March 17th is Saint Gertrude of Nivelles Day. If you’re not sure who Saint Gertrude is, she is the patron saint of cats. A local veterinarian goes over some basics of her story below.
Gertrude of Nivelles was born in 628 in what is now known as Belgium. Her family was quite wealthy. When she was ten years old, her father invited the king to a special banquet. At this feast, the king asked Gertrude if she would be interested in marrying an archduke. In what was at the time an extremely brave and unusual reply, Gertrude flat-out declined. She never did marry. Eventually, she and her mother went on to found the Abbey of Nivelles.
There are two miracles attributed to Gertrude. You might be thinking that this is where Fluffy comes into the story. Did Gertrude actually manage to get cats to obey her? No. Did cats travel for miles to sleep in her lap? No. Did she save a cute furball from certain death, only to find that the cat was some form of supreme being? Nope, not that either. Is the Abbey of Nivelles overflowing with cats? It doesn’t seem to be, though one would hope that at least a few kitties are allowed to live there.
Actually, the first miracle was a vision of a flaming sphere. In the second miracle, a sailor who was battling both a fierce storm and a terrible sea monster called out to Gertrude, who had a vision. After her name was called, both the storm and the monster went away, after which the sailor’s day probably improved quite a bit. This tale became so well-known that it led to the creation of a special drink, which is known as the Gertrudenminte or Sinte Geerts Minne . Travelers traditionally imbibed this drink before setting off on a journey. This also led to Gertrude being named the patron saint of travelers.
So, you may be wondering just where the cats in this story are. That’s where things get a bit fuzzy. There actually is no mention of Fluffy in the historical records. References to Gertrude being a patron of cats seems to have started at some point in the 1980’s. There are some anecdotal references of Gertude being associated with cats and mouse hunters in the older texts. However, there also is the possibility that Gertrude somehow got mixed up with Frigg, a Nordic goddess who was said to ride a huge cat. In any case, the cat seems to have someone’s tongue on this one.
Do you have questions about your cat’s health or care? Contact us, your local veterinary clinic, today!