Why Did Egyptians Worship Cats?

5 Things That Made Cats Royalty in Ancient Egypt

Just like any other ancient civilization, Egypt also had its favorite animals. It was cats who were domesticated in ancient Egypt. The Egyptians worshiped many animal species, but cats were on the top. Even though dogs were valued for the ability to be loyal and protective, cats were thought to be a kind of demi-gods.

Here are some facts why cats were royal animals in ancient Egypt.

There Were Feline Deities in the Ancient Egypt

Since the foundation of ancient Egypt, cats had played an important role in the tradition and history of this magnificent civilization. Just like agriculture, architecture or wars, religion was of great importance, especially to Egyptians. One of their primary gods was Mafdet. She had one standardized form of woman-cat deity, but also combinations of several different cat species. She had the head of a lion, house-cat, or cheetah.

Mafdet: The Forgotten Goddess of Old Kingdom Egypt – StMU History Media

This deity was revered and respected by the Egyptian people because she was a protector of the home and the kingdom itself. Due to her feline characteristics, she was capable of fighting back venomous animals such as snakes and scorpions.

Cats Could Be Seen on Many Objects in Entire Ancient Egypt

As the popularity of cats was increasing, they began to appear on more objects with each passing day. By reason of the feline deities, the statues inlaid with cat motifs had to be made. The motifs such as pierced ears and silver or gold earrings were the most common. Eyes were either crystallized or made of some other opaque material.

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The Egyptians made these statues for funerary and shine purposes. However, not only did the Egyptians made statues in honor to cats, but also many other items and objects related to this worshiped animal. Cats were very popular in terms of jewelry.

Trinkets like intricate bracelets, soapstone cat amulets and rings, golden cat pendants or necklaces could be seen on a daily basis. Moreover, cats were part of people’s everyday life. Women would have their cats standing on the wooden handles while they were making up their faces. It is also claimed that if a cat appears in one’s dreams, it means there will be a good harvest.

There Were Cults and Celebrations in Honor to Cats

In northern Egypt, there was a city called Bubastis. Around 3200 BC, the city was found just to become the place where the Egyptians would celebrate and worship Bastet. Bastet, also a feline deity, was a warfare goddess in Lower Egypt. This annual festivity held on October 31 would take place with hundreds of thousands of people.

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The festivity would turn into a pilgrimage where pilgrims would even visit other ancient Egypt cities including Memphis. The festivity was all about drinking wine, singing and enjoying life. In the end, as the festivity was about the end, pilgrims would pray to Bastet to remain in good health and joy, which would often be accompanied by music.

Cats Were Mummified

Being revered by people, some cats underwent the process of mummification after death just like humans. The cat would be buried with provisions like milk and mice. The reasons for their mummification were different, but mostly it was for religious reasons. Humans wanted to return the favor to cats in the form of a royal offering.

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mummified egyptian cats
Like humans, cats were mummified and buried. Credits: strangehistory.net

The very process of mummifying a cat was not much different than the human one. The deceased cat would be wrapped in fine linen, treated with cedar oil in order to preserve both the body and a pleasant odor for a long time. In addition, about 80,000 feline burials were registered in 1888 in a tomb in Beni Hassan.

Cats Were Beloved and Helpful Pets

People in ancient Egypt adored cats, but not only for their royal nature. They were also a very helpful human companion. Cats were taken to hunting excursions, where they would be trained to retrieve fish and fowl. When staying in town, cats would also protect people from venomous animals such as snakes. They also killed mice and rats. By protecting them, they earned their place in the human’s family life.

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