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

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How to Pot­ty Train Your Cat: A Handy Man­u­al by Charles Min­gus

Humans Fall for Opti­cal Illu­sions, But Do Cats?

Thomas Edison’s Box­ing Cats (1894), or Where the LOL­Cats All Began

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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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