Representations of the Cat in Middle Ages Manuscripts, the Moralia of Job and other books.
Other miscellaneous religious books such as the Moralia in Job, written in the latter half of the 12th century, also include portrayals of the cat. In an initial letter a spotted cat claws a mouse and holds one in its mouth, while a dog bites the cat’s back.
In a theological miscellany by William Peraldus there are contributions from our infamous cat hater Alain de Lille†, who probably didn’t know that cats would decorate its pages. In the middle of one of the pages a stripped cat sits and looks at a mouse in front of it. On the next line down a larger mouse, perhaps a rat, sits underneath the cat.
A page from The Pontifical of Guillaume Durand, created before 1390, shows a rather pleased rat with a bird perching on its paw sitting astride a leashed cat.
In the bottom margin of a page in the Missale Romanum (1420-99) a cat follows a large mouse. In another text of a prayer book, a brown monkey wearing a red hat holds a white cat in the left margin of a richly illuminated page.
And finally, in the Breviary of Eleanor of Portugal (1500), a cat sits atop a tree looking down at a man praying.
In addition to religious works, many other books of the Middle Ages in both Europe and Asia include illustrations of cats. In a Medieval medicine and herb book dating to 1195, a cat crouches in a small square inserted between the lines of a page.
In the Persian book, The Benefits of Animals (1297-98), a female cat carries one live kitten toward three dead kittens lying in front of her, while a woman holds out her hands sympathetically.
And in a leaf from an Arabic book dating to 1350 a cat and dog fight.
In the Tacninum Sanitatas (1370-1400), a medieval medical book based on an earlier Arab text dating to the 11th century, a cat sits contentedly guarding a cheese shop from rats.
Even in one French poetry book written in 1350, entitled “Les Voeux de Paon,” a large fanciful flower peacefully separates a cat and a dog on one page; whereas, on another, a woman threateningly chases a cat with a spindle. In this same book a cat is also pictured listening intently to a jester playing a rebec.
In a later medical book from Italy dating to around 1440, a cat and mouse appear at the bottom of the page.
All over the world during this time the cat was a subject of interest and had already cleverly managed to insinuate itself into domestic life. Through the cat’s prominent presence in these illustrations as a dog hating, rat catching predator that served the interests of its keepers, the bond between man and cat grew inextricably stronger for better or for worse.
† Alain de Lille associated the cat with the Cathars and claimed they were heretics.