THE CAT IN ANCIENT EGYPT



From domesticated pet to revered symbol of divinity, the cat played an important role in the lives of Ancient Egyptians. On a practical level, cats were able to control the snake, rat and mice populations that threatened stores of precious grain, but they were also associated with a number of deities. The most famous of these was Bast (or Bastet), daughter of the Sun god, Ra. Depicted as a woman with the head of a cat, Bast could also appear with the head of a lioness to protect the pharaoh in battle. The city of Bubastis, chief location of worship for Bast, became a centre for pilgrims wishing to invoke her protection; sacred cats were kept in her temple as incarnations of the goddess. The Egyptians even hunted with their cats, training them to bring back prey.

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