Medieval Paintings of Cats Licking Their Butts

Medieval monks were put to work making “illuminated manuscripts” – holy books in which every page was filled with beautiful works of art. Sometimes, they would fill the page with beautiful patterns of flowers and ivy. Sometimes, they would add depth to the words by illustrating the stories. And sometimes, they’d just draw cats licking their butts.

Medieval art of cat licking his butt.

Butt licking cats is a weirdly common theme in medieval art, and nobody’s really sure why. The theory is that they were just etched in the margins by bored monks who wanted to amuse themselves. They thought the idea of sneaking in naughty pictures of cats into serious books was funny. So the monks would pass long, boring days scribbling pictures of these beautiful creatures taking care of their basic hygiene.

Cat licking his butt.

But that’s just a theory. Only one medieval monk ever commented on it, and as far as he was concerned, his fellow monks were just wasting time and precious ink. “Good Lord,” he wrote. “Even if the foolishness of it all occasions no shame, at least one might balk at the expense.”

Medieval art of cat licking his butt.

Maybe it was not just monks. Maybe many people made drawings of them, sketched them in their free time… Think about it, medieval times must have been extremely boring, and a cat licking its own butthole must have been one of very few tools to brighten the day and make it that much more interesting. Sadly, only the monk creations have stood the test of time and survived to present day.

Medieval art of cat licking his butt.

Medieval art of cat licking his butt.

Medieval art of cat licking his butt.

Medieval art of cat licking his butt.

Medieval art of cat licking his butt.

Medieval art of cat licking his butt.

Medieval art of cat licking his butt.

Butt licking medieval cat art.

Medieval art of cat licking his butt.

Medieval art of cat licking his butt.

Medieval art of cat licking his butt.

Medieval art of cat licking his butt.

If you liked this gallery and generally enjoy looking at silly medieval art, you should also check out Happy People Being Slaughtered, but if you are intrigued by cat butts, you will probably want to buy Crocheted Cat Butt Coasters.

45 thoughts on “Medieval Paintings of Cats Licking Their Butts”

  1. That tenth picture looks like a dog to me, but this is still pretty funny. Those monks must have loved their cats!

  2. Kudos to the monk who was ballsy enough to place a picture of a cat licking its butt right above a picture of Jesus.

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  3. I wonder if these are available as prints or reproductions? Because these have Merry Christmas written all over them. Do you have a source?

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  4. Perhaps it’s the bendiness of cats. They needed something circular to fill a spot, and the nearby mouser was inspirational.

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  5. Probably a bit of showing off too ,as drawing a cat all twisted round is quite tricky.There must have been lots of monastery cats around to act as models.

  6. I’m afraid there could be a more sinister explanation. The bottom-licking can have been considered an obscene and grotesque behaviour – and that might have been seen as a proof of cat’s diabolic nature. Cats were haunted together with witches in those days, alas.

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  7. At least cats and dogs keep it clean down there. That’s a lot more than I can say for many of humans that I know.

  8. I think Lone has it right. In the days of the Bubonic Plague, the cat was seen as a diabolic presence. They were killed and expelled, and the rats proliferated. The fleas on the rats bore the plague, and Europe lost 60% of its population. The rest is history.

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  9. can you please include the citations to these manuscripts so we can see these in their entirety?

  10. 13th picture took me a minute to find. HINT: There’s a red arrow pointing at it. Still can’t see it? Stop staring at the medieval six pack ya perv. You know you’re doing it. STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT! Just breathe.

  11. It was better than the “CATS” trailer. I’d look at this again and again!!

  12. One monk said “I wish I could do that.”
    The other monk said “You probably can, but I don’t think the cat would like it.”

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  13. The plague happened after a certain Pope declared cats to be evil and had a mass extermination of them. The result was that the rat and mice population grew out of control leading to the plague.

  14. #3 KNOWS they’ve been seen.
    Whomever made #5 clearly had no idea how cats cat.
    Whomever made #7 clearly was very skilled. Three-dimensional accuracy before it was much of a thing in Europe!
    #11: Awwww…lioness (I assume the artist did not know lionesses do not have manes) cleaning her children.
    #14: HAS NO ONE ELSE NOTICED THE HUMAN FACE?!

  15. g.e.r.r.y., thanks fer that, still chucklin’.
    turns out adorable gerbils brought th’plague from asia
    more unfair chinese trade practices

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  16. The nice thing about this is that it suggests that animal cruelty in the Middle Ages was not as pervasive as I had previously thought.

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  17. The one with prominently displayed testicles is actually likely a beaver–in bestiary descriptions, they chew off their testicles so that hunters who would otherwise kill the beavers to take them for castoreum.

  18. seems there are as many theories as cats…and reasonably so because each monk might have had a different opinion about this feline proclivity. whatever, seems to work for the cats.

  19. Why would you think that ‘medieval times must have been really boring’???? I would say entirely the opposite!

  20. I think it’s because when cats get into their butts they look like they’re in an impossible position of rapture which the medieval artists were won’t to portray. So I believe it was like a meta humor thing.

  21. This is hilarious. 10th pic though is actually a badger (from an artist who had no idea what they were drawing). In medieval bestiaries badgers are depicted tearing off there testicles to throw off hunters chasing them. Which, uh, makes as much sense as this badger depiction.

  22. One pic was a lion licking her cub. what I’ve noticed about Medieva; cat pics is they usually have overly long snouts or their faces look oddly human. And if they catch a mouse it’s held in their front paws in weirdly human pose.

  23. Think about it, medieval times must have been extremely boring, and a cat licking its own butthole must have been one of very few tools to brighten the day.

    True to this day I guess

  24. Monk Art Director says: We have a glaring space there by the third paragraph that needs something…a burst maybe?
    Monk Designer: I got this.

  25. Shows you how insular the world of the monks was. Did this satisfy some primal need? Hmmm…

  26. I remember reading somewhere that it was believed that lion cubs were born dead and were licked into life by the father lion. Symbolizing…… something .

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  27. There is an untold message with those cats, a secret meaning that was lost. To go around censorship I would say.

  28. is it weird that i have a statue of a horse licking its butt? i got it from a fam member and i was like, 10

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