Came across this Bradford University undergraduate thesis that looked at the archaeological evidence for cats being present on Viking settlement sites in the North Atlantic settlement area centred around Orkney and Shetland.
Unfortunately, the thesis doesn’t add much to my earlier handwaving, except to conclude that cats were present at some of the sites.
As the settlers were farming, and consequently growing barley and oats, this isn’t surprising as I’m sure that the crops would have attracted rodents. Unfortunately there’s no evidence as to the cats being deliberate imports, local ferals who were already there, or wildcats that knew a good thing when they saw it.
The trouble with Orkney is that it already quite clearly had a reasonable Pictish population who may well have acquired domestic cats from further south. Examinations of sites in the Faeroes and Iceland might provide better evidence, as while there is some evidence that Irish monks got to both places before the Vikings they did not establish any substantial settlements.
Mind you, the monks did like their cats, so it wouldn’t be totally unambiguous.
Written with StackEdit.