This large lead trough is one of two discovered during excavations at Whithorn. They were found close to some Viking-period workshops. Nearby were the bones of a number of domestic cats. Cut marks on the skulls showed that the cats had been skinned.
Archaeologists have interpreted these remains as part of a workshop where cat pelts were processed. Cat fur, used as a trimming on cloaks and jackets, was popular during the medieval period.
Domestic cats were deliberately bred for their skins and analysis of the bones shows that the Whithorn cats were full-grown juveniles when killed.
After removing any flesh the skins were washed and then soaked in lead troughs like this. Alum and other minerals were added to the water to keep the pelts supple. The other cat-skinning trough can be seen at the Whithorn Trust Visitor Centre in Whithorn.
In the collection of Stranraer Museum.