Created by Reina Gattuso.
In ancient Egypt, cats represented the goddess Bastet. Bastet was a cat deity of childbirth and the sun. Ancient Egyptians mummified cats to honor her.
Ancient Egyptians revered certain animals as embodiments of deities. They honored cats as living avatars of the goddess Bastet, who was associated with the sun, childbirth, and fertility.1 Bastet originated as a fierce lioness goddess in Lower Egypt. Eventually, worshipers came to regard Bastet as a friendly deity. Ancient Egyptians depicted Bastet as either a cat or as a woman with the head of a cat.
Ancient Egyptians created millions of animal mummies.2 Some of these, including cats, dogs, gazelles, and monkeys, were beloved pets mummified along with an owner so they could stay together in the afterlife.3 Others were mummified as spiritual offerings.
Cat mummies were particularly popular because of their association with Bastet.4 Some religious compounds kept cats for the purpose of sacrifice and mummification. Worshipers could pay to have a cat mummified as a way of gaining spiritual favor. When archeologists excavated Bastet’s main temple at Bubastis (modern-day Zagazig), they uncovered over 300,000 mummified cats.5
Cat mummification became a profitable business for temples.6 Archeologists have used x-rays to discover that some mummies that appeared to be cats were actually filled with stones, dirt, or spare bones. This either represented a lucrative temple scam played on worshipers or a symbolic mummification that offered devotees a bargain option to make an offering.
This collection contains mummified cats, cat coffins, and at least one cat-shaped mummy filled with nothing at all.
 “Bastet.” Wikipedia, 11 March 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bastet. Accessed 31 March 2022.
 “Sarcophagus and Cat Mummy.” Brooklyn Museum, https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/objects/4184. Accessed 31 March 2022.
 “Animal Mummy.” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_mummy. Accessed 31 March 2022.
 “Mummified Cat.” The Walters, https://art.thewalters.org/detail/38882/cat-mummy-2/. Accessed 31 March 2022.
 “Mummified Cat.” The Walters, https://art.thewalters.org/detail/21582/cat-mummy/. Accessed 31 March 2022.