History of The Early Pets

The Ancient Egyptians kept many animals as household pets, including cats, dogs, monkeys, gazelles, and birds. They trained dogs, hawks, and mongooses to hunt with them. Monkeys and cats are often depicted on the walls of tombs, seated beneath the chair of their owner. Scenes of hunting and pictures of favorite hounds are common motifs on tomb walls. These paintings often had magical properties, ensuring that these pets, could join their masters after death. Small faience and wooden models of dogs have also been found in tombs.

Pets were not only present as paintings or models. The mummified bodies of pets have also been found in tombs. The ancient Egyptians mummified reptiles and animals such as dogs, apes, bulls, rams, and even an occasional hippopotamus. A certain Hapymen, buried at Abydos, was so fond of his pet dog that it was mummified and wrapped in linen, and placed at the side of his feet in his coffin. In the Valley of the Kings, in tomb KV 50, a pet baboon and a dog were placed so that they glared at each other in preparation for battle. Two women, Isitemkheb D and Ankhshepenwepet had pet gazelles (or in the case of Isitemkheb D an ibex) buried with them. However, one of the most common animal mummies in Egypt was the cat.

The Ancient Egyptians made animal mummies for four main reasons:
  • Mummified food
  • Favorite pets (such as a gazelle)
  • Sacred animal mummies
  • Mummified animal offerings
To determine how, when, and why cats were mummified, Egyptologists have had to piece together many clues. It appears, for example, that by 1350 B.C., cats were occasionally buried with their owners, according to author Jaromir Malek.

By 900 B.C., a striking change had taken place in the Egyptians' religious beliefs. Many animals were now thought to be the embodiment of certain gods and goddesses; cats were believed to represent the goddess Bastet. Consequently, they were raised in and around temples devoted to Bastet. When they died, they were mummified and buried in huge cemeteries, often in large communal graves.

Some pets were given quite elaborate burials by their grieving owners. Although it is possible that some pets were killed when an owner died, it is perhaps more likely that a pet was placed in the tomb of its owner after a natural death. The X-rays of these pet mummies may help to clarify this issue by providing evidence as to the manner of death.

Some common Egyptian Animal Mummies Found were:

Cows, Bulls, Sheep, Cats, Dogs, Baboons, Ibis, Falcons, Hawks, Fish, Crocodiles, Shrews, Scorpions, Snakes, Bird and reptile eggs, Scarab beetles.