Book From 1445 Shows Cats Have Always Been a Handful

Emir O. Filipović/
Emir O. Filipović/ / Emir O. Filipović/

For cat owners, this picture that's been making the rounds is nothing shocking. A little fuzzball was someplace he or she wasn’t supposed to be and messed things up? That never happens! Even for those of us who have paw prints on every horizontal (and even vertical) surface in our homes, though, the image is noteworthy.

Medievalist Emir O. Filipovic found these pawprints while looking through old manuscripts in the state archives in Dubrovnik, a walled city in Croatia that was a commune and important Balkan port during the Middle Ages. Both the book and the prints date back to 1445. 

“Apart from the interesting written sources,” Filipovic says of the archive, “one can also encounter the little traces which medieval people left in the manuscripts preserving them for posterity.”  

Among pages and pages of monotonous debt records and land divisions, he found a handful of gems like doodles in the margins, increasingly sloppy handwriting in the recorded minutes of a meeting that dragged on and on and, of course, the mark of a mischievous cat.

The prints, he says, “force the historian to take his eyes from the text for a moment, to pause and to recreate in his mind the incident when a cat, presumably owned by the scribe, pounced first on the ink container and then on the book, branding it for the ensuing centuries.”

“You can almost picture the writer shooing the cat in a panicky fashion while trying to remove it from his desk. Despite his best efforts the damage was already complete and there was nothing else he could have done but turn a new leaf and continue his job.”

I can picture it all too well, especially when my own cats bat at the cursor on my laptop screen and carry on the proud traditions of their ancestors: making it impossible for humans to get any work done.

[via The Atlantic]