Pets in Ancient Egypt?!
Animals, and not just cats, were an integral part of the Egyptian life. This is witnessed particularly in the fact that while most cultures give all gods a more or less human shape, all the Egyptian gods have animal heads. Most of these gods were given a cat like head, as cats were favored compared to other animals. This is because the ancient Egyptians believed cats to have magical powers. It was believed that cats were protectors of home and family and also good for the crops. The Egyptians were so reverent of cats that they were fiercely protected and anyone who killed a cat was executed for that crime.
It is rumored that Egyptians were the first to domesticate cats, as it was valuable when it came to controlling vermin and other pests. Women also favored cats as companions much the way modern people today look to pets for companionship. What is surprising is that all these pet cats were never named, they were just cats.
Whereas cats were an object of reverence, the most widely found pet in pet friendly Egypt was the dog. Dogs are one of the earliest domesticated animals and were often used for hunting purposes, farming, herding, and of course, as watchdogs. A family dog was always named and it was a general practice to give the dogs human names and consider them part of the family and not just pets. Dogs are the only animals that the Egyptians honored with names. Dogs were often buried in coffins close to the family that owned it.
I found it interesting that these Egyptians not only honored the cat and dog, but other animals as well were given these 'pet like' status.
Many birds, such as ducks, falcons, doves and geese were common pets all over ancient Egypt.
Even Gazelles were preferred as pets, for their gentle nature and they too were kept freely in Egyptian homes.
Lions were also kept as pets but it is not clear how much domestication they had to go through. Some archaeologists are of the opinion that most pet lions had to undergo removal of their fangs and claws before they were kept as pets.
Green monkeys and baboons were the second most popular pets after dogs. It is concluded that the primary reason for this popularity is the ability to train these animals to dance, sing, and even play musical instruments in order to entertain their owners and guests. The popularity was mostly related to comic appeal. While they were kept on a leash the rich families often afforded these pets clothes as fine as their own.
These Egyptians had it right, I can only imagine a life today with my pet lion in the yard, a monkey on my shoulder and a couple of ducks coming to work with me every day!