Have you ever wondered what is The World’s Oldest Cat Door?
During medieval times, cathedrals would have been vulnerable to infestations of mice and rats if not for the presence of feline guardians patrolling the premises. To control the vermin population, the illustrious the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter in Exeter, has relied on cats for centuries. Interestingly, a cat-sized opening, known as a cat flap, was even added to one of the cathedral\’s doors. This showcased the enduring role of cats within its walls. This charming symbol of a cherished feline resident has captivated the online community. Historical records even suggest that these ancient feline hunters were generously compensated for their pest control services.
The World’s Oldest Cat Door
Exeter Cathedral was constructed over several centuries during the medieval era. It boasts two Norman towers, one dating back to 1114 and the other to 1133. The 13th-century Chapter House features an opulent wooden vaulted ceiling. However, much of the stone nave was erected in the 14th century, including the magnificent carved bishop\’s throne. Given the immense size of this religious institution, numerous individuals were required to ensure its smooth operation. Among these helpers were custors and cathedral workers responsible for various tasks. An additional special responsibility appeared to be the care and remuneration of the cathedral cat.
Find out more about the history of cats here!
The Cats Of The Cathedral
These resourceful felines were provided with an ancient cat flap, a hole carved into the door of the North Tower. This entrance led inside the cathedral, beneath the splendid medieval astronomical clock, allowing the cat to roam freely in pursuit of vermin. In exchange for its valuable services, the cat received substantial compensation. Cathedral records from 1305 to 1467 document payments of thirteen pence per quarter \”to the custors and the cat\” or \”for\” the cat, as indicated in some notes. These earnings, amounting to one pence per week, were likely utilized by the custor to supplement the cat\’s diet of rodents with other sustenance. At certain points, it appears that two cats were on the payroll, as expenditures doubled to 26 pence between 1363 and 1366.
Exeter\’s rich tradition of employing cats extended beyond the medieval period. During World War II, a cat named Tom served as an unpaid mouser within the church. Although Tom likely evaded the bombs that damaged parts of the cathedral, he did lose an eye in an encounter with an owl. Tom\’s contributions were so highly valued that his likeness was immortalized in stone within the restored Chapel of St. James.
Today, the cathedral\’s current feline resident, Audrey, a long-haired orange cat, continues to use the world\’s oldest cat flap, carrying on the legacy of her esteemed predecessors.