The notion of a familiar has been around for many years, and has its roots in Shamanism and Native American cultures. These wise people had a different kind of familiar that they could use for guidance, who came to them in times of need, and protected them from harm. For the Native Americans, they believed that your familiar comes to you in the dream world. They appear before you as you sleep, and offer their services as a faithful guardian, often allowing you to change your physical shape and run as they do. Upon waking, the animal is then carved out in wood or painted on stone so that the familiar is with you at all times. The Native Americans also use other animals depending on the nature of the power needed, but the personal familiar will always be present when the crossing over to the astral world happens.
For a western witch, finding a familiar works in a similar way, although it is most likely that a physical animal will be found rather than a totem animal. That's not to say that totem animals aren't use is western witchcraft, but the instances are less often. The witch will often find themselves drawn to a particular animal, and will have a deep affinity to an animal they consider a pet of theirs. Again, there are many different animals that have been named as familiars, such as cats, rats, horses, spiders, lizards, and even pigs have found themselves safely in their owners houses.
The cat has been the animal linked to those practicing witchcraft for many years. During the Middle Ages, and up to the late 18th century, people who kept black cats were more likely to be targeted as being a witch, due to a fear that the cat was inhabited by the spirit of the Devil, and would harm them while they slept. In some countries, cats were considered to be witches in disguise, and so sadly suffered the same fate as the people who were convicted of witchcraft due to their nocturnal habits. Today, most witches feel attuned to the cat, as they are solitary creatures and are able to pick up on the emotions of their owner without needed to be too close. This enables the witch to complete his or her rituals as and when they arise.
About the Author:
Considered a Gythia (Asatru High Priestess) among her Coven, Julia Roslyn Antle is a master of divination and dream interpretation. Her wisdom is sought-after by her peers, her colleagues as well as the public. http://www.7witches.net