The next time you drink your coffee while seeing your favorite pet feline groom herself for the day, analyze this: your pet cat might have been honored, even worshiped by Egyptians thousands of years ago. These early Egyptians were a technologically and intellectually superior society for their time. What specifically about your pet would they find so deserving of adoration?
To better understand this race’s amazing loyalty to their four-footed companions, one must have a proper understanding of history. The Egyptians carefully used the waters from the Nile River, and its neighboring fertile soil to grow a variety of crops. Those seasons when the crops failed, the economy fell horribly, and thousands of people went without food. This old culture relied heavily upon the wild, or feral cats of their age to defend their prized grains and harvested crops from disease-carrying rats and mice. With their long, elegant limbs, large eyes, and sleek form, these agile felines were suited to catch vermin. It is proposed that terrible plagues were avoided just from the cats keeping the local rat population in check.
While feral cats were doing their part to preserve valuable Egyptian grains and produce (as well as the local economy), in their cities and villages, domesticated cats served another essential purpose. Household cats were bred for their skills to protect their respected 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 bases.
The brilliance, resourcefulness, quickness, and grace of the Egyptian’s domesticated cats sparked this ancient culture to link them with the goddess Bast. Bast’s spirit was frequently represented in feline appearance and was frequently seen in the form of statues, paintings, and sculptures of the period. At times, Bast was described with the face and head of a feline. On other occasions, she was portrayed as a wise, regal cat. Bast was ultimately given her magnificent temple so that wanderers could travel to honor her spirit in her place of worship. Inside this structure, the priests of Bast cared for the many temple cats that dwelled in the virtue of this holy place. In time, the sacred tradition of mummification was extended to cats, for their owners cherished them, revered them, and wished to be with them even in the afterlife.
In modern times, cats are still of relevance to society. As the ancient Egyptians perfectly realized, there are many benefits to having cats in the household as well as in the community. Although most cats in modern society are not expected 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 proceed to welcome cats for their capacity to hold the local pest populations.
Scientists have paid vast sums of money trying to unfasten the secrets of stealthy nocturnal vision. Cats’ nerves, reflexes, and musculoskeletal systems are currently being investigated with the hope of making medical advancements that would be of interest to humankind. Hundreds of years from today, we will still be hearing about our feline companions, and profiting from their presence in many ways.
Now would an ancient Egyptian have worshiped my pet cat? It’s entirely possible. Would I worship my cat? Maybe, if she were able to reorganize my Play Station collection, clean up the kitchen, and organize my office desk. I would unquestionably have to admit it.