Cats and Dogs
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Can I pray with cat hair?

Cats, Bastet and the Worship of Feline Gods

Cats are among the most iconic animals in ancient Egyptian art and culture. The Egyptians encountered lions, panthers and jungle cats in the wild. Smaller cats lived among humans from early on, hunting vermin in homes and granaries. Through close observation, the Egyptians came to admire felines for their complex, dual nature. Felines combine grace, fecundity and gentle care with aggression, swiftness and danger. Gods ascribed with these qualities were often represented with feline features. But Egyptians did not worship felines. Rather, they believed these ‘feline’ deities shared certain character traits with the animals.

Bastet is probably the best-known feline goddess from Egypt. Initially depicted as a lioness, Bastet assumed the image of a cat or a feline-headed woman in the 2nd millennium BCE. Although she combined both nurturing and violent qualities, her shielding and motherly aspects typically were emphasized. Countless representations of a seated cat, cat-headed goddess or cat with kittens include dedicatory inscriptions addressed to Bastet. By offering such inscribed images, donors expressed their wishes for health and children or, more generally, life and protection.

Such revelations were important to an exhibition I organized at the Brooklyn Museum, called Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt. The idea for this show began while I was exploring our storerooms. A gilded wooden statuette of a goddess with a leonine head and the body of a woman peered at me from a shelf and stopped me in my tracks. I was intrigued by its beauty and elegance and by the unusual combination of her features. She has been in Brooklyn since 1937 but remained off view because of her poor condition.

This goddess with a feline head and leonine ears wears a tripartite wig. Judging by the remains of a peg on top of the head, a separately made sun-disk once adorned her, holding the bronze uraeus in place. She sits on a floral base with both her feet and buttocks touching the floor and knees drawn up to the torso. Her feet appear tightly bound together, connecting her to the underworld as if on a mummy. Her arms are bent at the elbows, with the right hand clenched in a fist while the left palm extends beside her left knee. The black painted base, reminiscent of a papyrus umbel, has an opening on the stem-end. Unexpectedly, a small cat mummy was originally enclosed in the hollow interior of the figure. But why was it there? To whom was it offered?

Although the Brooklyn statuette incorporates features familiar from Egyptian art, the compilation of these features makes it very unusual and, at first consideration, mysterious. For example, our goddess’ crouching or squatting position is used in two-dimensional representations of gods that appear in temples or tombs and on mortuary papyri. However, in three dimensions lion-headed female divinities are usually standing, striding or seated on a throne. Next, the umbel base of our figure recalls papyrus scepters frequently held by feline divinities and papyrus-form columns with cats on top dedicated to Bastet. Still, floral-shaped bases are unusual for wooden figures of gods of this size (just over a foot in height), and rarely appear as an animal mummy container. Such bases are more common in smaller bronzes and amulets or in large stone sculpture. Finally, containers for cat mummies do not typically take the form of a crouching feline goddess. Instead, animal mummy containers in the shape of a lion-headed woman generally represented the goddess seated on a throne and inscribed as Wadjet. And the Wadjet container, usually was for ichneumons (mongeese), not cats.

Despite the unusual features, certain details are clues to the identity of our statuette. Many powerful goddesses were represented with her features, although they are notoriously difficult to identify without an inscription. Bastet, Sakhmet, Mut, Tefnut, Shesemtet, Pakhet, Mafdet, Wadjet and others all appeared as a lioness or lion-headed woman with a sun disk on her head. Each one was named a daughter of the Sun God and the Eye of the Sun. Egyptians associated cats with the sun for a number of reasons. They saw the red and yellow fur of cats and lions as the colors of the sun itself. Cats love warmth and basking in the sun. And most importantly, much like the self-contradictory nature of felines, the sun possesses a dual nature as a warming source of life or a scorching danger in the desert. Thus, many dangerous and protective daughters of the sun god were endowed with a leonine nature.

In Egyptian mythology, the terrifying and nurturing aspects of feline goddesses are most commonly represented by the Sekhmet and Bastet, with other daughters of the Sun worthy of this title. For instance, Hathor-Tefnut is described in the Myth of the Eye of the Sun in Philae as the one who “rages like Sekhmet and is friendly like Bastet.” All these goddesses should be seen as one fierce, feline, female force that carried the power of the sun’s fire to destroy, burn and scratch all who stood in her way, but turned into a motherly divinity when pacified.

The mummy found inside the Brooklyn figurine – indeed a cat mummy – offers a clue to the figurine’s function. Cats are one of the more numerous animals to be mummified by the ancient Egyptians. Each mummified animal was linked to a specific god and offered to that god in hopes of favor or a sign of gratitude. Egyptians dedicated cat mummies to the nurturing and dangerous goddess Bastet. Bubastis, the Delta city that was the center of worship of this goddess, is the origin of masses of cat mummies. Most of these were placed in rectangular or cat-shaped coffins or wrapped in linen and painted to resemble a cat. Mystery solved, as much as any ancient Egyptian puzzle can be: the Brooklyn Museum’s figurine served as a particularly fancy cat mummy container, probably an attempt to conjure extra favor from Bastet.

Topics Art History, Egyptology, History, Museums & Objects, Religion Theme Gods & Goddesses, Mummies & Coffins, Religion

Is it Biblical to Pray for Our Pets?

Is it Biblical to Pray for Our Pets?

Both our cat and dog have been healthy and I’ve never considered adding them to my prayer list.

Lincoln is the first dog I’ve truly loved deeply. I fell madly in love with him the moment I held him as a six-week-old puppy. He’s so good-natured and such a friendly dog. Our sassy black cat lives outside and catches lots of mice, moles, and (sadly) baby rabbits.

