Cats in Ancient Egyptian Culture: Part of the Family

The next course of action for the ancient Egyptians was to bring the cat into their households. Felines eventually found their way into homes and decided to stick around. They allowed themselves to be tamed, overcoming a large step of permitting the presence of humans even when rearing their offspring. In this article, you are introduced to cats as part of the Egyptian family.

Cats As Part of the Family

Since the Egyptians started supplying food to the cats, they began to influence changes in the animal’s habits and way of living. Besides changing their diet, the Egyptians learned how to breed the cats for certain characteristics. Over time, the Egyptians enjoyed the company of the cat more and more, as they were smart, affectionate, and quite playful.

During the New Kingdom (nearly 500 years after the Egyptians first attempted to domesticate the cat), tomb paintings started to emerge, showing the cat as a part of the family. Another significant piece of evidence that indicates the domestication of the cat was the discovery of mummified cats in the final resting places. Dating back to about 1000 BC (the late Pharonic era), it is assumed that these cats were most likely household pets that were honored with mummification.

Evidence Written on Tomb Walls

When analyzing tomb scenes dating back to the New Kingdom (1540 to 1069 BC), cats were becoming increasingly prevalent in everyday settings. Where many people felt that dogs were the only companions to accompany their masters on hunts, the ancient Egyptians took their cats on hunting trips. If they visited a marsh, the cat came in handy in many cases, as they could be trained to retrieve fish and fowl. Another typical scene shows cats sitting under the chair of women.

Cats became more and more involved in the lives of their owners. It was not uncommon for parents to choose a name for their kids by gaining inspiration from cats. This practice mostly affected daughters. Girls often were called Mit or Miut. In King Mentuhotep’s temple located at Deir el-Bahri, the mummy of a 5-year-old girl was named Mirt.

Another significance of the cat within Egyptian culture was their value in regards to the world of superstition and mystery. Myths centered on the power of the feline, such as the tale that involves the Egyptians winning a battle due to the help of cats. While fighting a foreign adversary that was advancing closer and closer, the Egyptians released thousands of cats at the front lines. The extremely large number of cats that descended upon the field was enough to send the opposing army running for cover”¦or so they say.


All over Egypt, cat-worshiping cults grew, including the Bast worshipers that would even fight in the name of the Egyptian goddess Bast. Many people within the culture had grown to worship cats in the same way they did gods and goddesses. They felines were fed milk, bread, and fish from the Nile. They were pampered and given the same type of treatment as an important religious figure. When they died, they were often mummified and later entombed. The Egyptians even created laws to protect cats.