black cats, cats, crazy cat lady, Patron Saint of Cats, St Gertrude

St Gertrude – Patron Saint of Cats

Stained glass window in the Basilica of Our Lady in Tongeren, Belgium

Every now and then, and on International Cat Day, the Internet will mention that St Gertrude of Nivelles is the Patron Saint of Cats.  The image above shows St Gertrude with mice at her feet.  Now, while St Gertrude was never formally canonised by the Roman Catholic Church, she was considered extremely devout and worthy of veneration and is considered the Patron Saint of Travellers, Cats, the recently deceased, gardeners, the mentally ill (#crazycatlady) and those who were frightened of rats and mice.

St Gertrude was a 7th Century Abbess who, along with her mother Itta, founded the Abbey of Nivelles which is located in present day Belgium.

Gertrude’s father, Pippin the Elder, tried to force then 10 year old Gertrude to marry a lesser royal to further his own political and economic ambitions.  Very sensibly, Gertrude refused.  Her Mother, Itta, to prevent the vile father from taking Gertrude away from the family home by force, arranged to have Gertrude’s hair shaved into a tonsure which essentially forced Gertrude to get herself to a nunnery.

Shortly after this, the local Bishop Amand visited their home and convinced the mother Itta to start a monastery along with Gertrude.  Gertrude’s Mum, Itta, then founded Nivelles which was a double monastery for men and women, cloistered obviously.  Because of their decision to enter religious life, both Itta and Gertrudge were shunned by the local nobility.

Gertrude spent her young and short life running the monastery, praying endlessly, taking Communion, being chaste, wearing hairshirts and welcoming travellers and cats.  She devoted herself to the sick, elderly and poor and she also built churches, took care of orphans, widows, captives and pilgrims.  She received numerous travelling religious envoys and became known as a lesser Saint and Patron Saint of travellers.

She also took in a lot of cats to reduce the rodent population most likely to minimise the spread of disease particularly those nasty, virulent, Ebola-like Black Plagues which were so popular at that time. There was local folklore suggesting that St Gertrude had some sort of magical power over rats and could repel them with her cooking being the culinary equivalent of Big Pharma’s rat poison.

purple liquid poison on brown wooden surface
Photo by Pixabay on

There are now websites dedicated to St Gertrude and her love of cats.

Her Feast Day is St Patrick’s Day – March 17.  She died young, aged 33 after a life of hardship, fasting, austerity and prayer.

She is depicted in art as an Abbess with mice, rats or cats who are seen running up her pastoral staff or cloak. Her prayers and devotion towards the Souls in Purgatory has been represented artistically or symbolically by the placement of hopeful little mice poised at her feet.

Because of her willingness to take in travellers, sailors would pray to her to be delivered to their destinations safely.  And they often were.  The power of prayer – “Praise the Lord”.

photo of three cats
Photo by Mircea Iancu on

The 1981 Catalogue of the Metropolitan Museum of Art was the first English language publication to depict St Gertrude as the Patron Saint of Cats.

I can only say that I am very glad that cats have their very own Patron Saint – Gertrude of Nivelles to watch over them, and us.

black yellow and white dome
Photo by Pixabay on
black cats, cats, indoor cats, keeping pets safe, kidney disease, sadness

Kidney Disease and Your Cat – the Silent Killer

Four years ago I had to have my beautiful black cat Salem euthanised after he had lost stacks of weight and was hardly able to get around.  He was 16 years old and such a beautiful cat.  At one stage he had weighed 12 kilograms when he became quite overweight as desexed male cats tend to obesity as they age.  He was an indoors and outdoors cat.

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My Cat Salem a few weeks before he died

Here my Salem is shown above a few weeks before he became really ill with kidney disease.  I took him to the vet on his last day as he had lost so much weight and had a very sad little meow and could hardly walk.  I asked my vet for her advice and said I was hesitant to euthanise if there something else that we could do.  She conducted the blood tests and advised me that his kidney function was virtually zero and that he would die a very painful death within 24 hours.  So I had to make that difficult decision to have him put to sleep.

Salem’s final moments

As the needle was entering his poor depleted little body,  he gently turned his face towards me and it was as though the expression in his eyes was saying “thank you”.  This was one of the saddest moments of my life.  My then 8 year old son, shown in the picture above was with me.  He had grown up with that cat.  I still miss my Salem three years on from then.

I am writing this article because I want people to know what preventative measures they can take about the silent killer of kidney disease.  I knew my cat Salem had kidney disease for some years.  He had also been required to have radioactive iodine on two separate occasions for thyroid disease as well, which was quite unusual as that treatment usually does the trick.  I will write a separate article about thyroid disease in cats and how that is addressed.  Because I knew that Salem had kidney issues, which is in any event, quite common in cats of advancing age, I had been feeding him Hills Science Diet or Royal Canin dry food specifically designed to address dysfunctional kidneys.  Those science diets do make quite a bit of difference to extending the lifespan of a cat prone to or with early stages of kidney disease.

Silent killer

The worst thing about kidney disease in cats is that you most often don’t realise they have it until it is too late.  What we do know is that, it is extremely common and that 1 in three cats will be affected by it.

Kidney disease is a leading cause of suffering and death in cats and because of its stealthy nature it is difficult to identify until after permanent damage is done.

You can keep an eye out for kidney stones, urinary tract (bladder) infections or hereditary conditions which might make the disease more likely to occur.  You should always be encouraging your cat to drink more water.

More than 50 percent of cats over the age of 15 years have kidney disease.


Early Symptoms

Most cats show no outward signs until the disease has progressed.

The first signs of kidney disease include:

  • subtle but continuous weight loss.
  • constant urinating.
  • thirsty and drinking lots of water.

My wonderful cat Salem, many years prior to his passing, developed a really bad bladder blockage requiring us to have him catheterised under Morphine.  This procedure fixed the problem and it was then I put him on a kidney-friendly diet.  This was 10 years before he died.  So he was a seemingly healthy 6 year old cat with early onset kidney problems.  The kidney-friendly cat food no doubt helped prevent the build of calcium crystals in his urine and, I think, kept him going for that extra decade.

More serious symptoms

  • A dramatically increased output of urine.  With some indoor cats you will see them flooding the litter box.
  • Increased thirst.
  • Weight loss.
  • Incontinence and peeing in unusual places.
  • Bad breath with a peculiar chemical smell.
  • Lethargy.

In the case of my Salem I saw dramatic weight loss – from 12 kilograms to about 6 kilograms within a few weeks and he became extremely lethargic.  I took him straight to the vet but by then he was in chronic kidney failure.

russian blue kitten on brown woven basket
Photo by Vadim B on

As a pet owner, the best thing you can do is be vigilant.  Watch your cat’s behaviour, diet, toilet habits, and even their grooming, and if any of the early onset symptoms present take your cat straight to the vet.  There are new early screening tests which you can have done these days and many cats with early stages of kidney disease can live long happy lives if their diet is managed and they have a constant supply of fresh water and love.

I know I did the best I could with my wonderful cat Salem.  I gave him a great life.  I still miss that cat.  He followed me everywhere, even to the toilet. My Cat Salem helped me weather many storms in my life and was around for the birth of both my children and he used to sit by and watch my kids when they were just tiny humans.  I dedicated my pet furniture company to him and I named my Twitter feed (MyCatSalem) after him.

Vale Salem…