HOLIDAYS & FEAST DAYS
DOGS - CATS - SQUIRRELS - SONG
women, like women today, were avid pet-keepers. Pets were defined as
those animals kept in the inner chambers of a woman's home or personal
space which have no other practical purpose than that of companionship.
Pets favoured by women were songbirds, small dogs (usually white and
hairy), cats and occasionally squirrels! Small long-haired dogs can
be seen in many contemporary artworks- manuscripts, effigies and paintings.
Although dogs represent fidelity and could be included in paintings
in an allegorical sense, some household accounts show expenses for food
for companion dogs rather than those used for hunting or hawking. A
small dog was seen as an acceptable companion for a lady as long as
she did not lavish food on it which was good enough to feed the poor.
Most artworks help distinguish lapdogs from hunting dogs by a red, leather
collar with several brass bells attached. Collars like this can also
be seen on images of pet squirrels.
Cats are often seen in manuscript margins and fall into two distinct
categories- those which are pets and those which are household cats
for catching mice. Household cats were usually tabby- that is striped
(hence tabby weave) but the household pet was usually a different colour.
The most favoured by noble ladies were specially imported Syrian cats,
ginger or ginger and white in colour. These are mentioned in correspondence
many times over- wishing to acquire, the happiness and love that the
kitten has brought and the overwhelming sadness at the passing of. Many
poets composed elegies for the death of a noble woman's beloved pet
and it was noted that mourning for such a pet was quite normal. Several
women had constructed small tombs and these were also noted in personal
There are a number of medieval manuscripts which show women with pet
squirrels. Like cats and dogs, they often have a red collar and small
bells. The detail from an English manuscript from the 14th century,
the Luttrell Psalter, shows an image of the lady out in a covered
carriage with her pet squirrel on her shoulder.
The detail from the floor tile shown at left shows a floor tile of a
noble woman wearing a coronet with her pet squirrel on her hand.
Song birds were also fashionable pets and pet shops listed an extensive
variety of birds which were available. Tthere were guildmakers to regulate
the makers of bircages which could be quite ornate. Tax records for
bird-sellers and cage -makers appear as early as 1292 in Paris.