Written by: Sarah Jayne Portelli, Director/Producer – Cats of Malta


There are many reasons why I believe that felines are pure magic. The strongest reason I can find however to support this bold statement does not lie in the ancient scriptures left behind by the Pharaohs who worshipped cats like Gods.

Put simply, I have experienced first hand that cats have this natural, innate sense of emotional deepness. An intuition, an ability to tap into human emotions and the human world that’s stronger and unmatched by the human race and it lies in their overall existence. The first time I witnessed the power of feline intuition and their ability and tap into human emotions was many years ago while I grieved for the sudden loss of my childhood friend Samantha. At the time I was living in Sydney with my boyfriend and his house cat, Mittens. The news coming from back home in Melbourne hit me like a ton of bricks.

Mittens was not a friendly housemate, quite the opposite most of the time. The feline was a former stray turned live in house cat. She was an overweight and often defensive, smoky grey feline, a character to be wary of and not pat often. This cat would not let you get close to her without lashing out and Mittens, like other cats had her daily routine which we humans had to follow. What I was yet to discover was that there was more to Mittens, her outlandish behaviour and demanding temperament.

Mittens’ morning routine would include rushing into the kitchen first thing, boisterous as soon as she saw we were up. She would head but the kitchen cupboard door at least twice, meow loudly, pacing around or circling our feet if we were there before her. Her mission clear – the cupboard contained cat food, and she wanted to eat.

The morning following the news, her behaviour, routine and her approach towards me shifted.

While standing in the kitchen, leaning my back on the bench unable to move, numb with sadness, tears flowing in big giant sobs, I looked up at Mittens, whose large frame had appeared in the doorway. We had a moment, me an this rebel cat. We held each others gaze. She did not approach for her food that morning and it was not because I was blocking the cupboard. That had never stopped her in the past.

That morning, Mittens sat unmoved and silenced in the doorway, quietly she looking up at me, and I down at her while continuing with my personal grieving. That day she did not do her usual routine, instead Mittens waited until I was able to provide her food. Mitten’s did however spend a lot of time watching me quietly from a distance. She was normally talkative, a bit unruly in her actions, but that was on pause while I grieved. She did this for a few days and I, this human, this dog person who understood nothing about cats realised that she knew I was in emotional pain.

She knew.

Back in Melbourne, while attending Samantha’s wake, her husband Jason revealed to me that their three cats had been sleeping on Samantha’s pillow, huddled together every night since she had passed. Ever since Samantha had left home for work on her motorcycle that morning and not returned home to her family. They missed her, they sensed Jason’s loss and grief, and like Mittens, these felines knew.

These two instances, along with other stories I have heard from friends about unexplainable moments they have witnessed their cats take part in revealed a truth to me – cats have an intuition that humans can not match. They feel emotions and they absorb human vibration. They are magic in animal form. Cat magic is a thing.

No wonder Egyptians held these mystical creatures in high regard. Ever since that encounter with Mittens and Jason’s revelation, I’ve been fascinated with cats and their power. My realisation further strengthened by stories, unbelievable to some, relayed from friends about their cats interacting with spirits of family members long gone from this world, playing with them as they did when the deceased were physically in our realm.

Now that we are in the midst of a pandemic, which has lasted over a year, the human way of life and our routines have been thrown into utter chaos. There is a rise of uncertainty on so many fronts, the anxiety that comes with financial insecurity and a rise in mental illness and unbalance is what most of us are experiencing lately.

Luckily we have cats to step in as emotional healers.

Last year, while directing my companies documentary Cats of Malta, about the stray cats that live on the island, I was often reminded by the interview subjects of that experience I shared with Mittens.

With documentary filmmaking, a director goes into the job thinking about what kind of story could come out of these interviews. In the moment, you direct the subjects and the action as best you can. I had set questions and an overall vibe to was aim for, however documentary varies to narrative story telling, as I was quickly learning. The story comes out later with documentary, when a story thread is found.

Watching back the footage we discovered cats are emotional healers – and collectively Malta’s stray cats are somewhat like Shaman. Personally, I find that spending time with cats is calming and meditative. While filming and even prior to the documentary process while I volunteering my time at cat sanctuaries, this was always the case.

The story thread for Cats of Malta was simple and plain in the end – an ‘of course’ moment that came to my-coproducer and I while speaking to our human interview subjects and from watching the footage back days later. Cats, with all their quirks, strange temperament, the nocturnal need to hunt while we sleep, and their unapologetic cattitude offer humans so much. Felines provide unconditional love, their existence alone, coupled with their natural emotional intuition, plus their calming purrs have the ability to calm, heal human trauma and contribute to a reduction in stress – they improve health. That is their cat magic. Their reason for existence.

All hail cats!

I dare you to watch a cat video on YouTube or TikTok and not smile or burst out laughing.

While at The Cat Village Spinola Bay interviewing Roza for Cats of Malta, she happily and matter-of-factly stated that “for the little that you give them, they give you so much. Cats extend life”. Personally, I can’t argue with that.

The now undeniable truth is that I’ve experienced cat magic and it’s bewitched me, transforming me into a cat convert and I’m more than okay with it. It’s easy to understand why there are so many proud cat owners in this new found community of cat people I’m now a part of. I’m super excited to share Cats of Malta with this community of people and cats, and the world really soon!
There is currently a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to help Sarah Jayne and her company Nexus Production Group complete Cats of Malta in the post-production stages. You can watch the video, read the story behind the film, share and contribute here – www.CatsofMaltaFilm.com