Sunday, January 24, 2016

Cat Funerals in the Victorian Era

Sorrow by Émile Friant, 1898.

In the early 19th century mortal remains of a pet cat were often buried in the family garden. But cat funerals stepped up during the Victorian era. Undertakers built elaborate cat caskets. Clergymen performed cat burial services. And stone masons chiseled cat names on cat headstones.  In March of 1894, several British newspapers reported the story of a Kensington lady “of distinction” who held a funeral for her cat, Paul. An article on the subject in the Cheltenham Chronicle states:

 “Except that the Church did not lend its sanction, the function was conducted quite as if it had been the interment of a human person of some importance. A respectable undertaker was called in, and instructed to conduct the funeral in the ordinary way; the body was to be enclosed in a shell which would go inside a fine oak coffin. There were the usual trappings, including a plate on which was inscribed the statement that ‘Paul’ had for seventeen years been the beloved and faithful cat of Miss —, who now mourned his loss in suitable terms. The coffin, with a lovely wreath on it, was displayed in the undertaker’s shop, where it was an object of intense interest and not a little amusement.”
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