Medieval Cats Behaving Badly: Kitties That Left Paw Prints … and Peed … on 15th Century Manuscripts


“The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

–Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr (1808-90)

When Emir O. Filipovic, a medievalist at the University of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, visited the State Archives of Dubrovnik, he stumbled upon something that will hardly surprise anyone who lives with cats today: a 15th century manuscript with inky paw prints casually tracked across it.


An here’s another purrpetrator. The Historisches Archiv in Cologne, Germany houses a manuscript with an interesting history. According to the blog MedievalFragments, “a Deventer scribe, writing around 1420, found his manuscript ruined by a urine stain left there by a cat the night before. He was forced to leave the rest of the page empty, drew a picture of a cat and cursed the creature with the following words:”

Hic non defectus est, sed cattus minxit desuper nocte quadam. Confundatur pessimus cattus qui minxit super librum istum in nocte Daventrie, et consimiliter omnes alii propter illum. Et cavendum valde ne permittantur libri aperti per noctem ubi cattie venire possunt.

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.

What I would sincerely love to know is whether, almost 600 years later, the urine smell has left the page. Cat owners, you’ll know what I mean.

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via i09 and MedievalFragments, with props to @erik_kwakkel

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Comments (10)
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  • Fred says:

    “The more things change …” Indeed!!! Sheets currently in the wash because the cat peed on the bed AGAIN!!!

  • Elaine says:

    Twentyfirst century cats who urinate inappropriately need to be vetted ASAP! There may be a physical cause, such as a bladder infection, or, if it’s behavioral, often drugs such as elavil or prozac can help.

  • Laura says:

    Oh pish… I’ll let my cat pee inappropriately before I drug her. But Elaine is quite right, if your cat ever makes a point of urinating right in front of you, he/she is trying to tell you that something hurts. A vet can discern if it’s bladder irritation or infection, but it can be life-threatening, especially in male cats. Wonderful article!

  • Tochi says:

    This is amazing! Hahaha…those poor, poor scribes.

  • Cynthia Cramer says:

    Funny how cats have not changed for centuries. Pew we on the smell…it never goes away…sometimes the cat goes first…LOL

    • Blem says:

      they HAVE changed, had evolved into superintelligent beings and are plotting against the human race for maybe 200 years, the “ohhh look cats havent changed and still pee on whatever they like” that whats THEY want us to believe!!

  • Donna Savage says:

    I’m sure that smell is still there. =^,,^=

  • Cat Lover says:

    The Karr quote is “cute” -its a cat related article so its ok- but hey there is History and historical materialism. Things DO change. Cats, monks, and everything on the universe. Its a nice “quote” but completely ungrounded on reality and a very conservative point of view too :P. Usually ppl speaking about the beauty of “things dont changing” have all they needs covered and very well covered unlike 99% of the rest of his fellow humans. Hey: most ppl on the planet would like things to change cause they are getting screwed 24-7 so screw Karr and btw great article :D

  • Karen Ann Yaksich Kurlander says:

    Urine glows yellow under black light. That’d probably still show up! Don’t ask how I know. Sigh.

  • Merv says:

    It’s not ‘Deventer’, it’s Daventry.

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