Hi. Joanna here.
If you’ve been following along carefully you’ll remember I spun out, not one, but two postings on dogs and their collars, covering everything from paleolithic hunters with dogs on leashes to the spiked collars of shepherd dogs abiding in the Medieval fields.
My dog is pleased. My cat has been moping about the place, glaring at me in a mortally offended manner, so I’ve decided everybody is going to get a little posting about way way back cats.
House cats, in any historical and factual sense, didn’t wear collars much, so we aren't going to find many of them among plain old historical ancient cats, though we'll look.
The oldest cats we know of were not exclusively kept as semi-feral mouse slaughterers. Some were beloved house pets.
The carefully interred remains of a human and a cat were found buried with seashells, polished stones, and other decorative artifacts in a 9,500-year-old grave site on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. This new find, from the Neolithic village of Shillourokambos, predates early Egyptian art depicting cats by 4,000 years or more.
John Pickrell, National Geographic
I added this as a quote because one does not often get to mention the Neolithic village of Shillourokambos and I did not want to miss the chance.
Early Egyptian cats get a lot of credit for being the avatar of the Egyptian god Bastet. Which is fine. I will not bring up Anubis, Horus, Babi, Sobek and a host of other Egyptian gods represented as their animal avatars because I do not want to be ambushed in a dark alley some night by hundreds of outraged tabbies.
The jackals, hawks, baboons, and crocodiles etc. have managed to get over themselves. The cats never will.
Here’s an ancient Egyptian cat meeting a large snake. She seems dismayed.
My guess is, part of the duty of the ancient house cat was to play Rikki Tikki Tavi and keep the place free of deadly snakes. Obviously this is a cat rethinking her life choices.
Probably most Egyptian house kitties dealt with the odd lizard or vole or intrusive dragonfly and spent the rest of their time being spoiled rotten. (I go by current cat behavior.)
Here’s one of many paintings that show Fluffy or Tiddums or Snuggles sitting companionably under a chair. In this one, he's greedily devouring a fish.
Here, an Egyptian cat is out on a family expedition in the marshes to hunt game birds.
Go ahead and click on the picture for a close up.It's just lovely.
All a bit confusing but lots of action.
Just exactly how she’s doing that leap and capture is not made clear, but one can hear the panicked flurry of wings as birds tumble out of the reeds before her pounce.
I have a somewhat disturbing image of an actual Egyptian cat in a collar, sitting under a chair. It looks as if it were made by a junior designer at Mattel, late on Friday, after a very long week.
So some house cats did have collars.
The image of a more beautiful cat, also collared, is carved onto its sarcophagus. I'm sorry not to find a better image. Again, click on the image to see it better.
The sticking up part is the tail because that is how Egyptians represented cat tails.
She was named Ta Mit, which means “female cat.” That’s not the most imaginative name but she must have been much beloved. Prince Thatmose ordered his Ta Mit a sarcophagus and engraved it with funeral texts to protect her in the afterlife.
Some cats in the most wealthy Egyptian houses were not the familiar Felis domestica who rules her modern household with a paw of iron.
Lions and cheetahs are often shown in procession, tamed and on leash, being offered as tribute to pharaohs. The nobles kept these wild cats as pets. We see them sitting by the pharaoh’s throne, prized and beautiful, living decorative fixtures. They were favored hunting animals.
Egyptian cheetahs are shown going to battle, running beside the prince’s chariot, possibly making life difficult for foot soldiers on the opposing side.
Ancient Egyptians, though they do not seem to have put fancy collars on their domestic shorthairs, did know what a cat goddess wore in her semihuman incarnation.
Here’s Bastet the Cat-Headed-Goddess wearing the latest in colorful Egyptian fashion.
Looks nice, I think.
When Bastet is represented as a cat, she sometimes it gets All The Collar. I don't think the temple cats were actually got up like this. A real cat would squirm out of that in ten seconds and stalk off in disgust.
Bastet was originally worshipped as a warrior goddess and depicted with a lion’s head. In what might be regarded as a demotion, she evolved to become the cat-headed goddess we know today.
I kinda like to think of a warrior goddess lurking within my plump Singi.
So. If my cat is an impatient, former lion goddess with a raucous voice, what’s yours like?