Petrarch and his Cat:
There is no record of Francesco Petrarca, also known as Petrarch, (1304-1374) writing about his cat. Even so, this great poet Laureate of Rome, and the creator of the term ‘Dark Ages’, was known to have loved his cat so much that he had it mummified after its death and placed in a glass case in his house in Arqua, Italy. A travel journal written in 1893, offers a description of his house and the cat. “From this dining-room opens, to the right, the door of the room which they call Petrarch’s library; and above the door, set in a marble frame, with a glass before it, is all that is mortal of Petrarch’s cat, except the hair. Whether or not the fur was found incompatible with the process of embalming, and therefore removed, or whether it has slowly dropped away with the lapse of centuries, I do not know; but it is certain the cat is now quite hairless, and has the effect of a wash-leather invention in the likeness of a young lamb. On the marble slab below there is a Latin inscription, said to be by the great poet himself, declaring this cat to have been “second only to Laura.”† We may, therefore, believe its virtues, have been rare enough; and cannot well figure to ourselves Petrarch sitting before that wide-mouthed fireplace, without beholding also the gifted cat that purrs softly at his feet and nestles on his knees, or, with thickened tail and lifted back, parades loftily round his chair in the haughty and disdainful manner of cats.” (Howells, 1893/2008, p.226)
† Laura was Petrarch’s muse.