Why are cats so important in Ancient Egypt?

25

2

Cats were worshipped in ancient Egypt. This can be clearly seen by the large amount of cat statues, mummified cats, ... that have been found. There is even a God specific for cats (Bastet).

But why were cats seen as sacred animals?

Arperum

Posted 2015-05-01T13:19:47.077

Reputation: 231

Answers

21

Their association with Bastet coupled with their general usefulness in day to day life is the reason they were treated as they were

Bastet was the goddess of more than just cats, she was also the goddess of fire and pregnant women (an odd combination).

Bastet was originally called Mafdet and was the lion headed goddess of judgement, justice, and execution. But as feelings towards cats changed, she became a much softer and beloved cat headed goddess.

The cat, while a beloved household pet, was also a status symbol and in general an incredibly useful creature to have around :

Praised for controlling vermin and its ability to kill snakes such as cobras, the domesticated cat became a symbol of grace and poise.

They were employed to protect royal granaries and food stores from rodents and snakes. If a cat was present anywhere, it was a certain sign of cleanliness and wealth.

Interestingly, they were so beloved that :

The export of cats from Egypt was so strictly prohibited that a branch of the government was formed solely to deal with this issue. Government agents were dispatched to other lands to find and return cats which had been smuggled out. It is clearly established that, by 450 BCE, the penalty in Egypt for killing a cat was death

And of course, some were so revered they were eventually mummified.

Daft

Posted 2015-05-01T13:19:47.077

Reputation: 2 011

2

Cat's weren't exactly worshiped in Egypt, despite what Herodotus wrote. They were slaughtered by the millions to be mummified and serve as messengers to the gods. It's also interesting to note that while the Egyptians gave their pet dogs names, the only name we've seen them give their cats is "Meow" or "Ms. Meow".

There were single specific bulls that were considered living representatives of gods (Apis, Buchis, etc) and a sacred ram representative of Banebdjedet at Mendes, and Amun at Karnak. But we have no records of a specific cat representative of Bast or Ra, which was buried the same way as the bulls and rams.

Helmsman Of-Inepu

Posted 2015-05-01T13:19:47.077

Reputation: 683