While digitizing ancient manuscripts, the University of Pennsylvania uncovered unusual, full-color illustrations on artillery and siege warfare that show jet packs strapped to the backs of cats and doves. The accompanying text urges military commanders to use them to “set fire to a castle or city which you can’t get at otherwise.”
Penn researcher and historian, Mitch Fraas, said, “I really didn’t know what to make of it. It clearly looks like there’s some sort of jet of fire coming out of a device strapped to these animals.”

Written by artillery master Franz Helm of Cologne, the manual explains how to deliver incendiary devices to an enemy town: “Create a small sack like a fire-arrow . if you would like to get at a town or castle, seek to obtain a cat from that place. And bind the sack to the back of the cat, ignite it, let it glow well and thereafter let the cat go, so it runs to the nearest castle or town, and out of fear it thinks to hide itself where it ends up in barn hay or straw it will be ignited.”

There’s no record that anyone actually strapped a fire bomb to a cat and sent it back to an enemy’s camp. Most likely the cat would have simply lit everything else on fire except the enemy’s camp. Since cats make such unreliable and unpredictable weapons, people probably never used cats as actual weapons in war time.

To learn more about the 16th century rocket cats, click here.

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