Pawprints 1: tracks of ancient cats

This week I’ve fortuitously come across three cases of domestic cats leaving their traces in ancient history. I’ll post one daily until Thursday.

Many of us have cats who walk across our computer keyboards and turn what we’re typing into gibberish. Well, nothing is new under the sun.

Here, originally from Eric Kwakkel’s Medieval Fragments website, is what happened to one cat-owning scribe in the fifteenth century (from Twitter, via Matthew Cobb):

Picture 1



  1. Teresa Vieira
    Posted February 19, 2013 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    In an archaeological site I found a cat paw printed on the ceramic, on a tegulae!

    • Posted February 19, 2013 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

      I had to look it up, but it’s a tegula (one of some tegulae – flat roof tiles).

      (I once worked in a city where the council was determined to have a cacti garden – but not, presumably a roses garden.)

      The word tegular – overlapping like roof tiles, or I guess fish scales – might come in handy. There used to be a gentlemen’s club here in Wellington with the walls tiled like that. I thought it was squamous. Little did I know it was tegular.

  2. Jim Johnson
    Posted February 19, 2013 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    I love old bricks that a cat walked on while wet. I was able to find a few sites around the web with photos of them.
    Cat print
    Pesky cat

  3. Andrew van der Merwe
    Posted February 19, 2013 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    This reminded me of an image I saw last month of a cat a 16thC German MS in which the cat was being used in warfare to deliver an explosive device. It looked more like the cat had a rocket attached to its back!–16th-Century-German-weapons-manuscript.html

    • Andrew van der Merwe
      Posted February 19, 2013 at 10:03 am | Permalink

      – not sure if that’s the dove of peace being used in the same way there too.

  4. Allen
    Posted February 19, 2013 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    I don’t need a cat to turn my typing into gibberish. I’ve had years of practice doing that by myself.

  5. Alex Shuffell
    Posted February 19, 2013 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    How have we ruled out that the cats didn’t write or make those bricks?

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted February 19, 2013 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      A cat working for a living? What do you think they’ve got (human) staff for?

  6. Marella
    Posted February 19, 2013 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    So recreating what happened here, the cat knocked over the ink bottle, walked through the ink with with at least three feet (the paw prints on the blank page look like the same paw twice to me which would also explain the paler look of the second print) and then walked over the manuscript. Actually the prints on the second page are facing a slightly different direction, I think the scribe must have left the room briefly to give the cat the opportunity to put paw prints on the book at its leisure, and then returned to find the disaster. I hope for the cat’s sake it was somewhere else by then.

  7. Gayle
    Posted February 20, 2013 at 1:30 am | Permalink

    The cement floor of my parents’ garage has a cat paw imprint in it!

  8. Posted February 23, 2013 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    I adore how you write, it’s so interesting 🙂

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