When the University of Pennsylvania digitized an artillery manual from 1530 A.D., it uncovered an unusual weapons idea: The German book on siege warfare has multiple depictions of cats with what looks like jetpacks attached to them.
Written by Franz Helm of Cologne, an artillery master of his time, the manual hypothesized that armed cats could be the answer to those tricky siege situations you can find yourself in. Phrased like an ill-advised infomercial, the German text can be translated to “set fire to a castle or city which you can’t get at otherwise,” reports Fox News.
The manual instructs: “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.”
Mitch Fraas, a researcher at Penn, was perplexed by the idea.
“I really didn’t know what to make of it,” he said. “It clearly looks like there’s some sort of jet of fire coming out of a device strapped to these animals.”
Fraas doesn’t think this would be effective, however. “It seems like a really terrible idea, and very unlikely the animals would run back to where they came from. More likely they’d set your own camp on fire.”
Thankfully, there is no actual record of Europeans using cats with fire arrows in warfare.