It's true that we all love our cats, some of us are even slaves to them. We feed them, brush them, get them yummy treats and toys, make them their own special spots with elaborate cat trees and Kitty Kasas, and are always at their every beckoning call. While we all have a soft spot for our feline friends, no one is quite as obsessed with cats as the Ancient Egyptians.
Ancient Egyptians took the term "crazy cat people" to a whole other level, with their admiration and even worship of cats. No, this wasn't just putting their cat's face on a sweatshirt or getting a cat backpack to take them everywhere. We're talking full-blown infatuation to the point of making laws surrounding cats, having an entire branch of government dedicated to managing such cat laws, going through deep and odd forms of mourning when a cat dies, embalming and mummifying cats, worshiping cat goddesses, and even losing an entire battle for the sake of cats. It's no wonder modern day cats still act like they own us and run our households.
There were a number of laws surrounding the protection and treatment of cats in Ancient Egypt. The most serious of cat-based laws being the strict ban on exporting cats from Egypt and the mandatory death sentence imposed on those who were found guilty of killing a cat.
In an effort to ensure cats were not exported from Egypt, an entire branch of government was erected to handle all things regarding this issue. In the case that cats were smuggled out of the country, special government agents were tasked with locating and returning the cats back to Egypt.
There is nothing quite as heartbreaking as losing your furry friend. We all go through different processes of mourning when we have to send our kitties over the rainbow bridge, but the Ancient Egyptians form of mourning was outright bizarre. In the event that a cat died, everyone in the household would shave their eyebrows as a symbol of deep mourning. This mourning was only over once their eyebrows grew back.
Ancient Egyptians are famous for mummifying their dead, but did you know they also mummified their cats? When a cat died, they were taken to Bubastis (a city dedicated to the Egyptian cat goddess, Bastet) to be embalmed, mummified, and buried. Many cats were buried in Bubastis, but others were buried with or next to their owners.
Cats did not just consume Ancient Egyptian's lives, but their afterlives as well. There were a number of Goddesses and Gods in Ancient Egypt that were depicted as cats, the most famous of these being Bastet. Bastet was the keeper of hearth and home, protector of women's secrets, guardian against evil spirits and disease, and most importantly, the goddess of cats. Other notable cat goddesses include Sekmet, Mafdet, and Tefnut. Different Egyptian gods and goddesses were also known for occasionally taking on the form of a cat. Those being Neith, Mut, and Ra (Ra being those most notable, as he is the king of all gods).
If all of the prior examples weren't enough to show you how devoted Ancient Egyptians were to cats, then this certainly will! The Battle of Pelusium in 525 BCE was an iconic battle where Persian forces conquered Egypt in a very unique way. Knowing the Egyptian's love for cats, the Persians gathered various animals (predominantly cats) and drove them ahead of their invading forces, towards the Egyptian city of Pelusium. Persian soldiers also painted cats on their shields and even held cats in their arms in an effort to ward off Egyptian defenses. Reluctant to risk harming the cats, Egyptians forces did not defend themselves and Egypt subsequently fell to the Persians. Now that's dedication!
Ancient Egypt was certainly a cat's paradise that is the envy of any modern-day cat. It leaves little to the imagination as to how they got to be the most entitled of housepets (even though we love them for it). Although we will never amount to the level of devotion to our cats that the Ancient Egyptians did, we can still show them tons of love on a daily basis by treating them like the royalty they know they are!
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