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Bestiary Tiles: Medieval Cats

Human madness is oftentimes a cunning and most feline thing. ~Herman Melville, Moby-Dick or, The Whale

Medieval cat tiles. From left: Palerma Palazzo Dei Moranii, 12th century cat with attitude; Lyon manuscript 6881 cat; Medieval cat lover

Left to Right: Palerma Palazzo Dei Moranii, 12th century cat with attitude; Lyon manuscript 6881 cat; Unknown cat lover; 14th century Book of Hours, Flanders, monk and cat. All the cat tiles.

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Medieval Cat Tiles

Medieval and mythic themes were popular with William Morris and his circle. I currently have 48 medieval cat tiles available. I also have several sets of medieval and bestiary tiles listed here : bestiary (dogs, cats, unicorns, and dragons) and medieval gardens. You can mix and match from any of the sets. More tiles are added to these sets as time goes by.

Why Cats?

Medieval dog treating a cat for melancholy.

Medieval dog treating a cat for melacholy, probably with milk thistle

Dogs work. Cats "help". Despite their ups and down in popularity, cats have often been prized by intellectuals and those who value independence. Medieval cats often worked with monks in their libraries and even helped with their illumnations, as the cat paw prints on the 15th century medieval manscript shown would indicate. Cats befriended Ernest Hemingway, whose home in Key West is now a museum and home to 40-50 polydactyl (six-toed) descendants of Hemingway's own six-toed cats. Boswell reports Dr. Samuel Johnson described his favorite cat, a black cat named Hodge, as "a very fine cat indeed". A statue of Hodge is on display in the courtyard at Dr. Johnson's House in in London.

Cats are healers. Some modern research indicates that a cat's purr has healing powers, helping to regulate blood pressure and heart rate. This was most certainly written by cat people.

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Cat pawprints on 15th century manuscript

Cat paw prints on 15th century manuscript

Gods and Demons

Highlights and Lowlights in Our History with Cats

Genetic analysis indicates that domestic cats derive from at least five founder cats from the Fertile Crescent region, from where their descendants were transported around the world. Just how domesticated these cats were is unknown, but over time, cats became more "commensal" (from Latin, "sharing table") with humans. By 7500 B.C., there's enough archaeological evidence of cats living with humans on Cyprus that a purposeful cat burial of cat with a human took place, indicating a probable close relationship and hence, sociability and "domestication".

Medieval cats protected grain from rodents, and were taking to war and on explorations. The Vikings are thought to have brought their skogkatts ("forest cats") with them on their travels, with some experts believing that the American Maine Coon is a descendant of the Norwegian Forest Cat because they have so many characteristics in common.

Later, cats were associated with the dark arts, and association with cats could be dangerous to one health. Then again, so could not associating with cats: Cats controlled the rodent population, carriers of the bubonic plague, and when cats fell out of favor, the rodents and their diseases gained a foothold. Cats are associated with the otherworld and the afterlife. Not only were cats worshipped in ancient Egypt, but medieval witches and nuns were known for keeping cats, as were medieval Muslims. The prophet Mohammed was a cat person.

Black cats have had a particularly rough go of it, and may of the superstitions no longer associated with cats still linger on black cats, whose dark color underscores their association with the dark arts. Black cats are the least likely to be adopted, in spite of the popularity of cat superstars such as Felix the Cat and Sylvester the tuxedo. But the black cat is seen as good luck in other cultures: Black cats were especially revered in Egypt and the penalty for killing a cat was death. Ancient Japanese superstitions about cats generally, and black cats specifically, hold them as symbols fo good fortune and prosperity. Many single women in Japan own black cats, believing it will bring many suitors. And in much of Asian, a black cat crossing your path is seen as a good omen, and a protection to evil. English superstition agrees: Give a bride a black cat on her wedding day to assure her good luck in her marriage and a happy life together.

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Individual Cat Tiles

There are no ordinary cats. ~Colette

Cat from German Book of Nature, 1434

Cat from German Book of Nature, 1434

Medieval cat in a snail suit

Medieval illumination: Cat in a snail suit.

Enigmatic cat from the Rothschild ms.

Enigmatic cat, Rothschild 15th cent.

Curled up cat from the Bestiary of Anne Walshe.  A mouse's liver grows larger at the full moon.

Cat and Mouse from the Bestiary of Anne Walshe

Giovanni de Grassi Cheetahs, 1350-1398

Before Bengals, there were cheetahs. Giovanni de Grassi Cheetahs, 1350-1398

Black cat with artichokes. Artichokes were considered an aphrodisiac.

Black cat with artichokes. Artichokes were considered an aphrodisiac.

Crowned cat from the Zurich armorial.  Cats, scratching on the furniture since 1340

Crowned cat from the Zurich armorial. Cats, scratching on the furniture since 1340

Cat defending fortress from a siege of mice

Cat defending fortress from a siege of mice

Medieval cat preaching to mice

Religion was an integral part of medieval life: Medieval cat preaching to mice

Cat confronting a satyr. The satyr is mentioned in the Bible; the cat is not.

Medieval cat confronting a satyr. The satyr is mentioned in the Bible. The cat is not.

Book of Hours cat beating a cymbal from The Funeral of Renard the Fox

Book of Hours cat beating a cymbal from The Funeral of Renard the Fox

Cats Royal 13th century English bestiary

Cats Royale- Royal 13th century cats from English bestiary

Garden of Earthly Delights Cat with Salamander, 1503, Hieronymus Bosch

Garden of Earthly Delights Cat with Salamander, 1503, Hieronymus Bosch. Salamanders are toxic to cats.

