by Greg Mayer
The ancient Egyptians would give anyone a run for their money when it comes to the care they lavished on their cats. Here’s a ca. 2000 year old cat mummy from the British Museum.
Cats, miw or mau in Egyptian, were frequently mummified, along with other animals, and the cat Goddess was Bast. A traveling exhibit of mummies of all sorts, Mummies of the World, is touring the US; it is now in Philadelphia.
Update. Some readers wondered if the cats died natural deaths. From Reflections of Greatness, the catalogue of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Egyptian collection, by Diana Craig Patch:
These animals were attended by priests and lived out their lives in relative comfort. After an animal’s death, the priests mummified it so that it too could have eternal existence alongside its protector. … At some point, the priests realized that they could increase a temple’s income by selling mummified sacred animals as votive offerings… Since large numbers of animals were required, priests did not allow them to die of old age; instead most were slaughtered when they reached adulthood.