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Stefan's Florilegium


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Cats-n-the-MA-art - 10/17/00


"Cats in the Middle Ages" by Sister Mairi Jean.


NOTE: See also the files: cats-msg, dogs-msg, ferrets-msg, mice-msg,

rabbits-msg, pets-msg, p-animals-bib, Pest-Control-art, p-thts-animls-msg.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set

of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.


These files are available on the Internet at:



Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be

reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first

or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


                              Thank you,

                                   Mark S. Harris

                                   AKA:  Stefan li Rous

                                        stefan at florilegium.org                                         



Originally published in February, AS 33 in "Storm Tidings", the newsletter for the Shire of Adamastor in Cape Town, South Africa.



Cats in the Middle Ages

by Sister Mairi Jean, admirer of cats


If you require your persona to have a cat you should probably know a bit of

feline history as well as what breeds are available to you. Quite a lot of

breeds popular today are relatively new and others were only available in

certain countries.


Medieval Europe -


Cats were brought to Europe by the Romans in the small BCs and were

tolerated as vermin catchers in the Mediterranean region. Cats never really

caught on in Greece where weasels were used as rat catchers, but the Romans

were quite fond of them. The early Christian church did not like cats,

there were too many links with paganism, but ordinary folk admired them and

their rat catching prowess. Despite official disapproval, St Patrick and

Pope Gregory the Great were known to have pet cats and St Agatha and St

Gertrude are associated with cats. In the 13th century there was an up

surging of paganism in the Rhinelands and serious persecution of cats began

as a battle between the Christians and the pagans; this lasted 450 years and

resulted in the deaths of thousands of cats, In the reigns of Mary Tudor

and Elizabeth I of England cats were publicly burned as symbols of heresy,

both Protestant and Catholic. Cats (mackerel, not black) were also

suspected as being the familiars of witches.


Medieval Asia -


The Muslim religion has never had anything against cats, even the Prophet

tried not to disturb sleeping cats. There are many favourable legends in

Asia, especially in Thailand and surrounding areas. When cats were

introduced to Japan they were pampered like lapdogs, encouraging vast

growth in the rodent populations. Many of the popular breeds come from

Asia, although domestication occurred there long after it did in Africa.


Breeds of cats available in the Middle ages


Common -


European shorthairs

These existed all over Europe and were mostly tabby, indicating their close

relationship to the European wild cat. Solid colours were available if you

looked really hard. Tabbies occur as tiger-striped (mackerel), swirly

(classic) and spotted.


Less Common -



These are related to the African wildcat and are a very old breed, but were

not widespread in Europe until modern times.



This is an ancient Turkish longhair. It has fallen out of popularity in

modern times in favour of the Persian, but was the first longhair in

Europe, probably brought in by the Crusaders. It was very popular until the

late Middle ages. In Turkey a true Angora must have odd eyes.


Very Rare -


Egyptian Mau

This is probably the oldest breed in the world, but Egypt discouraged

export of them and as such you would have to have contacts in all the right

places to get your hands on one. Very elegant breed; Mau means cat.


Available in Specific Locations -



Very old breed in Thailand, but were not exported to Europe until modern




Probably introduced to Europe in about 1550 through Italy

and then France. Only a few colours were in existence then, i.e. blue, grey

and tabby



There is controversy about this breed. It could be an old South-East Asian

breed, or a modern French breed. There's a long involved story about a

goddess making them look the way they do because they protected her temple

from Raiders, but a lot of people think that it is all untrue and that the

breed is modern. You choose.



This is referred to as early as 1558 and is a French breed. It was

apparently bred by Carthusian monks.



Legends abound about this ancient breed. They were found solely on the Isle

of Man during the Middle Ages and are subject to spinal problems and many

die young.


Japanese Bobtail

Only found in Japan, and only from about 1000 AD.


So your 14th century Irish monk could not possibly have had a Birmese

kitten, nor could a 7th century Italian dignitary possibly have had a

Japanese Bobtail. A trader in London would have had a hard time getting

hold of an Abyssinian, but his Italian counterpart could have arranged it.

A queen in central Europe might have been able to get an Egyptian Mau, but

her ladies in waiting would have to settle for a European Shorthair.


I don't think anyone in the Shire has actually gone as far as to plan pets,

but should you wish to do so, nothing now stands in your way.


Sister Mairi Jean

Shire of Adamastor

Kingdom of Drachenwald.


Copyright 1999 by Tracy Craig. <tracy at maths.uct.ac.za>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited and receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in

the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also

appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being

reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org