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What Kind of Cat Was Professor McGonagall in Harry Potter? Cinema Felines Presented

Cassidy Sutton

By Cassidy Sutton

Professor McGonagall as a cat from th movie Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone

Professor McGonagall is easily a favorite character amongst Harry Potter fans, and even more adored by cat lovers. Her most notable characteristic is her ability to turn into a cat, and cat-loving Harry Potter fans want to know what kind of cat she is.

So, here it is: Professor Minerva McGonagall morphs into a tabby cat and uses her skills to teach transfiguration at Hogwarts. She even uses her skills to be a war spy during the First Wizarding War.

Pretty cool, isn’t it? Well, there’s more to learn, so sit up straight. Class is in session.

Why Does Professor McGonagall Turn into a Cat?

On top of being a half-blooded witch, Professor McGonagall is an animagus, meaning she can morph into an animal at will without the use of a wand or incantation.

Dumbledore taught Professor McGonagall everything she knew when she was a student at Hogwarts. Becoming an animagus isn’t hereditary. Rather, it’s an ability that takes time to master, and not many wizards and witches have done so. But Professor McGonagall is the exception. She mastered the skill as a student and, turns out, her animagus form is a tabby cat.

If you’re a fantasy nerd, you know that magic has limits. Animagi can’t change into any animal they choose, and they can only become one species. When they do transform, an animagus’ animal form is based on personality and physical traits.

When Professor Minerva McGonagall transforms into a cat, identifying circles surround the cat’s eyes where her glasses would normally rest.

Professor McGonagall as a human from Harry Potter Movies
Image Credit: Characters by J.K. Rowling. Property of  Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved to the copyright owners.

Minerva McGonagall Using Her Abilities

Professor McGonagall used her skills during the First Wizarding War as a war spy for the Ministry of Magic. She spied on death eaters as a cat and then brought the information to the Aurors.

What Kind of Cat Is a Tabby?

Contrary to popular belief, tabby cats aren’t their own breed. Tabby is actually a coat pattern. Because their coats are so obvious, it’s easier for people to identify cats with tabby coats as just tabbies. The most notable feature is the famous tabby “M” shape on the forehead.

There are five unique tabby coat patterns:
  • Classic tabby: The most common tabby pattern (also known as blotched or marble), this pattern has a combination of stripes and circular swirls with a bullseye design on the back and an M on the forehead.
  • Ticked tabby: Has agouti hair but the legs and face feature classic tabby lines including the tabby M.
  • Striped tabby: Striped (or mackerel) tabbies have dark, thin vertical stripes that resemble a fish skeleton, including around the eyes.
  • Spotted tabby: Similar to the classic or striped tabby, except the coat pattern has small or large spots instead of stripes.
  • Orange tabby: Any tabby pattern in the color orange.

So which one is Professor McGonagall? If you look closely at the movies, you’ll see the cat’s coat pattern has some stripes around the shoulders with a bullseye design on the back—she’s a classic tabby.

tabby british shorthair cat walking
Image Credit: PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek, Shutterstock

The Cat Actor Behind the Scenes

The cat actor that played McGonagall’s animagus form is named Mrs. P. Head. This sassy kitty didn’t need any makeup or cat-friendly products during production.

To direct Mrs. P. Head, trainers from American Humane used treats and buzzers to lead the cats during the scenes. One of the most well-known scenes in the first book/movie The Philosopher’s Stone is when Mrs. P. Head (Professor McGonagall in her animagus form) is sitting on the desk. She jumps off the desk and transforms into Professor McGonagall.

In that scene, Mrs. P. Head wore a transparent safety harness while the trainer sat under the desk, hidden from the camera. When Mrs. P. Head jumped, the trainers released the harness. The rest was left up to the special effects people.

It’s unknown if Mrs. P. Head is still alive, but it’s unlikely given the first movie was made back in 2001. Even so, she lives on in our hearts and on the big screen, forever known as Professor Minerva McGonagall.

Conclusion

Professor Minerva McGonagall will always be our favorite classic tabby cat. Mrs. P. Head, the cat that played her, was just as sassy as the character. Who better to play the role? It’s almost as if Mrs. P. Head was the professor herself.


Featured Image Credit: Characters by J.K. Rowling. Property of Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved to the copyright owners.

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