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Importance of Domesticated Cats in Ancient Egyptian Culture
Posted In: Ancient Civilizations  5/30/09
By: Yona Williams

When it comes to the ancient Egyptians, visions of majestic pyramids and tombs filled with a treasure trove of jewels may enter your mind. Additionally, if you were to envision one animal that best represents the ancient Egyptian culture, it would be the cat. They not only served as pets within the Egyptian household, but also enjoyed an esteemed status of sacred animal.

There was a connection between the deities that ancient Egyptians worshipped and the cat, as they often played a role in their rituals and worship of gods and goddesses. In this article, you will learn more about the domestication of the feline, as well as background information on this important creature to the Egyptians.

There is no exact date that one can conclude when the cat was domesticated in Egypt, but researchers believe that the act took place around 2000 BC. If you are a cat owner, take a good look at your companion and know that chances are – he or she descended from the cats that lived centuries ago in ancient Egypt. Researchers have tried many times to pinpoint a date when the domesticated cat emerged, but ancient Egyptians did not indicate the differences between wild and tame cats in their records. Interestingly, the Egyptians had one word to refer to a cat (miu or mii), which translates into "he or she who mews."

Domestication of the Cat

Archeologists already know that dogs had been domesticated thousands of years before the cat, especially since they served a purpose during hunting trips. With cats, they possessed a certain aloofness that took a bit of time breaking through to. Cat owners probably already know that the cats of today still carry some of the characteristics of their undomesticated cousins.

One of the closest wild relatives of the modern cat is the African wild cat (Felis silvestris libyca), which was larger than the average domesticated cat of present day. It had yellow-gray fur, striped markings, and a long tail that tapered off. Basically, the cat was born with its very own camouflage that helped it hide amongst surrounding rocks and sand of the desert. This Egyptian cat also took advantage of its natural predator skills and would hunt small game rather than lead the life of a scavenger.

The villages of ancient Egypt faced a number of poisonous snakes, rats and mice that attacked food supplies within the households and snuck into the village granaries. The wild cat would come into the villages and hunted down the vermin, ridding the community of one of their number one threats. Some researchers theorize that the Egyptians would leave pieces of food out to bring in more wild cats. It is during this period that a symbiotic relationship developed between the cat and humans.


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