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McGonagall and Umbridge both have cat Patronuses.

The moment he had passed the place where the Patronus cat patrolled, he felt the change in temperature: It was warm and comfortable here. The Patronus, he was sure, was Umbridge’s, and it glowed brightly because she was so happy here, in her element, upholding the twisted laws she had helped to write.
(Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Chapter 13)


She marched toward the door, and as she did so she raised her wand. From the tip burst three silver cats with spectacle markings around their eyes.
(Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Chapter 30)

Why is this? To quote from Pottermore,

The Patronus represents that which is hidden, unknown but necessary within the personality

What character trait do they share?

Why do McGonagall and Umbridge have the same Patronus?

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    Liking cats is weird i guess – Himarm Mar 14 '16 at 1:02
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    Coincidence. There are more Patronus-producing wizards in the world than there are distinguishable types of commonly-known animals. – Rand al'Thor Mar 14 '16 at 1:02
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    @ibid Sure, but like Richard suggests, there are plenty of people in the world who like cats. What surprises me, in fact, is that more people don't have dog Patronuses. I bet JKR is a cat person and not a dog person! – Rand al'Thor Mar 14 '16 at 1:06
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    Do you have a reason to think they can't have similar patronuses? Other than one of them being good and the other evil, their personalities are really not that different. – Misha R Mar 14 '16 at 6:46
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    @ibid Too subjective for me to put in answer form, and too late at night for me to start looking up objective references. Maybe later, if nobody answers :) But you know, they both have a great deal of love for the rules, they both are obsessed with discipline, they both are fairly quick to anger, and they both can be really unpleasant when things don't go their way. Whether that's cat-like probably depends on Rowling's view on cats. Perhaps Umbridge could be a Persian, and McGonagall could be a Siamese. – Misha R Mar 14 '16 at 7:02
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Well, they do have similar personalities, up to a point. Loyal, independent, disliking challenge, quick to anger, arrogant, that's what I came up with off the top of my head. How well these shared traits are catlike, (or if there were traits in either that were catlike, but non overlapping) depends on how JK viewed cats.

Both of them seem loyal, but also exceedingly independent. McGonagall is very loyal to Dumbles, but also shows here independence by questioning or challenging him when she thinks it necessary. Umbridge seems to be loyal to Fudge, but shows her independence by exceeding her authority (committing crimes) without Fudge's knowledge so he would have plausible deniability. [cats as companions, complete with strong opinions and offerings of mice]

The fact Umbridge can switch her loyalty to Voldie after the ministry falls, is also catlike - Fudge was gone at that point, and a cat's loyalty, unlike a dog's, can be rather immediate (loyal to those who are there, not so much those who are gone). McGonagall does not share this trait, but then I don't know if its a requirement that she should - perhaps they are different cats like they are different people, or perhaps of the list of all things catlike, a person doesn't need all possible traits, and which ones they do have can differ.

Both prefer to have everyone follow the rules and believe in strict discipline. Any challenge to their own authority is treated very harshly, they are quick to anger. Obviously Umbridge is more severe and tends towards outright torture, but Mcgonagall has shown the trait as well. One example of harsh treatment in the face of challenge is the 150 points lost in PS, which she probably knew would get the trio shunned by their House, or letting Hagrid send them to hunt a unicorn killer (which seems really dangerous and excessive in retrospect). There are a couple other points, when catching someone who knows they're in trouble, where she seems to be toying with them. [cats can be cruel, prefer to play with their prey, and don't like challenges to their dignity] Possibly dislike of challenges to their authority comes from being territorial?

Of course, this deference to rules and dislike of challenges only holds to the authorities they respect - Umbridge is dismissive of Dumbledore, school rules, and the other teachers, McGonagall tends to be dismissive of individuals including Trelawney, Umbridge herself, and certain ministry policies. [cats can be quite arrogant]

Other differences between them might stem from the philosophies of the people they're loyal to, and the fact that McGonagall sees the students as hers (kittens to be taught and occasionally swatted) while Umbridge sees them as prey (to be toyed with and/or destroyed). So they're both cats, just different ones. They are both deceptive, in a way - McGonagall's tabby animagus form seems ordinary and lets her hide in plain sight, while Umbridge's fascination with kittens and the cute hides a vicious personality (...like some real fluffy kittens). [cats are not straightforward... they're tricky]

I don't know if this is the real answer, why they're both cats. Too much of that reason depends on how Rowling saw cats or intended the characters to be read. But it's what I thought of when I saw the question, so I thought I'd offer.

