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The rulers and queens of the internet these days are cats. However, their popularity with people is nothing new. For various reasons, cats and humans have coexisted for centuries. Because their feline friends kept rodents away from their food supplies, medieval monks frequently kept cats in their monasteries. Cats were also used to control the rodent population because it was known that rats and mice would eat manuscript pages and contaminate them. However, on rare occasions, cats also trod on these priceless manuscripts, damaging them while the ink was still drying. Cats have been a threat for centuries, as evidenced by the fact that they would even defecate on outdated books.

It may be uncommon to come across firsthand accounts that demonstrate how obnoxious and carefree cats have always been, but they do exist. One excellent example describes its catastrophic ruination and dates back to 1420. The manuscript is genuinely illuminating, though probably not in the way the monk intended, and is kept in The Historisches Archiv in Cologne, Germany. There are two glaringly incomplete pages: the right one has a sketch of a cat and accusing fingers pointing at scribbled handwriting.

When translated into English, the scribe's notes said: "On this particular night, a cat urinated, but otherwise nothing is missing." Blessed be the bothersome feline that threw up on this book while spending the night in Deventer, and as a result, many other cats as well. And exercise caution when leaving open books where cats may access them at night. As any cat owner would attest, cats haven't really changed all that much in 600 years, so that's good to know. 

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