Who Kept Medieval Pets?

Who kept medieval pets among the various classes of people in medieval society? Noblewomen definitely had pet dogs though not as many people kept pets as today. Look at carefully paintings and you will see small dogs curled up on the skirts of their mistresses and cats sitting beside the fireplace. My heroine Anne of Brittany was known to have a small dog as a pet. There is a famous story about the death of Anne Boleyn’s dog Purkoy.

Christine de Pisan with her dog
Who kept medieval pets? Here is author Christine de Pisan with her dog

Men of all classes used dogs for hunting, herding, and guarding homes and warehouses. However, we cannot class these work animals as pets. Cats too had their place as mousers given the large numbers of people fed in a household and the habit of using rushes as floor coverings. They had lots of vermin to hunt indoors and outside. Women in noble and rich merchant households adopted lapdogs and cats as house pets even then.

Albertus Magnus in the 13th century wrote a treatise On Animals outlining their treatment and care. Isabella d’Este was so fond of cats that when her favourite cat, Martino, died she gave it a burial complete with graveside sermon

A surprising number of animals were kept as Medieval pets: dogs, cats, squirrels, monkeys, parrots…Which would you choose?

Source: Medieval Pets – Ann Swinfen

Scroll to Top