story of a very smart and witty cat, who likes wearing boots, and that helps his master to acquire wealth by marrying with the princess. More about this cat will be known in your extra credit of this mont
Finally that was all for this month! Thank you for those of you who stayed with me after such a lengthy lesson! This occasion there was more material to cover, but I hope you enjoyed it and was worth your time! Now you are free to go and do your assignment.
The Sorcerer's Companion by Allan Zola Kronzek and Elizabeth Kronzek