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Shape-changing generally refers to a type of magic in which a magician assumes the form of an animal. According to Jonathan Strange such magic was not uncommon among the Aureates (even a lowly practitioner of magic such as Joscelin de Snitton might perform it successfully), but in modern times it was entirely beyond his or Norrell's capability. Sir Walter Pole's opinion was that this was no bad thing, for it did not sort with the character of a gentleman to assume the form of a beast: Strange however did not concur - or appeared not to, for sometimes in conversation the natural whimsicality of his character led to his adopting positions he did not really hold[48].

It is curious however that though by the end of November 1816 Strange was easily able to transform Mrs Delgado into a cat, he later asks the advice of the gentleman with the thistle-down hair on how to proceed in order to transform himself :"How would I go about turning myself into a bear? Or a fox?"[54]. This suggests either that self-transformation was a much harder matter for a magician to manage successfully, or that the spell which took such a powerful effect on Mrs Delgado was not shape-changing magic per se, but simply one which granted her her heart's desire, whatever that might be - and which in this case, was to become a cat[53].

Despite the inability of Jonathan Strange and Gilbert Norrell to change their shapes, it seems that this magic is not gone from England, as Miss Parbringer and Mrs Field seem to be able to transform themselves into owls (or are transformed into owls by Miss Tobias) [LoGA].