- “Dogs guard. Cats watch... and judge”
- ―Salem Saberhagen
Salem is sent to live with Hilda Spellman because she supported his regime as a part of the refreshments committee. Despite his megalomaniac desires for world domination, he is generally portrayed as having a good heart and being a loyal friend to Sabrina, giving her guidance and causing her trouble in nearly equal portions. Zelda states that Salem is originally from Mars.
At first, Salem seemed like a normal, innocent black cat. However, he actually talks. As the season goes on, Salem talks about life before being a cat and his attempts for world domination, as well as a little bit of a troublemaker, like when he rips up Sabrina's favorite Christmas sweater. He also gets "kidnapped" by a little boy who refuses to give him back, but then Sabrina saves him. He also enters a Cat Show, hosted by Bob Gordan. He almost wins but when Sabrina turned herself into a cat, she won pretending to belong to Zelda, but Sabrina gives the blue ribbon to Salem as he was "the best cat."
This season, Salem helps Sabrina in studying for her Witch's License as well as her social life, like when Sabrina uses a "Turn-Yourself-Into-A-Boy spell," Salem taught Sabrina how to act like a "dude" around other people, like picking a good name and not putting perfume on unless she wants to get beaten up. He also shows a more fun side like when it was Friday the 13th, he took advantage of people being scared of black cats and scared everyone in sight. Salem also hid in one of Hilda's bags so he could go to Disneyworld with them.
We also meet Salem's mother who he hasn't seen because he doesn't want her to know that he's a cat. However, when she visits for Mother's Day, she dotes on him but discovers that she's allergic to cats, willing to go under the knife so that she can be around her son.
Salem begins helping Sabrina with solving her family secret, and at one time, actually becomes her personal tutor and telling her to refer to him as "Mr. Saberhagen." The aunts made him tutor Sabrina because he solved his family secret with only 2 clues, although the tutoring didn't last long because Sabrina "fired" him, but he said he "quit."
He also said he was going bald in Sabrina, the Matchmaker.
He was also turned into "a real boy" temporarily by Roland placing his essence into Gordie but he then tried taking over the world so he was sent back to being a cat, with 50 years remaining as a cat and he was still upset.
In the season finale, he helps a pregnant, stray cat feel more comfortable and help Sabrina with the last clue to the family secret.
When Sabrina leaves home to live with her dad, Salem is crushed and is ready to start a civil war against Pluto to get his "Sabreeny" back. When she does come back, things between them go back to normal. He is forced to attract customers to Hilda's clock shop because a monkey selling watches steals all their customers. He also helps Hilda and Zelda find their identity when they think they were adopted.
Salem is excited when one of his old flunkies, Duke, is released from his sentence and is turned back into a witch. However, Duke is reluctant to use his magic despite Salem's villainous plans for him.
Salem also re-meets his old high school crush, Juliette, who was turned into a cat for trying to take over the whole universe. Salem takes Juliette as a date to their high school reunion where he must overcome his fear of the bully who tortured him in school, Billy Ludo.
This year, Salem reconnects with his estranged daughter Annabelle Saberhagen, who wants her father to walk her down the aisle at her wedding but he hasn't spoken to her in years because he's ashamed of the fact that he's a cat.
Salem also hits Mr. Kraft's car while joyriding in Sabrina's new car, which is supposed to be her graduation present.
With Sabrina gone to college, Salem begins splitting his time between the house with Hilda and Zelda and often visiting Sabrina in her off-campus dorm. In "The Halloween Scene," Salem takes a liking to and practically stalks one of Sabrina's fellow college students. In "Welcome, Traveler," with Hilda and Zelda away, Salem is kidnapped by a Chinese restaurant delivery man who hears him talking and is then sold to Jim Tom, the con-artist. When Jim Tom tries to make Salem talk to his acolytes in order to prove himself as a witch, Sabrina takes away Salem's voice and Jim Tom ends up looking foolish. Sabrina gets Salem back after she scares Jim Tom away with her magic. He whitens his teeth in "Some of My Best Friends Are Half-Mortals" and attempts to impress Derek Axelrod so he'll put in a good word for him with his father (who sits on the Witches Council). In "Sabrina, the Activist," while helping Zelda car shop he gets his head stuck in an engine block and makes the evening news, much to Sabrina's annoyance.