  • I strongly disagree with your point about loyalty. Umbridge is loyal to nothing and no one except her own selfish interests. She doesn't care a hoot about Fudge beyond the fact that he was the current player who could best serve her interests. When Voldemort takes over the Ministry, she happily turns her back on Fudge and joins Voldy's ranks. In fact, I don't think Rowling would consider Umbridge like a cat at all. McGonagall yes: independent, sometimes huffy, proud, but elegant and delicate too. Umbridge just wants to be that, but is really an ugly toad trying to pass for a gambolling kitten. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 16 '16 at 6:25
  • @JanusBahsJacquet - I admit I don't recall her turning her back on Fudge - but then I don't remember Fudge being mentioned in the seventh book, so I might have just missed it (if you can find a quote, I would appreciate it). The impression I had was that her loyalty was true at the time, but didn't last after Fudge was gone - she was loyal to Fudge, then not loyal to the ministry after Fudge left, then gave her loyalty to Voldie... but I will add shifting loyalty in. And like I said, it depends on how Rowling sees cats - and how simple "catlike" is (if they can be catlike in different ways) – Megha Mar 16 '16 at 11:04
  • I don't believe there's any mention of her actively turning her back on Fudge; but it's quite clear from DH that while many (most) people at the Ministry who were there under Fudge and remained under Voldemort were trying their best to limit the damage Voldemort was doing out of loyalty to the Ministry (if not Fudge himself), Umbridge is only too happy to embrace the new order completely because it fits with her own twisted desires. You could perhaps say she is loyal to what she thinks the Ministry should be (Voldy's version), but I see no evidence she's ever loyal to Fudge. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 16 '16 at 17:34
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    If you read the Pottermore entry on Umbridge, it basically says this in so many words—her only loyalty was to getting to the top and exerting her sadistic cruelty on as many people as she could. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 16 '16 at 17:36
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Because they both like cats.

The Patronus Charm is difficult, and many witches and wizards are unable to produce a full, corporeal Patronus, a guardian which generally takes the shape of the animal with whom they share the deepest affinity.

Wonderbook: Book of Spells

For the record, although their patronuses are the same animal, they aren't exactly the same

... each Patronus is unique and distinctive, ... nobody else can conjure another person's Patronus

J.K.Rowling Official Site

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    @ibid - Who doesn't like cats? – Valorum Mar 14 '16 at 1:01
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    @Richard Wad Cheber. – Rand al'Thor Mar 14 '16 at 1:03
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    If you want to know why they like these animals, you need to ask a new question. – Valorum Mar 14 '16 at 1:13
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    @Richard - "The Patronus represents that which is hidden, unknown but necessary within the personality" (Pottermore) – ibid Mar 14 '16 at 1:14
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    @Richard I dunno, cats are kinda bastards. To be fair, so are Umbridge and McGonagall. – Misha R Mar 14 '16 at 7:23
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The patronus of a wizard takes the form of an animal he has a high affinity with, and in this case both of them are related to cats.

McDonagall is an Animagus who transform into a cat:

enter image description here

“Fancy seeing you here, Professor McGonagall.”

He turned to smile at the tabby, but it had gone. Instead he was smiling at a rather severe-looking woman who was wearing square glasses exactly the shape of the markings the cat had had around its eyes.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

And Umbridge loves kittens. She even decorates her office with them:

on one of the walls was a collection of ornamental plates, each decorated with a large technicolor kitten wearing a different bow around its neck

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

This shows correlation, but doesn't necessarily imply their patronus is a cat, because it would be possible they might be more related to other animals. But as shown in the book, it was not the case. More philosophically, their patronus are cats because in a world in which they weren't cats, people wouldn't wonder why they are cats. There is a bias, it's kinda the anthropic principle.

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    @ibid The implication is the opposite. It the patronus is a cat, the wizard must be related in some way to cats. But if somebody is related to cats, it doesn't necessarily mean his patronus is a cat. That would be a fallacy. – Oriol Mar 14 '16 at 3:06
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    @ibid No. I meant it might seem your comment contradicts my answer, but that would be a fallacy. In fact, your comment is completely irrelevant to my answer. – Oriol Mar 14 '16 at 3:11
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    Let's put it this way. If you get shot, you might die. So if someone asks how the victim of a gunshot wound died, one might say they died because they were shot. But some gunshot wound victims die later of unrelated causes. However, people who have never been shot do not die of gunshot wounds. – Adamant Mar 14 '16 at 3:33
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    So having an affinity for cats means that you are more likely to have a cat Patronus. If you have a cat Patronus, you must have an affinity for cats. But if you have a stronger affinity for otters, or otterlike characteristics, your Patronus might be an otter. – Adamant Mar 14 '16 at 3:35
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    Image link is dead. – Rand al'Thor Mar 17 at 9:10
1

I am going to provide an answer because respectfully I don't think the others quite hit the nail on the head.

McGonagall literally becomes a cat. She has spent years studying to be able to turn into an animal at will and it turned out that her animal was a cat. She clearly has a remarkable affinity with them or she would have become something else.

Umbridge on the other hand is literally obsessed with them.

Could you imagine either of them having a different animal?

I don't, by the way, think it connects them particularly, though they do have certain character similarities as mentioned in the comments. But, as Dumbledore told Harry, "It's not how you're alike that counts. It's how you are not." ;-)

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