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Mama Deb
mamadeb
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Mama Deb [userpic]
HP: Pets or familiars?

We all know that the students of Hogwarts are permitted animals - to quote the letter, "Students may also bring an owl OR a cat OR a toad." It also seems that rats are permitted, given "Scabbers."

The question is, are they pets or are they familiars?

Well, certainly cats and toads have always been on the list of familiars, and while I haven't heard of owls or rats, neither seems particularly unlikely. Indeed, my first thought was, "Oh, familiars. Neat."

And many stories and rpgs seems to go along with that thought. It makes perfect sense in a school of witchcraft and wizardry, doesn't it?

Let's say that everyone is right. Here's what I would expect, then:

1. Animals would be required along with books, robes and cauldrons.
2. They would be used in some form of classwork.
3. They would be referred to as familiars in the course of the books.
4. There could be no subsititute.

None of these conditions are true. Hermione doesn't get Crookshanks until her third year, and we don't hear about animals for Ginny or the twins. Nor do we hear about adults having animals other than the elderly Errol.

We never see them used in class, except for Snape's use of Trevor that one time, and that was cruelty, not magic. The only ones truly used at all are the owls, who are the most popular because they are so useful. But if one does not have an owl or doesn't want to use one's own, there are public owls available - the owls in the Hogwarts Owlery for the students and teachers and the ones in the Hogsmead Owl Post Office. Also, people quite happily borrow owls from friends, which does implies ownership but not connection.

And we never see them called familiars - the word doesn't appear in that sense in the books. Pettigrew calls himself a "pet" ("Haven't I been a good pet?") and earlier, Ron tells Lavendar, grieving over her lost bunny, that Hermione doesn't "care about other people's pets." His use of "other people's" implies that she does care what happens to her *own* pet - Crookshanks.

I've already addressed the exclusivity issue - Harry can use Pig or any of the school owls as well as Hedwig.

I can also knock down these arguments: familiars need not be required, just permitted, for example, and those with familiars will learn how to make use of them (other than as postal owls) when they are ready, presumably in sixth or seventh year. Just because Rowling doesn't use the word doesn't mean that they aren't familiars (just like the whole "wards" thing - she may call them protection charms, etc, but they're still wards.) And whose to say that one can't use another's owl just for mail purposes?

However, until we see differently in books 6 and 7, I think the evidence as presented in the books points to the animals being pets, with owls as particularly useful ones.

Comments

I agree, I didn't think of them as familiars. It also seems unlikely that families would share them and pass them down (as the Weasleys do) if that were the case.

I would think if they were familiars we'd see at least one older witch or wizard who has an animal companion but unless you count Fawkes, who I think is not a familiar, I can't think of any offhand. (Filch has Mrs. Norris but Filch is a squib, and so is Arabella Figg.)

Huh. Is there something about squibs and cats?

We only have a sample of two, so it's hard to say.

From the snitch. :)

Both of their cats, though, seem to be useful to them in ways that normal cats aren't to the average Muggle. Could it be a possibility that Squibs do have familiars, whereas wizards don't find them particularly necessary?

I'm actually commenting on your icon.

Because she *is* truly frightening. If Fudge is out of power in book 6, it's entirely due to *her*.

I've been assuming pets, perhaps with magically-enhanced communication (in the case of the owls, at least).

I haven't read anything past book 3 yet, in case that matters.

Not for this - if anything, the "pets" have a smaller presence after that book.

Which tells me even more that they aren't familiars.

But then why would they be permitted? Huh.

I'd assumed the phoenix was filling that slot for Dumbledore.

Nod. It is possible.

Phoenixes are hardly traditional familiars, but then, they wouldn't be, and why should Dumbledore do anything normal?

[Here via DS or QQ]

Here's a thought: maybe kids are encouraged to have pets now to help them learn how to care for one, because they might want a familiar later on?

I can't help but think there must be advanced or esoteric forms of magic that are not normally taught at Hogwarts; perhaps the use of familiars falls into one of those categories.

Cats, owls and toads - animals with magic powers?

Here via Daily Snitch.

I think the concept of familiars doesn't exist in the HP world, but the quote from the letter from Book 1 indicates that those particular 3 kinds of pets are special. I think that owls, cats and toads are magical animals - something like magical creatures, only we Muggles don't realise that.
We know about the role of owls in the wizard world - they are messengers. It seems that cats can communicate with humans and that's why squibs keep them, to make up for their lack of magic. And toads - we know absolutely nothing about their role, but they are bound to have one. There has to be an important revelation about Trevor!