In the season finale "Finally!," Hilda is pardoned for her involvement in Salem's plans for world domination and as such, she is not longer burdened with caring for Salem. He is moved to another safehouse in the Other Realm, which turns out to be a hard-labor camp. After realizing they miss him, Hilda and Zelda go to the safehouse and battle the owners to find Salem and bring him home.
As the sixth season opens, the running gag in the first episode is Hilda and Zelda putting Salem on his unused bike whenever he annoys them, making it ride off quickly.
We see Salem consistently throughout the final two years however there are few stories centered on him directly. He continues to travel between the Spellman home and Sabrina's college home for the most part.
Salem claims that he has fallen in love with Sabrina's roommate Roxie and has a fling with her over the phone, under the alias "Alejandro." When Roxie wants to meet him in person, he bursts into tears in front of Zelda and begs her to make him a man. Zelda agrees to ask the Witches Council for a transformation which will be reversed instantly if it turns out Salem and Roxie are not soul mates. Upon meeting Roxie in human form, Salem is distracted by an attractive witch named Veronique who has set Salem up along with Sabrina. Salem turns back into a cat when Roxie calls him a pig.
In the finale, Salem gets emotional along with the women of the house on Hilda's wedding day.
When Zelda and the newly married Hilda move back to the Other Realm, Salem continues to live with Sabrina who moves into their vacated home. Salem continues to take the double role of mentor and comic relief and has to deal with the fact that Sabrina's mortal roommates Morgan and Roxie move into the house as well. Salem also becomes close with Harvey (who found out Sabrina's a witch three seasons prior) and desires for him and Sabrina to get back together.
When Sabrina leaves Salem alone for the weekend with her fiancee, Aaron Jacobs, Salem is tortured by her future husband and even put into a cat cage. Despite not getting along well with him, Salem planned to move to Los Angeles with him and Sabrina after they got married.
Salem attends Sabrina's wedding, wearing a tiny black suit and tie, and offers to give Sabrina "the talk" and walk her down the aisle before her father shows up. Salem also emotionally gives Sabrina an envelope of cash as a gift, filled with money he had been stealing from her birthday cards for years. Salem looks on with the rest of Sabrina's family and friends (held by cousin Amanda) when she leaves Aaron at the altar and runs off with Harvey, stating "it's about time."
Personality and Traits
Salem is characterized as selfish and power hungry. He schemes a lot throughout the series in order to get his way, take over the world, or just to simply cause trouble. However, Salem also has a big heart and a soft side that he only shows ever so often, especially for Sabrina who he secretly calls "Sabreeny" and loves very dearly. Additionally, he is very sensitive and cries semi-frequently throughout the show.
Salem has a habit of using a high pitched, whiny voice or a low-toned voice when talking about something humorous and often purposely places emphasis on the wrong syllable when saying certain words or names. He also sometimes switches the "a" and the "y" in words that end in "ay," such as wanting to rename Friday to "Fridya!" He also frequently uses the phrase "geh?!" when surprised or scared.
- Other than Sabrina herself, Salem is the only character to appear in every single episode of the series. He was also in both TV Movies.
- A spin-off novel series "Salem's Tails" was released alongside the Sabrina the Teenage Witch novel series.
- Four trained cats were used to portray Salem in non-dialogue scenes. The animatronic puppets used for close up scenes were controlled by three puppeteers at once.
- Though his human form has appeared in various episodes, Salem's face is never actually shown. Either he is veiled in shadow, we only see his feet, or he has inhabited the body of another character.
- In the original Archie comics, Salem had black and white fur and in the 1960s cartoon, his fur was orange. He has been completely black in all adaptations since the 1996 movie. Additionally, in the original comics, he couldn't talk and was there to help Sabrina do evil deeds to mortals in order to keep balance in the world.
- It is hinted, several times during the series, that Salem may in fact be bisexual, having odd crushes on various males, including Harvey Kinkle and Frankie Avalon.