The Egyptian Mau , the only naturally spotted breed of domestic cat, was worshipped by its original owners, the ancient pharaohs and kings. The word Mau meant cat or sun in Ancient Egypt, and the
Egyptians revered the cat as a god. Papyri dating back to 1500 B.C., depict spotted cats that look very much like the Mau of today. The actual domestication of the African Wildcat began with the advent of the silo in Egypt. With the benefits of silos came rats and mice which attracted the cats. The process of domestication took thousands of years. The beginnings of the bond between man and cat were forgedas the Egyptians welcomed the cats into their lives.
The religious significance of the cat in Egypt predates from 2800 B.C., when sun god Ra, in the form of a spotted cat beat the darkness. The worship for the dual natured goddess, Bast, started out as a local cult and reached its zenith around 950 B.C. in whole Egypt. The goddess Bast was depicted as a cat, representative of both the sun and the moon, and expeled the darkness with her bloody tooth and claw.
The cat is most often depicted under the womans chair in papyri, paintings on the walls of the Pharaohs tomb often showed the spotted Maus on the laps and schoulders of their owners (much the same places you find them today). Family members showed their grief in losing a cat by shaving their eyebrows, the cats were mumified and buried with jewels
Legend has it that the Egyptians reverence for their Maus went so far as to cause them to lose a major battle with Persia.
The Persians rode into battle holding the cats before them on their shields. Rather than risk killing or wounding the precious felines, the Egyptians surrendered. An historian chronicles an incident where a Roman soldier stationed at Alexandria killed a cat. Although the Egyptians knew it will be war with the Romans at that point, but the soldier was seized by an angry mob and executed.
Further evidence for worship was found in tombs – Mummies of cats with fur intact have been found in the hundreds of thousands. The fur was generally yellow (bronze in color) with exhibited spots.
The cats that we find in the tombs do indeed bear a striking resemblance to our modern-day Maus, lending credence to the theory that the Egyptian Mau is indeed one of the oldest, if not the oldest, breed of domestic cat today.