Cats in Ancient Egypt

Cats have been causing admiration, mystery and intrigue in human beings since time immemorial. Going back to the time of before Christ, specifically about 3600 years, cats in Ancient Egypt had a special relevance. At that time, the four pets were only four: the cat or miu , the dog, tysem or iu , the baboon or ian and the monkey or ky .

Characteristics of cats in Ancient Egypt

Different experts believe that the cat breed domesticated by the Egyptians was a spotted subspecies of the African wild cat, Felis silvestris lybica . It seems that the Egyptian representations show cats similar to the Egyptian mau race. And, interestingly, the word ' mau ' means 'cat' in Egyptian.

This breed has a characteristic 'M' on its forehead and is the only one with natural spots. They are characterized by the great fidelity shown both to their human and cat family, their melodious meow and the incessant movement of their tail.

The cat participated in numerous aspects of life in Egypt. Among them, were the religion, mythology and daily life of the Egyptians. In all of them, cats were "worshiped as deities, loved as pets, protected by law, mummified and missed after their death," according to the October 2009 UBER Magazine.

Form of life of cats in Ancient Egypt

The cat is domesticated and becomes part of the life of the Egyptians in the Middle Kingdom . The Middle Kingdom is the most prosperous period of Ancient Egypt, in which pharaohs such as Amenhotep III (~ 1390 - 1353 BC) stand out. Pharaoh Amenotep III had a beautifully decorated sarcophagus for his cat Tamit, whose name means 'cat'.

Statue of an Egyptian cat

Cats fulfilled different duties, such as keeping controlled the pests, that proliferated near the houses. The pests were caused mainly by rats, but also by other animals such as scorpions or snakes.

Other tasks also consisted of helping to hunt their owners. They scared the birds, which took off in order to facilitate the hunting work. Their work was so important that they became the favorite pet of royalty.

In Egyptian daily life

Cats acquired a relevant role in the different branches of the family. Egyptian culture such as religion or mythology . For example, the goddess Bast, Bastet or Ubastet represented the protection of man as well as a cat with its young.

Its best-known representation is that in which its body is that of a human woman. , but with the head of a cat. The goddess Bast was the mother of Nefer-Tmu. While the mother represented the soft and comforting warmth of the sun, the daughter personifies the sun itself and its warmth.

 Bastet, goddess of the cats of Ancient Egypt

Cats were the sacred creature associated with the goddess Bastet. In the temples of this goddess cats were raised and protected. However, they were usually sacrificed and mummified when they were 10 months old as offerings of pilgrims or other individuals.


In Ancient Egypt there was a series of events that were curious. Among these facts, the following stand out:

  • When the pet died, the owners expressed their pain and pain by depilating a part of the body. If the deceased pet was a cat, the owner would shave his eyebrows.
  • The Egyptians banned the export of cats outside the kingdom . Even so, about 2500 years BC, cats had arrived in Greece.
  • Cats have been part of numerous stories, legends and literary novels.
  • In a legend, the cat is represented as a deity, as the god of the sun. This god-cat is standing on a celestial tree and is cutting a snake. Not enough is known to deduce what god the cat represents, so different options are being considered.
  • A study suggested that European Eastern European populations lived with cats . A double grave was found, a human and a cat, buried in the Mediterranean island of Cyprus 9500 years ago.

Since they began to be part of the life of humans, cats They have generated mixed feelings. Their independence can simulate indifference, just as their stealthy as well as elegant gait can cause concern when they do not know when they are approaching. However, his transparent gaze, his cuddly purr and the elegance they convey, are appreciated qualities.