Cats in Ancient Egypt

If you’re a fan of cats or history, chances are you might know a bit about cats in ancient Egypt. 

We’ve already covered the history of the house cat in an earlier blog post, but ancient Egypt only got a brief mention. While ancient Egyptians valued cats for the same practical reasons as many other civilisations, their relationship was much more complex. Their love for cats was linked to companionship and practicality, but also status and worship. While these days we all know that our cats are tiny gods that deserve our respect, the ancient Egyptians stand out for being so ahead of the curve. Let’s take a closer look at why they treated cats with such reverence. 

 

Companionship

Ancient Egyptians had such strong bonds with their cats that they were considered part of the household.  They were valued for their companionship, often being depicted in artwork curled up inside homes like our modern day cats.

Many tombs are decorated with paintings showing the family’s cats, suggesting that these families wanted their cats to be with them in the afterlife. Some families even went a step further, having their cats mummified and put into their tombs alongside them.

 

Practicality

As we discovered in our earlier blog post, cats served a very useful role throughout many time periods and it was no different in this ancient civilisation. For societies that relied on agriculture, cats were an incredibly effective way of protecting crops from pests like mice and rats. 

In Egypt, they also had the added benefit of chasing away dangerous pests like snakes and scorpions from homes. It’s believed that ancient Egyptians even trained their cats (which is an impressive feat in itself) and took them along on hunting trips. 


Status

Cats were also pretty trendy accessories. Egyptian royals kept giant cats as pets and dressed them in real gold, pampering them and treating them like one of the (royal) family. This made cats a desirable and aspirational accessory for those wishing to emulate royalty, and well-to-do families would pamper their cats and dress them in jewels to be just like the royals.

 

Worship

It’s sometimes mistakenly believed that all cats were worshipped as gods, but it’s a little more complicated than this. While the cats themselves weren’t worshipped as gods, it was believed that the gods chose to take the form of various animals, including cats, which therefore made them worthy of respect. The popularity of cats in ancient Egyptian daily life was therefore a constant reminder of the power of their gods.

You might be familiar with the images of gods with the bodies of a human and the head of an animal—perhaps the most well-known are Anubis, with the head of a dog, and Horus, the head of a falcon. But there were goddesses with cat heads, too: Bastet had the head of a cat, while Sekhmet, another goddess, is depicted with the head of a lion. 

It was believed that these gods and goddesses could fully inhabit the body of their respective animals too, meaning Bastet was often depicted as a cat and explaining why they were so revered.


If you want to investigate further, take a look at this article that goes into even more detail on ancient Egyptians and their cats

11/05/2022 by NatuTeam

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