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Is this the world’s oldest cat door?

Is this the world’s oldest cat door?
by Lucinda Beeman

Read time: 3 min

The cat wants to come in. Then it wants to go out. Then it wants to come in. Then it wants to go out. 

Hardcore cat parents know the ritual well. So, it would seem, did the 16th-century bishop of Exeter Cathedral. Because Diane Walker, cathedral historian and author, has found records showing that he paid eight pence for a hole to be cut into a door. To give his cat unlimited access to the recess behind it. So it could hunt mice and rats whenever it wanted. 

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The bishop in question? Bishop Cotton, who came to Exeter Cathedral in 1598 and undertook a raft of refurbishments. He also put his cats on the payroll; they earned 13 pence a quarter. 

And while the hole in Exeter Cathedral’s door doesn’t have a flap, it is thought to be the one of the earliest examples of a cat door. 

Diane explains, “There are likely to be holes cut in other doors which haven’t got a record of when they were cut. So who knows. But it is nice to think ours is one of the earliest.”

She continues: “We haven’t checked all the details and it may be there are holes in other places that don’t actually have a date. We are fortunate that we know it was from Bishop Cotton’s time here because we have got the record of payment to the carpenters.” 

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