Thursday, May 24, 2007


The picture at the left is of my two cats (Falco and Titus) four years ago, when they were half-grown. Basic tabbies, they are the type of cat which would have been around in Gwernin's day. We're not sure just when domestic cats arrived in Britain - the European wild cat, of course, was already there - but it seems certain that the Romans brought more with them.

They were valued for their mousing, as the Law of Hywel shows: "The value of a cat, fourpence. The value of a kitten from the night it is born until it opens its eyes, a legal penny; and from then until it kills mice, two legal pence; and after it kills mice, four legal pence, and at that it remains for ever. Her properties are to see and hear and kill mice, and that her claws are not broken, and to rear kittens; and if she is bought, and any of those is wanting, a third of her value is to be returned ... The value of a cat which guards a king's barn, if killed ... her head is set down on a clean level floor, and her tail is raised up, and wheat grains are poured over her until they hide the end of her tail. That will be her value; if the grain is not obtained, a milking ewe with her lamb and her wool." If a couple divorces, "the man is entitled to all the hens, and to one of the cats, with the rest for the woman."

Cats are also mentioned in one of the Arthurian poems in the Black Book of Caermyrddin, "Pa Gwr",where Kay, Arthur's foster-brother, goes to Ynys Mon to destroy a monster called Cath Paluc (Paluc's Cat). Possibly she was an early version of the mysterious black cats still being observed in western Britain today!

Did I mention that my sister and I saw one once? Well, that's a story for another day...

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