You’ve probably heard about some interesting historical facts about cats in Ancient Egypt. You came across different types of information that made you believe that cats were adored like the Gods themselves.
So, what’s the actual truth?
As an avid lover of cats, you’re intrigued by all of this. You’re looking at that small creature, and you just think that she’s dumb and clumsy. However, there’s a long history of the entanglement between cats and humans.
I mean, you sometimes feel like a servant to your cat. Is that because of some supernatural powers that make people act this way? Do they have a genetic predisposition to be adored and loved? Is there something that you should know?
Well, there’s nothing supernatural going on, but the Egyptians did have an interesting relationship with their cats. So, I hope to deliver some jaw-dropping historical facts about cats in Ancient Egypt to occupy your brain.
Historical facts about cats in Ancient Egypt
1. Cats weren’t always seen as sacred
When we’re talking about the historical facts about cats in Ancient Egypt, it’s important to mention the first time cats were depicted. Well, there was a tomb that dates to 1950 B.C.E. that depicted domestic cats.
Back then, cats were seen as cute hunters who would help people get rid of any vermin. They’d take care of bugs and rodents, so people would keep them around. The Ancient Egyptians would take them on hunting trips to hunt smaller animals (like birds or fish) around the Nile River.
It’s believed that even before they became sacred animals, the Ancient Egyptians would keep at least one cat in their home to ward off snakes from their houses.
This means that, even though they were popular, cats weren’t always worshiped as we’ll see later down the path.
2. The Goddess
One of the most interesting historical facts about cats in Ancient Egypt is the fact that these sacred animals were serving a Goddess. The goddess Bastet was usually depicted as a woman with the head of a cat, and sometimes she was even completely depicted as a cat. She was the defender of Ra, who was the god of the Sun.
Bastet was the protector of humans, and she was the goddess of love, beauty, happiness, and joy.
In some stories, they even called her the “household goddess.” She was responsible for fertility, mothers, children, even dancing, and of course cats.
She gained a cult following during the first millennium B.C.E. What’s also important to note was that Bastet was depicted as a lioness for years before people started to show her as a short-haired domestic cat.
3. Cats were often mummified
One of the more disturbing historical facts about cats in Ancient Egypt is the fact that beloved house cats were mummified once they died. This was done to cats who were so cherished by their owners that they were hoping to ensure that their cats could join them in the afterlife.
There was even an analysis done on some mummified felines that showed the same embalming materials were used on humans and cats.
This tells us that people took just as much care of cats as they did of humans. They gave them the same attention and care in preparation for their afterlife. However, some believe that only the wealthiest families would do this for their deceased cats.
4. It was illegal to take a cat out of the country
This may not be the most interesting fact of the day, but it was forbidden to take cats out of the country. There was even a law brought to support this.
I guess they genuinely do adore their cats more than we ever thought to be possible.
5. Egyptians would mourn the loss of a cat
You see, the Ancient Egyptians would mourn the loss of their cat in more ways than one.
It was found in the writings of the Roman scholar, Herodotus, that the Egyptians would shave off their eyebrows when their house cat would pass. This was their way of showing the mourning period, and they’d let everyone know what happened with this gesture.
So, what this means is that these families would be in mourning until their eyebrows grew back. For them, this was more than an aesthetic thing that was done, it was actually a sign of the tremendous pain that they were feeling.
6. They were never allowed to hurt a cat
These facts about cats in Ancient Egypt keep getting more interesting. Would you believe us if we told you that there were such horrendous punishments for people who dared to hurt a cat? Or worse, if they killed a cat…
There was even a law about war and the treatment of cats. It’s said that people would stay far away from cats during the time of war. If someone was to kill a cat on purpose, they were sentenced to death. However, if they killed a cat involuntarily, they would pay a fine fixed in each case by the priests.
Even the Persian king Cambyses II in the Battle of Pelusium (525 BC) was able to distract the Egyptians using cats. His soldiers would use shields with the face of the goddess Bastet. He also captured lots of cats to let them out on the battlefield to make the Egyptians fight more carefully.
They wouldn’t harm the cats even if it meant not winning a battle. King Cambyses II would also throw these felines toward the fortress, where the Egyptians tried to find shelter. This made even the archers shoot with much greater caution than they usually would.
The Ancient Egyptians genuinely believed that hurting a cat was the worst thing you could do. So they made sure to always be careful around cats, even at times when their own lives were hanging in the balance.
7. They believed that cats could see beyond the physical world
Another one of the more interesting historical facts about cats in Ancient Egypt is the information that Ancient Egyptians believed that cats could see beyond the physical world. Because they were divine beings in their eyes, they believed that a cat could see into a person’s soul.
This was mostly demonstrated in moments when a cat would willingly come up to a person to cuddle with them, or simply to lay next to them. If a cat started hissing at you, the Ancient Egyptians would believe that you’re a bad human being.
They believed the judgment of a cat quite a lot because they thought that cats could see your soul, and feel your intentions.
8. Makeup was inspired by cats
Because many believed in the spiritual powers of cats, especially that they had powers in their eyes, many wanted their makeup to emulate the face of a cat. Which is mostly seen in the heavy eye makeup that men and women alike would wear.
They wouldn’t wear much makeup on the lips, simply to keep the focus on their eyes.
Their eyeliner would go completely around the eyes and be dominantly made out of different minerals like copper ore and malachite. Also, considering that cats were always deemed as the protectors, it was believed that this eye makeup (that we call cat-eye nowadays) was used for protection from the evil eye.
However, it was also a statement of beauty and wealth.
9. They were the protectors
Judging from the representations in the tombs of the New Kingdom, from the reign of Thutmose III, the Cat was usually a solar symbol. But they were also considered to be the protectors of the home. They protected the home from the evil eye, evil people, and evil spirits.
What was once a cute house animal was now considered to be the most sacred animal in Ancient Egypt.
This historical fact about cats in Ancient Egypt is well known, and even in the modern day, it’s quite a common belief. Some people still believe that cats are protectors, that they’re members of the family, and that they’re even clean enough to be part of prayers.
Because Ancient Egyptians believed that cats were magical beings, they would dress them in different jewelry. They would even give them food that was fit for royalty.
10. They believed that cats had two personalities
If you own a cat then you may relate to these historical facts about cats in Ancient Egypt, but this one in particular you won’t be able to deny.
People who kept cats as house pets believed that their cats were the embodiment of the goddess Bastet (as aforementioned). However, this also made them believe in the dual personality of Bastet.
Even though your cat can be the most adorable and cuddly ball of fur, the Ancient Egyptians also believed in the viciousness and hostility of cats. They believed that this part of their cat would come out only at times when they were in danger or when they were trying to make their owner aware of a bad spirit.