HOLIDAYS & FEAST DAYS
DOGS - CATS - SQUIRRELS
- SONG BIRDS
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
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
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.