Medieval cat and monk walking and praying

Medieval monk walking in prayer, accompanied by a cat

Rochester bestiary cat with dancing mouse

Rochester bestiary cat with dancing mouse

13th century bestiary cats with bird cage

13th century bestiary cats with bird cage

Twelfth century cat stalking

Twelfth century cat stalking

Abbeville cat reading a book, 15th century

Abbeville cat reading a book, 15th century

The timesless fluffly cat, Middle Ages edition, from the Book of Hours of Joanna the Mad, c. 1486

Fluffy Cat, Middle Ages edition, from the Book of Hours of Joanna the Mad, c. 1486

Medieval cat, stealing family jewels

Medieval cat, stealing family jewels

Ulisse Aldrovandi, 16th cent. Italian cat

Ulisse Aldrovandi, 16th cent. Italian cat

Ulisse Aldronvadi cat with extra legs from Historia Monstera

Ulisse Aldronvadi cat with extra legs from Historia Monstera

Homesteading cat churning butter. If you want a cat to stay, slather its paws in butter.

Homesteading cat churning butter. If you want a cat to stay, slather its paws in butter.

Cat, mouse, rat from illuminated ms.

Cat, mouse, rat from illuminated ms.

Melancholic cat, being treated by a medieval dog

Melancholic cat, being treated by a medieval dog

Early medieval blue cat, following a mouse

Early medieval blue cat, following a mouse

Early medieval yellow cat, having caught a mouse

Early medieval yellow cat, having caught a mouse

Allegedly, Geoffrey Chaucer's Cat

Another fastidious cat from the Morgan Library. Allegedly, Geoffrey Chaucer's cat.

Early medieval striped cat

Early medieval striped cat. Does this mouse not have the longest ears ever?

15th century arsenal cat, not too happy

15th century arsenal cat, not too happy. Ears seem pretty small but just wait...

Ulisse Aldrovandi, Cat on a ledge with a mouse

Ulisse Aldrovandi, Cat on a ledge with a mouse. 16th century: Vulcan ears.

Annoyed fiddler cat, Morgan Library

Annoyed fiddler cat, Morgan Library

Ulisse Aldrovandi, Syrian Cat

Ulisse Aldrovandi, 16th century, Syrian Cat

Cat holding a bobbin of spinning thread

Cats "help". Cat holding a bobbin of spinning thread.

Luttrell Psalter cat, playing with mouse

Cat from Luttrell Psalter (1320-1340), ornately painted and embellished with gold and silver, is noted for its sometimes bizarre illustrations (and marginalia) and the depictions of rustic life.

Master of the Game Spotted Cat

Master of the Game Spotted Cat

Prowling cat from De Medicina Ex Animalibus

Prowling cat from De Medicina Ex Animalibus

Cat hunting with bow and arrow from The Funeral of Renard the Fox

Cat hunting with bow and arrow from The Funeral of Renard the Fox

Early medieval cat with mouse, and medieval cat sleeping in cradle

Early medieval cat with mouse, and medieval cat sleeping in cradle

Three mid-13th century cats from the Harley Bestiary

Three mid-13th century cats from the Harley Bestiary

Cat with green stripes having just caught a mouse

Cat with green stripes having just caught a mouse

Ormesby Psalter Cat

Ormesby Psalter Cat, 1310

Procession of Black Cats 13th century

Procession of Black Cats 13th century

Medieval cats playing a fiddle and bagpipe 1320

Medieval cats playing a fiddle and bagpipe 1320

at stuck in tree from Greek Fables, Exemplum de Tribus Latronibus, c. 1475

Cat stuck in tree from Greek Fables, Exemplum de Tribus Latronibus, c. 1475

Unknown medieval cat lover

Unknown medieval cat lover

Palerma Palazzo Dei Morani, 12th century, cat with attitude

Palerma Palazzo Dei Morani, 12th century, cat with attitude

14th century Book of Hours, Flanders, a monk and his cat

14th century Book of Hours, Flanders, A monk and his cat

Cat Bishop, 15th Century German cat

Cat Bishop, 15th Century German cat
Lyon manuscript 6881 cat

Lyon manuscript 6881 cat

Tile Specifications

Title: Medieval Cats

Tile: Tumbled Botticino marble

Size: 6 inch square tiles (15.4 cm)

Thickness: 3/8 inch (1 cm)

Weight: 22 ounces (.62 kg) each tile

*Also available in 4 inch tiles

Pricing

Per Medieval Cat:

4-inch medieval cat: $58 (one cat per tile)

6-inch medieval cat: $67

Prices do not include shipping costs.

You are helping. $5 of the price of each medieval cat tile is donated to Blind Cat Rescue and Sanctuary. (Facebook)

A medieval cat tile is featured most Saturdays. Check out the current featured tiles.

Quick Order Medieval Pets

You can quick order a single or sample medieval cats on four-inch tiles. If you want several tiles, or a mix, order via How to Order Tile to take advantage of discounts and better shipping. For a few tiles, quick order works well. Because of their size, 6-inch tiles are disproportionately costly to ship, with several tiles being shipped for the same price as a single tile.

Bestiary tiles usually ship fairly quickly. Here's how to quick order:

This only works for the US and Canada. For other countries, contact me so I can give you a shipping estimate.

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Related Pages

Medieval Dogs

Bestiary

Medieval Dragons

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