15th-Century Manuscript Covered in Medieval Cat’s Paw Prints and Urine

Today, cats are the kings and queens of the internet. Their popularity amongst humans is nothing new though. Felines have accompanied humankind for centuries for a variety of reasons. Medieval monks often kept cats in their monasteries because their kitty companions protected their food stores from rodents. Cats were also employed to limit the rodent population, as mice and rats were known to nibble on manuscript pages, ruining them. But occasionally, cats also caused damage to these precious manuscripts by walking over them when the ink was still drying. They'd even urinate on the now-antiquated tomes, proving that cats have been a menace for centuries.

Finding firsthand sources that prove how meddlesome and carefree cats have always been may be rare, but they do exist. One prime example comes from 1420 that details its cat-astrophic ruination. The manuscript—currently stored in The Historisches Archiv in Cologne, Germany—is truly illuminating, though probably not in the way the monk intended it to be. Two pages have been left noticeably unfinished, with a drawn picture of a cat and accusatory fingers pointing at scribbled handwriting on the right page.

The scribe's notes, when translated into English, read: “Here is nothing missing, but a cat urinated on this during a certain night. Cursed be the pesty cat that urinated over this book during the night in Deventer and because of it many others [other cats] too. And beware well not to leave open books at night where cats can come.” It's good to know that 600 years later, cats haven't really changed, as any cat owner could attest.

You can find more information on the relationship between monks and their cats on Medieval Fragments.

h/t: [Open Culture]

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Sarah Currier

Sarah Currier is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met. Based in central Iowa, she is currently enrolled at Iowa State University and is working toward a BA in Journalism and Mass Communication with a minor in English. She loves all things creative, and when she’s not writing, you can find her immersed in the worlds of television, film, and literature.
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