Dogs are the quintessential companion for royal families. Indeed, they represent loyalty, and most importantly, obedience. Cats, on the other hand, are more difficult to ‘tame’, which could be why royals prefer to steer clear of them.
Yet, cats have a rich royal history. From the Egyptian times to today, let’s find out everything there is to know about cats and royalty!
Royal cats in history
While cats are quite rare among royals today, that was not so in the past. In fact, in many cultures, cats were revered as deities!
Royal cats of Ancient Egypt
In Ancient Egypt, the two main ‘cat gods’ were Bastet and Mafdet. These gods were protectors who were capable of defending people from venomous animals such as snakes and scorpions.
But cats were not only gods in Ancient Egypt - they were also beloved pets! Crown Prince Thutmose owned a cat named Ta-Miu, who was mummified and buried with him when he passed away. This was a common practice in Ancient Egypt - in fact, hundreds of thousands of cat mummies from that time period have been discovered by archaeologists.
Royal cats of the Orient
Hundreds of years ago, Thailand was actually called Siam! That’s where - you guessed it - the Siamese cat breed comes from! Monks of the Ayutthaya Kingdom wrote about their love for these cats, who are still depicted as royal cats in popular culture today. The children’s cartoon Sagwa, for example, follows the adventures of a Siamese cat in a Chinese palace.
Cats, and particularly the Japanese Bobtail, were also revered in 10th-century Japan, where they were owned exclusively by royalty.
Royal cats of Russia
In 1745, Empress Elisabeth Petrovna ordered cats to be sent to the Great Winter Palace in St. Petersburg to ‘cleanse’ it. But it was Catherine II the Great who elevated cats to their royal status, by gifting them to other sovereigns as gifts and keeping several herself. Her favourite breed was the Russian Blue, of which many of the descendants still remain at the palace (now known as the Hermitage Museum) today!
Royal cats of Europe
In the 1700’s, Louis XV, King of France, owned two white Angora cats named Brilliant and General. Marie-Antoinette was also an admirer, and owned several. In fact, it is said that she asked a ship’s captain to smuggle her cats out to Canada, where she hoped to join them if she survived the revolution. Today’s North American Angoras are most probably descendants of these royal kitties!
Royal cats of the United Kingdom
Hywel Dda (Howel the Good), King of Deheubarth (Wales) from 942-948, instilled laws making it illegal to kill cats.
More recently, Queen Victoria was a lover of cats, particularly the blue Persian. Her daughter, Princess Victoria, bred and exhibited Chinchilla Persians.
Royal cats today
Today, cats are less a part of the royal scene. Yet, if you look closely, you may notice a few!
The cats of Japanese royalty
Princess Aiko, daughter of Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako, is a firm cat lover. In fact, she currently owns two, named Mii and Seven, and doesn’t hesitate to appear publicly with them.
The cats of Brunei royalty
In January 2022, Princess Fadzillah, daughter to Brunei’s Sultan, was married in a lavish ceremony lasting 9 days. In her official wedding photo, she is seen posing with her new husband and…her cat!
The cats of England’s royalty
Our royal family is well-known for their love of dogs. After all, how can you picture the Queen without her Corgis? Yet, there is one family member who favours cats…
Indeed, Princess Michael of Kent (born Marie Christine von Reibnitz), absolutely adores cats. Cousin by marriage to Queen Elizabeth, she has often been pictured with her beloved felines - mostly Siamese and Burmese cats.
Do any royals like cats?
Apart from Princess Michael of Kent, no royal (in England) is thought to own cats. However, that’s not to mean they don’t like cats! In fact, Queen Consort Camilla is a patron of the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, and recently visited the Brands Hatch facility where she cuddled a couple of adorable kittens.
And though he’s not technically a royal, Larry the Cat deserves an honourable mention. Larry is Chief Mouser at No. 10, and has been since 2011! He’s been loved and admired by four different Prime Ministers, and though they come and go, Larry always stays faithful to his job.
Can you think of any other royal cats, past or present?