I stumbled across a mention of the "great French cat massacre" in my many cat readings, and needed to know more. I found a book ti...

The French Cat Massacre! (True Life Horror)

I stumbled across a mention of the "great French cat massacre" in my many cat readings, and needed to know more. I found a book titled The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History by Robert Darnton at the library that references this disturbing story. Talk about horror!

The original story that Darnton references was written by Nicholas Contat in the 1760s. He wrote about being a printer's apprentice in the 1730s France.

***It's disturbing, so I'm issuing a trigger warning now.***

Contat wrote about how the apprentices were treated horribly and suffered at the hands of their master and his wife~ who never worked. The apprentices were relegated to sleeping on a dirty floor, unable to sleep, and ate scraps left over from the 25 beloved cats that roamed the building. The cats were cared for by the wife and treated with high regard. Of course, the apprentices resented the cats. They would get in the way of work and keep them up yowling at all hours. 

The apprentices had a plan. To yowl above their master's chamber and blame the noise on the cats. After a few days of interrupted sleep, the master told the apprentices to get rid of the cats.

Instead of luring the cats and releasing them to a nearby city, they beat the cats to near death and held a mock "trial" in which the cats were convicted of witchcraft and hung. Yes, you heard that right. There was indeed a massacre, and all the cats were bludgeoned and hung up for the wife to see. Naturally, she got very upset at seeing her furbabies suffering ~ to the amusement of the apprentices. (What kind of monsters are these people? I don't care how much you hate your boss, what did the cats do to you?!) Supposedly, the apprentices talked about how funny it was for years to come. 

They slaughtered the cats to distress their masters as a form of protest. Instead of working, they were killing cats. Instead of killing their masters, they were killing their cats. The take away from this is the poor hated the bourgeoisie and our sense of humor is very different than it was back then.

Here's a plate from the book. I think they are shoving a rod up the butt of a dog. 
WTF is wrong with these people?

Let's put things in a little more context. It was common to torture cats and considered a popular form of amusement in Europe, especially around this time of year. During Mardi Gras in Burgandy, they held charivaris, or a folk custom that incorporates a noisy mock serenade with a group of people through the streets, and the kids would pass around a cat, and rip out it's fur to make it howl. It was called faire le chat. The Germans did a similar thing and called it Katzenmusik aka "cat music".

During the summer solstice bonfires were held in Paris. Crowds would throw magical objects into them to avoid disaster and obtain good fortune for the coming year. (Think Wicker Man). One of the objects was cats. They were tied up in bags, hanging from ropes, or burned at the stake. Parisians incinerated cats by the sackful because cats are symbolic in folklore, they suggest witchcraft. I've written about the connection several times, and it never stops making me think cats are magical but not in a negative way. You can read more about witchcraft and cats in my other blogs...

Under a Cat's Spell: Cats as Familiars

The Anti-Cat Pope

Overabundance of Black Cats