The idea of the cat meme or cute kitten video on YouTube is nothing new. People have always adored and recorded their cats lives. In ancient Egypt they even went as far as creating a cat cult, worshiping and mummifying their remains.
While cat owners know their pet’s daily activities and ability for unconditional love, it might be surprising for people to discover that cats are one of the most depicted animals on Medieval manuscripts. Maybe, it’s their sly attitude, persistent nature or their calming influence that makes them popular figures.
It is perhaps some of these very traits that encouraged scribes to use them as a comment on individual characters in the courtly and religious life of the times.
Cats could equally be used as a metaphor for a particular aspect of religious doctrine or belief that
the patron either supported of ridiculed. This way comment could be made without directly pointing a finger.
A portrait of the bishop as a sly tomcat, the local lord depicted as the cruel moggy or a cat simply on the page as a symbol of stealth.
The commissioning of a manuscript was not a cheap affair but it afforded the buyer the chance to record their own thoughts, feelings and political aspirations, sometimes in a concealed manner.
There are a number of bagpipe playing felines, which would seemingly allure to their caterwauling and even more showing them as great hunters catching birds and mice. While it could be the owners wish to include a humours image of a much loved family pet, it is equally probable that they illustrate some allegiance or grievance.
The decorative borders, marginalia and gold leafed initials were filled with fanciful animals, mythical beasts and hybrid human-animals.
Entwined, the way cats do around a persons legs, you’ll see them amongst the foliage and flourishes of the page, ready to pounce are the many cute, crazy and scary images of the humble pussy cat.