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We Interpret 6 Wacky Medieval Cat Illustrations

Medieval scribes doodled some odd things in the margins of manuscripts -- such as cats cleaning themselves in fancy and holy places.

 |  Apr 23rd 2013  |   8 Contributions

The wonderful site Discarding Images is a Tumblr of weird illustrations, mostly featuring animals, taken from the manuscripts of medieval books. We found some with cats in them. (Last week, we found some with dogs in them.) We wondered what the heck they were doing there. 


Hours of Charlotte of Savoy, Paris ca. 1420-1425.

Wow, even in medieval times a cat believes it's no big thing to spread wide on the rug and go to town on the center square. I bet this happened in front of lords and ladies at some high-toned celebration where some knight got a medal for killing half of Christendom. The cat, not impressed, chose this moment to present himself in full flower to the assembled guests, to remind everyone who's in charge, just like your cat did during your wine party. Only the true king can be so crude. 

2. My God!

Missal, Bavaria ca. 1440-1460.

Wait, is this actual parchment? Did this really happen? Guy paints a nice picture of Christ His Majesty on the cross, steps back, admires it ... then doodles a cat cleaning his plumbing above Him. A masterpiece! Perfecto! I can't imagine him explaining this to the archbishop. Is it insane or not that the cat's upraised arms seem to echo those of Our Lord Savior? I wonder how many people burned in a dungeon for this.

3. Not cool, bro 

Biblia Porta, France 13th century.

Can't a cat keep undercarriage clean without some weird guy with double-jointed shoulders in a dress trying to shoot him with an arrow? Also, what's up with all the cats licking their holiest of holies, scribes? Is this symbolism, or did the herbalist just drop off a package?

4. Grumpy Christ? 

Glagolitic Missal, Dalmatia 15th century.

I'll buy it. There's a reason Tardar Sauce has so many followers on Facebook.

5. Wait, it can't be ...

Book of hours, France 15th century.

Keyboard cat! Or organ cat. Or organ cat-rat, because that is one freaky looking cat. 

6. This again?

Book of hours, Lyon, ca. 1505-1510.

What, you expected something else? The herbalist just left.

Photos via Discarding Images 


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