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Bestiary Tiles: Medieval Cats

There are no ordinary cats. ~Colette

Medieval cat tiles. From left: Palerma Palazzo Dei Mranii, 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.


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.

Cat pawprints on 15th century manuscript

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.

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.

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.


Medieval Cat Tiles

Medieval black cat with artichokes.  Artichokes were considered an aphrodisiac.

Medieval and mythic themes were popular with William Morris and his circle. I currently have 24 medeival 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.

Shown: Black cat with artichokes. Artichokes were considered an aphrodisiac.


Medieval cats

  1. Cat defending fortress from a siege of mice

  2. Medieval cat preaching to mice

  3. Cat confronting a satyr

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

  5. Cats Royal 13th century English bestiary

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

  7. Medieval cat and monk walking and praying,

  8. Rochester bestiary cat with dancing mouse

  9. 13th century bestiary cats with bird cage


  1. Twelfth century cat stalking

  2. Abbeville cat reading a book, 15th century

  3. Fluffy cat from the book of hours of Joanna the Mad, c. 1486

  4. Medieval cat, stealing family jewels

  5. Ulisse Aldrovandi, 16th cent. Italian cat

  6. Ulisse Aldronvadi cat with extra legs from Historia Monstera

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

  8. Cat, mouse, rat from illuminated ms.

  9. Medieval dog treating a cat for melancholia

Medieval cats


Medieval cats

  1. Early medieval blue cat, following a mouse

  2. Early medieval yellow cat, having caught a mouse

  3. Allegedly, Geoffrey Chaucer's cat

  4. 15th century arsenal cat, not too happy

  5. Early medieval striped cat

  6. Ulisse Aldrovandi, Cat on a ledge

  7. Annoyed fiddler cat, Morgan Library

  8. Ulisse Aldrovandi, Felis Niger

  9. Ulisse Aldrovandi, Syrian Cat


  1. Cat holding a bobbin of spinning thread

  2. Cat from Luttrell Psalter

  3. Master of the Game Spotted Cat

  4. Prowling cat from De Medicina Ex Animalibus

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

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

  7. Three mid-13th century cats from the Harley Bestiary

  8. Cat with green stripes having just caught a mouse

  9. Ormesby Psalter Cat, 1310

Medieval cats


From top left: Black cats 13c.; Musical cats, 1320; Cat stuck in tree from Greek Fables, 1475; Unknown cat lover; Paerma Palazzo Dei Morani cat 12c.; Monk and cat from 14c Book of Hours, Flanders; Cat Bishop, 15c. German; Lyon Ms. 6881 cat; Crowned cat from Zurich armorial

  1. Procession of Black Cats 13th century

  2. Medieval cats playing a fiddle and bagpipe 1320

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

  4. Unknown medieval cat lover

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

  6. 14th century Book of Hours, Flanders, Monk and his cat

  7. Cat Bishop, 15th Century German cat
  8. Lyon manuscript 6881 cat

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


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


Per Medieval Pet:

4-inch medieval cat: $68

6-inch medieval cat: $77

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.


Related Pages

Medieval Dogs


Installed dragon tiles, basilisk

Quick Order Medieval Pets

You can quick order medieval pets. 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. Bestiary tiles usually ship fairly quickly. Here's how to quick order:

  • Order bestiary tiles After you've checked out, choose Return to Website to be redirected to the confirmation page where you can tell me which medieval pets you are adopting, ask any questions you might have, and tell me about your project. I will send you an email to confirm your order.

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