Friday 13 April 2012

Ancient Egyptians Abused Cats

The internet is full of articles about how the ancient Egyptians loved nay..worshiped cats. The great cat god Bastet is always referred to. It was the golden era for the domestic cat, we are told. I've always been skeptical about this myth. It is just not true. There has been a lot of glossing up and repetition on the internet. Isn't there always?

Mummified 4-5 month old kitten.
X-ray image credit: Giacomo Gnudi et al

A recent research paper into a mummified kitten has reinforced my views. The document states that from about 300 years before Christ to 30 years BC in Egypt, cats were bred for the specific purpose to kill them (euphemistically referred to as "euthanase" meaning euthanize) when they were young kittens of 3-5 months of age so that they could be mummified and sold to a customer who wanted to offer it up to Bastet. I presume as a means to try and improve the person's life. This happened in "huge numbers" according to the authors of the research paper. We know the numbers were large because at one time (late 19th century) the cat mummies were dug up and shipped to Liverpool, England where they were rendered down to make fertiliser!

It was mass slaughter. Plus ├ža change. We are still mass slaughtering the cat - unwanted cats this time.

The mummified kitten (4–5 months of age) studied by Giacomo Gnudi, a professor at the University of Parma, indicated that some of its bones had been broken so that it occupied a smaller space in a tight wrappings. The mummy had a hole in its head. Was this how the kitten was killed? We don't know. Death may have come in a cruel manner.

There is nothing that is cat loving or cat caring about this process. It is all about the human and his insecurities and superstitions. It is simply cat use and abuse.

We have to conclude that the Ancient Egyptians were like anyone else in their relationship with the domestic cat. Some of them were kind to the cat. I suspect some disagreed strongly with the idea of worshiping a cat-god and offering up mummified kittens. These were the enlightened ones. But a lot cared little for the cat and used the cat in this abusive manner.

Note: the research paper is from the April 2012 issue of the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. The authors kindly made the entire document public with free access. Radiological investigation of an over 2000-year-old Egyptian mummy of a cat. Well done.


  1. Have a look at this post (quoting you):
    I'd be glad to hear what you think, Judith

  2. Hi, thanks for commenting. I skimmed the article that your referred to and I think you are saying that mass slaughter of cats happened but we can't judge Ancient Egyptians by modern standards. If that is your point, I agree in one sense but when it comes to animal welfare of the most basic kind I make the presumption that even 2 thousand years ago or whatever, people understood what animal welfare meant. It is more about common sense. And in any case I think we can judge them by modern standards. I am challenging the notion that the Egyptians loved and protected their cats. It is not true. And today the same applies. The famous Egyptian Mau (feral cat) in Egypt is mistreated. Worshipping a god cat is ignorant, superstitious behavior by today's standards and that ignorance translates to cat abuse. Cat abuse is an absolute thing. It is black and white and it transcends time because all cats from whatever era have feelings and nerves and brains. And if people don't get that they can't be excused.

  3. Before I became president of S.E.C.T.A. -"Small Exotic Cat Trainers of America" I worked at the Humane Society in Colorado. I saw firsthand the "slaughter" of litters of kittens because they were all black or gray tabby, which is thought to be unadoptable colors by the Humane Society when they had no room. I guess people haven't changed much since the "good ol' days".

    1. I am horrified to read your comment. You wouldn't like to expand on it would you so that I could turn the comment into an article?

      I agree people don't change and haven't changed much if at all in their relationship with animals -- we still treat animals badly. Not all of us but too many of us.

      Thanks for commenting.

  4. There was an interesting PBS documentary that aired in October 2015; a reputable NOVA show, one titled "Animal Mummies".

    They explored the vast underground networks which were created specifically for the hundreds of thousands of animals that the Egyptians mummified (of all kinds of species). Apparently the Egyptians were in the business of selling animal-sacrifice "post(humous)-cards" to various Gods & Goddesses. Shops often had ready-made animal-mummies that they would sell to anyone visiting from any lands. The buyer would choose the mummified animal that represented the God or Goddess that they wanted to contact -- the God's or Goddess' favored totem animal. The buyer would then insert their particular message in the mummified-animal's wraps for a favor/prayer that the buyer required from that God or Goddess. The shop-keep (or the buyer) would then make the pilgrimage to the designated burial-site to ensure that message reached that God or Goddess -- now being carried by that Deity's kindred/totem animal's spirit direct to that God or Goddess. (Like all Spirit-Fluffys that cross over that "Rainbow Bridge" that they childishly go on about today; eventually end-up in the lap of the "Fluffy-Love God/dess", the message attached must now be read by Fluffy's respective "God/dess-Fluffy-Lover".)

    If they brought in their own animal for sacrificial mummification, rather than buying a "factory-prepared" store-bought one, that would show that particular God or Goddess that they REALLY deserved what was written in the inserted message. Then it wasn't just a factory-provided animal-sacrifice, your own dead animal would be a personal sacrifice! This is why so many cats were captured from surrounding regions. It's much easier and cheaper to catch and mummify a cat than say a bull or crocodile for example -- which were also mummified for this Gods-Messenging service. Cats were a low-effort and cost-effective dead-animal-messenger. They breed so prolifically too and weren't a favored stew-meat, it was easy to supply any required demand for them. (How much is a cat worth today? You can't even GIVE them away. People pay-off others to take them these days.) This is probably what accounts for Bastet's popularity -- she was the cheapest and easiest to talk to. Any inexpensive or unwanted dead cat was good for a hope and a prayer to Bastet! One of their bargain-basement Goddesses -- the $DOLLAR-$TORE of Gods. :-)

    It was big business! Like UPS or FedEx to send messages and pleas to various Gods. A Twitter feed to the Gods, if you will. :-) "Here's your pre-addressed dead-animal envelope. What message would you like to put in it? Oh, that's a juicy prayer (blush), nice! That'll be $29.95 please .... plus tax ... plus shipping if you don't want to take it to the worship site yourself. Next-Day service is extra. And how would you like to pay for this? Will this be Pieces-of-Gold-Sheep? We also accept 'Master-Scroll' and 'Egyptian-Express' credit-papyrus." Ka-Ching! :-)

    Try to find that show and watch it, pretty fascinating. As long as they could peddle their belief to all other cultures that killing an animal and mummifying it with a message would directly reach a God or Goddess of your choice, they were then "needed" by all other surrounding communities; and other cultures would be less likely to attack them or see harm come to them. They had a monopoly on a method by which everyone could directly contact everyone's favorite Gods this way. Like earlier AT&T monopoly switchboards that you had to go through to reach your intended party. It's why they were so secretive about the full mummification process too, then anyone could do it -- corporate security. :-)

    If you could peddle the belief that putting an edible prayer-note in a McBurger for an extra 59-cents would reach your favorite Gods then McDonalds would never come to an end! An "ever-lasting life". :-)

    1. I see you have put your usual cat-hating spin on this. I wouldn't expect anything else.


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