Ancient Egyptian mummified cat, 2000-100 BC.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Cats had enormous significance for the Egyptian people, and their relationship with them was principally religious. The goddes Bastet who symbolised fertility, music and dance was represented as a cat. The mummification of cats, and their burial within the temple, was performed to provide the animals with eternal life by means of the same rituals used for humans. Egyptian families shaved off their eyebrows in mourning the death of a cat, and anyone killing a cat could face a death sentance.