But as I pondered writing this article, I had a bad dream.

In the dream, my sweet dog, Lincoln, was having terrible stomach issues and I was afraid he was going to die. I could see blood about to spill from his body so I covered the first spot I saw with my left hand. Then I saw another spot pop up so I covered it with my other hand. I was in full panic mode at this point not knowing how I could call 911 for help because I was afraid if I moved my hands from him, he’d surely die. I woke up in a terrible state.

I rolled over with my heart aching for my pet. I worried he had some unknown health issue, and I began to pray for him completely out of instinct.

After I prayed, I remembered how I’d never prayed for my pets that I could recall. Yet it came second nature when I grew concerned about a possible health issue.

If we believe in God, then we know He made our sweet pets and gave them to us. We know He can do miraculous things when we seek Him and ask for help.

Is it Biblical to Pray for Our Pets?

Christians are advised to pray about everything in Philippians:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Of course we should say prayers for our pets. We should pray for anything we care about.

When a pet is sick or lost, we become anxious because they’re a great concern for us. We love them so much. They deserve to be included in our prayers. God cares about the smallest details of our lives. He certainly cares for the animals we care for and love.

woman with cat laying on chest pet family pet cuddling

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A Prayer for a Lost Pet

I’ve never lost a beloved pet, but my mom lost her dog a while back. He was let outside like he’d been many times before but he never came back to the door. They looked everywhere. She put ads in the local paper and family members posted on social media trying to find him.

Many months later, she still doesn’t have her sweet Buddy back. Her heart is broken and she still hopes he will be brought back to her soon. The love she has for him shows in her voice when she speaks of him. She misses him terribly.

Not knowing what happened to a pet can be unsettling. Even though we may not know where they are or what happened to them, God does. We can ask for help in this situation and to be able to accept the outcome whatever it may be.

Thank you for giving us animals to care for and love.

We ask for your guidance to find our beloved pet. You know the depth of our love and how much we miss them. Please give us insight to the whereabouts of our pet. Show us where we might search to bring them home as soon as possible.

If someone has found our pet, please move them to seek us out so we may get our pet back quickly.

We know nothing is hidden from You. You know everything.

If it’s not possible for us to have them back then we thank You for allowing us to have our sweet pet for the time we’ve had them.

In the powerful name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep. You, LORD, preserve both people and animals. Psalm 36:6

A Prayer for a Sick Pet

Thank you for giving us our sweet fur baby. We ask you to help him feel better as quickly as possible. Please help the vet figure out what is going on and advise us how to care for him properly to get him well.

Help us to do everything possible within our ability to help our pet get through this illness. They bring us such joy and unconditional love. We want the absolute best for them.

Give our pet calmness as he goes through this illness and the ability to get through it with little bad effects. We pray this illness doesn’t lead to the loss of life. We ask for complete healing and restoration for our pet.

In the powerful name of Jesus, Amen.

In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind. Job 12:10

A Prayer for a Dying Pet

There may come a time when we have to say goodbye. It might break our hearts.

So many have had to make the agonizing decision to put their pet down due to health issues. I can’t imagine because I haven’t been in this situation. But my love for Lincoln is so deep the thought of saying goodbye to him is heartbreaking.

Thank you for the life you’ve given our sweet pet. We praise you for allowing us to share so many good times together. He’s brought more joy to our family than we could have ever imagined. He holds a very special place in our hearts.

We don’t want to say goodbye. It hurts knowing we’ll never see or hold him again. The emptiness will be difficult. Our world will never be the same without him.

Help us to get through this loss. Give us comfort knowing we were allowed to have him for the time we did. We love him deeply. We will never forget the love and joy he brought to our lives.

In the mighty name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Luke 12:6

How Praying for Pets Can Bring Comfort

Praying for our pets brings comfort because we trust God. We know His way is best for us and for our pets.

We trust their health, well-being, and everyday life in the hands of God. He created them and loves them more than we will ever understand or know until we get to Heaven.

I found a helpful prayer for pets online. A Prayer for Pets

Pray along with them for pets, for vets, and for those who care for abused or neglected animals.

The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel. Proverbs 12:10

What Does the Bible Say about Caring for Animals?

Most Scripture about animals in the Bible has to do with creation and animal sacrifice. God delights in His creation but does not delight in animal sacrifice. Even though it was required by law in the Old Testament to cover sin.

“The multitude of your sacrifices—what are they to me?” says the LORD. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.” Isaiah 1:11

Thank goodness Jesus came and fulfilled the law making a way for us to be right with God through His perfect sacrifice covering all of our sins. Through Him, we are forgiven. No more animal sacrifice required. Jesus has us covered!

As with all creation, the animals God made are amazing! How they know exactly what to do is mind-blowing. His creation is perfect. He loves them and makes them with a great purpose (Even though I’m going to ask about a couple of them I don’t like much when I get to Heaven.).

Of course, God loves our pets. He expects us to care for them and knows how much we love them. Because we’ve been created in God’s image, we too, want to care for animals and provide for their needs.

The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God. Psalm 104:21

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Monoliza21

Melinda Eye Cooper

Melinda Eye Cooper grew up in the Missouri Ozarks but lives near Nashville, Tennessee. She and her husband have three sons, two daughters-in-law, and three beautiful granddaughters – and a spunky dog named Lincoln!

Melinda writes articles and devotions. She also writes fiction and is currently working on a middle-grade fantasy novel. She grew up in a large family, and many of her devotions and stories are inspired from her childhood.

Visit her website here. You can follow her on Facebook here or Instagram here.

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