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Would Ancient Egyptians Worship Your Pet Cat?
By R. G. Kirk
The next time you sip your morning coffee while watching your favorite pet feline methodically groom herself for the day, consider this: your pet cat might have been revered, even worshipped by Egyptians thousands of years ago. These ancient Egyptians were a technologically and intellectually advanced society for their time. What exactly about your pet would they find so worthy of adoration?

To better appreciate this raceís amazing allegiance to their four footed companions, one must have a modest understanding of history. The Egyptians wisely utilized the waters from the Nile River, and its surrounding fertile soil to grow a variety of crops. Those seasons when the crops failed, the economy suffered horribly, and thousands of people went without food. This ancient culture relied heavily upon the wild, or feral cats of their era to protect their prized grains and harvested crops from disease carrying rats and mice. With their long, graceful limbs, large eyes, and sleek form, these agile felines were perfectly suited to catch vermin. It is suggested that terrible plagues were avoided just from the cats keeping the local rat population in check.

While feral cats were doing their part to protect important Egyptian grains and produce (as well as the local economy), in their cities and villages, domesticated cats served another significant purpose.

Household cats were bread for their abilities to protect their beloved owners from snakes, rats, and other harmful pests. Cats were known to risk their lives for their owners, attacking and killing venomous cobras to protect their families. They kept young children from harm, and roamed the houses at night, using teeth and sharpened claws to safeguard the premises.

The cleverness, resourcefulness, agility, and grace of the Egyptianís domesticated cats inspired this ancient culture to associate them with the goddess Bast. Bastís spirit was often personified in feline appearance, and was frequently seen in the form of statues, paintings, and sculptures of the period. At times Bast was depicted with the face and head of a feline. On other occasions she was portrayed as a wise, regal cat. Bast was eventually given her own beautiful temple so that pilgrims could travel to revere her spirit in her own place of worship. Inside this structure, the priests of Bast cared for the many temple cats that dwelled in the sanctity of this holy place. In time, the sacred practice of mummification was extended to cats, for their owners adored them, revered them, and wished to be with them even in the afterlife.

In modern times, cats are still of importance to society. As the ancient Egyptians correctly realized, there are many advantages to having cats in the household as well as in the community. Although most cats in modern society are not required to save their owners from deadly cobras, many have been known to (depending on the local climate) protect against rattlesnakes, scorpions, poisonous spiders, and disease carrying rats and mice. Many farms, vineyards, and orchards continue to welcome cats for their ability to contain the local pest populations.

Scientists have spent vast sums of money trying to unlock the secrets of feline nocturnal vision. Catsí nerves, reflexes, and musculoskeletal systems are presently being analyzed with the hope of making medical advancements that would be of benefit to humankind. Hundreds of years from today, we will still be learning about our feline companions, and benefiting from their presence in many ways.

Now would an ancient Egyptian have worshipped my pet cat? Itís quite possible. Would I worship my cat? Possibly, if she were able to reorganize my DVD collection, tidy up the kitchen, and organize my computer desk. I would definitely have to consider it.
After receiving her doctorate in 2001, R. G. Kirk has published numerous articles on a wide range of topics. She is currently the marketing director for - a company that provides international travel opportunities, and focuses on luxury pet vacations.

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