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Dogs guard; cats watch... and judge
~ Salem Saberhagen

Salem Saberhagen is a character from the American comic Sabrina the Teenage Witch, who also appeared in all other adaptations of the original, including the 1969 animated version by Filmation in which Salem is an American Shorthair breed, and has no other name except "Salem". In addition, unlike the sitcom version, this Salem is only a cat, and could only meow. In the comic and other adaptations, Salem is a warlock sentenced to be a talking cat for a predetermined amount of time. (A mini-series titled The Magical Tales Of Young Salem related adventures of Salem before he was transformed.) The rest of this article will deal with the version of the character as seen in the TV sitcom.

He is voiced by Nick Bakay who also voiced Norbert the Beaver.


He has a barbed wit and is often the first character to come up with the one-liners or obvious puns in a scene. In addition to world domination, his ambitious plotting often includes attempts to make millions, become a famous celebrity, regain his magical powers, and become human again. He sometimes dispenses (bad) advice to Sabrina, often involving using magic to solve a problem, which usually ends up leaving Sabrina with even more problems than she began with. He is motivated mostly by his greed, hunger, and ambition. Salem is very proud of his singing voice, which he has shown off during the series. Some of his favorite pastimes are playing with yarn, lint spotting, surfing the internet, and reading Sabrina's diary. In the early part of the series, Salem is seen feuding with the neighbor's cat, Fluffy. He has a liking for Lizard Flakes, a snack for cats which is said to be fattening and full of cholesterol. In the show's pilot, he made the remark to Sabrina that he misses being able to dance. In some episodes, Salem acts more like a cat than a human, as if he was really one all along. Despite his mischief, greed, and egocentricity, he is shown in many episodes to really care about, and even love, the Spellmans, especially Sabrina, and also is very fond of Harvey. Harvey learned Salem's true side some time around the end of high school.


Salem was a warlock, sentenced to spend 100 years as an American Shorthair cat with no magical powers (although in the comic [depending on the story], he retains limited powers) by the Witch's Council, as punishment for his attempt to take over the world. However, in the film, he was cursed to spend a century as a cat because he had kissed a mortal (due to the fact he had used his powers to impress them). At the beginning of the television series, he had already served 25 years. Salem generally serves as some of the show's comic relief, with his rapid fire jokes and deadpan manner. Despite his megalomaniacal desires for world domination, he is generally portrayed as having a good heart and being a loyal friend to Sabrina. In the series he would generally serve two roles: one as a mentor for Sabrina, as she found it easier to go to him with her messier problems, or the trouble-maker in the episode, such as finding an illicit way to become human again without being punished convincing Sabrina to use magic to solve her problems, both of which generally ended up putting Sabrina in even more trouble than before. He has shown on multiple occasions to deeply care about Sabrina; in the fourth season, when Sabrina left to live with her father in Paris, Salem missed her terribly and went so far as to start a civil war on Pluto in order to get her back to Westbridge. Salem supposedly erased the holiday Bobunk, as said in Christmas Amnesia

The leaders of his attempted revolution were also turned into house pets. Newt, the pet of Hilda and Zelda's cousin Monty, was heavily involved with the scheme, for the promised reward of Denmark. Another follower, Duke (played by Dick Van Dyke), had a reduced sentence and was set free during the series, though Salem tried to use him to take over the world again. A talking guinea pig named Stonehenge ("Stony" for short) was introduced in the first made-for-television film, but whether or not he was ever human is unknown. Hilda was also one of Salem's followers; her punishment was to keep Salem free of worms during his period as a feline although she was pardoned at the end of season five. During season one, Salem was visited by his parole officer, to whom he insisted that his reformation is under way, but he accidentally lets it slip that he still yearns for control of the planet.


Members of Salem's blood family include his daughter, Annabelle, whom Salem loves dearly but doesn't interact with much due to his shame about being a cat. Salem managed to make it to her wedding and performed all the duties of father of the bride that he could in his furry state. His mother visited Salem and pampered him to the point Sabrina missed her own mother and went to visit her. It is revealed later in the episode that Salem's mother, ironically, is allergic to cats. Another member is Salem's grandfather, who is a hobo riding the rails of an Other Realm train. According to Salem, Salem's grandmother claims he (Salem's grandfather) was lost at sea. He also mentioned having an uncle Goliath and Morty. In one episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Salem mentions that his father's name was Gummo, implying that he died.

Salem often uses Yiddish words and mentioned his cousin's Cheryl's Bat Mitzvah in Sabrina in Wonderland [episode 154], so he is probably Jewish.


Mrs. Saberhagen, Salem's mother. She was strict but well-meaning and didn't know that Salem was a cat until she came to visit him. She pampered him and he loved it. But she found out that she was allergic to cats and had to leave early.

Uncle Morty is Salem's uncle. He is rude and has no manners.

Gummo is Salem's father. Mentioned.

Annabelle is Salem's daughter.

Punit Mistry is Salem's first son, twice removed.

Uncle Goliath, Salem's uncle. Mentioned.

Grandpa, Salem's grandfather,works the trains as seen on 'Murder on the Halloween express'

Cheryl, Salem's cousin. Mentioned

Grandma, Salem's grandmother.

Other versions

Aside from the original comic, he appeared in the live-action film, along with the TV series it spawned, as well as Sabrina, the Animated Series, the movie Sabrina: Friends Forever, and its spin-off show Sabrina's Secret Life. However, prior to any of these adaptations, Salem appeared in Filmation's 1969 animated version (which began as a segment on The Archie Comedy Hour) as previously mentioned in this article. {A running gag on the Filmation version is Salem in a feud with Jughead's dog "Hot Dog" and "Chili Dog"-a smaller red-haired version of "Hot Dog"}. The sitcom version also made a guest appearance on the shows Boy Meets World, You Wish, and Teen Angel during the fall of 1997.

In the original comic version of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Salem's full name was Salem Plottsworth. Additionally, he was turned into a cat for standing up Enchantra at the altar, instead of for attempting world domination. A similar tale was told in the live-action film, where he was imprisoned in the form of a cat for attempting to use his magic to make a mortal love him. The original comic character's background was retconned in the Tania del Rio manga-inspired version of the comic to a history that fit more in with Salem's history from the sitcom. His name in the comics was also changed to Salem Saberhagen as well.

The sitcom model

The sitcom's creators were very sensitive to the treatment of animals, so Salem was often played by an animatronic puppet rather than one of the 4 actual cats who are used for the non-dialogue scenes.The four trained cats portraying the character were named Elvis, Lucy, Salem and Witch. This part was performed by three puppeteers and two different animatronic puppets. The mechanical Salems were originally made by Animal Makers, but in early 1998 they were fired, and their puppets were replaced with ones made by Chiodo Brothers. The new mechanical Salem(s) were controlled by 3 puppeteers, who could manipulate Salem's body in more than 30 ways via rod, cables, and radio control. Animal Makers posted a video of some of the puppets highlights on its website. In the sitcom and DIC versions, Salem was voiced by actor Nick Bakay(in the Filmation version, Salem's meows were provided by Mel Blanc). In one sitcom episode Salem says he needs to make a phone call for Nick Bakay for Sports Section on TV, saying, "I need to call in to Nick Bakay's sports show on ESPN radio. All he ever talks about is the Buffalo Bills, and his voice? LORD, is it annoying!"

In a few instances where his human form is shown in flashbacks, he is portrayed with his face in shadows, but with a body type and militaristic uniform similar to Fidel Castro (Castro himself is depicted as being a friend of Salem).