Ancient Egypt was cat country. The fertile Nile Valley and the arid surrounding desert were home to no less than seven species of cat, ranging from big cats like the great lion to the small desert cat that came to live with humans thousands of years ago. Cats, big and small, became an important part of daily life and religion in ancient Egypt.
Ancient Egyptians loved animals and kept many different species of cats. Lions were the companions of kings; nobles hunted with servals, caracals and cheetahs, while leopard skins clothed lector priests.
Families viewed their cats as an essential part of the family unit. Many tomb paintings show that cats and kittens had the run of ancient Egyptian houses, lounging comfortably with household members, settled underneath their masters' chairs or out on bird-hunting trips. When cats died, the family would mourn them and mummify them to lie in the family tomb.
Cats were fiercely protected by the ancient Egyptians. Only after the fortunes of Egypt fell to conquerors were their cats spread across Europe, first by the Persians, then the Greeks and later by the Romans.
Source: Our booklet Cats in Ancient Egypt