Why Were the Ancient Egyptians So Crazy About Cats?

Discovery Jul 30, 2021

Who doesn’t love cats, right? Okay, there are quite a few people in the world who’d prefer the company of dogs, but as a general rule, cats are loved by most people and some of them choose cats to be their life companions. Cats are independent, but can show just as much affection and love as more extraverted dogs, who are considered to be the human’s best friend. It turns out that cats have been loved for thousands of years by many ancient cultures, but it was the Ancient Egypt that treated cats as godlike creatures. So what was the reason behind it?

Ancient Egyptians not only treated their favourite pets with exceptional care and respect, but they even mummified many of them, creating the first ever pet cemetery that we know of around two thousand years ago. Ancient Egyptians adorned them with beautiful beads and precious stones, built huge statues of their pets, and created beautiful jewelry depicting cats in various poses. Some cats were treated just like Pharaohs!

Egyptologists believe that cats weren’t actually worshipped by the ancient Egyptians, but the animals possessed so many god-like qualities that they had to be commemorated in one way or the other. It also bears mentioning that a lot of Egyptian gods had cat-like features and often could take on a form of a cat. Fierce goddess Sekhment, for example, possessed a head of a lioness. Initially, she was sent by god Ra to punish the humanity for its many crimes, but the goddess grew so violent that he had to pacify her with red beer instead of the blood she craved so much. After that, Sekhmet curled up like a cat and peacefully fell asleep. Now she is perceived as a protector who helps people with various transitions in life.

And don’t get us started on the Sphinx of Giza! Historians are still not sure why ancient Egyptians erected this spectacular 230-foot-long statue, but its feline features point, once again, to the love ancient Egyptians felt for cats and the like. Cats weren’t just pretty little animals, they possessed different amazing features and could go from fierce and protective of their home to lazy and peaceful just observing their surroundings in a blink of an eye. Lion statues were often seen guarding the entrances to pyramids or temples, hence, the Sphinx of Giza might have been a guardian, protecting some secrets we have no notion of.

Egyptian cat burials date back thousands of years.  One of the oldest burials is truly ancient – the cat was mummified and buried around 4000 B.C.! Ancient Egyptians loved kitties so much that they even used cat names for their children (for example, a girl’s name Mitt which literally means ‘cat’).

Still, there was a darker side to the ancient Egyptian’s cat obsession. Scientists carried out a CT-scan of one cat mummy created around 700 B.C. Inside they found a cat that was no older than five months! Its neck was broken, so there was no doubt that the cat was killed especially for the ceremony. Cats were loved in Ancient Egypt so much that people wanted to be buried with them. Using cats as sacrificial animals was also a common practice. All this created a whole industry of cat breeders with big farms selling cats for various purposes.

There was a thin line between ancient Egyptians’ love for cats and their infatuation with these beautiful animals. But one thing we know for sure – there wasn’t a household in Ancient Egypt that didn’t own a cat and dozens of temples featured cat-like gods and goddesses, commemorating the mysterious nature of the feline kind.

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