The Egyptian Mau ("mau" means cat) -- Subspecies of the African Wild Cat (felis silvestris), dates back over 3000 years. The African Wild Cat will eat rodents, insects, birds, and small mammals.
The earliest known remains of a cat in Egypt come from Mostagedda, south of Asyut in Middle Egypt, and are dated to sometime before 4000 B.C. At Beni Hasan, an Egyptian archeological site, more than 300,000 mummified cats were unearthed. Cats were regarded with something approaching veneration, to the extent that to kill one was a capital offense.
In the second century AD, the Macedonian rhetorician Polyaenus gave an account of the battle of Pelusium, in the eastern Delta, in 525 B.C. The stratagem of the Persian conqueror Cambyses was to shield his soldiers from missiles by putting rows of animals, cats among them, in front rank. The Egyptians were afraid that they might injure or kill their gods and duly lost the battle. It is unlikely, though, that this is a true story. Cambyses acquired a bad reputation as far as Egyptian religion was concerned. According to Herodotus, he was responsible for mortally wounding the Apis-bull at Memphis.
The reason why cats were considered sacred was not due solely to the fact that they were associated with the Egyptian cat-headed goddess Bast, but also because of their use in protecting granaries from vermin. Cats guarded the royal granaries and kept them free from creatures such as rats that threatened the food supplies. Grains were very important for the Egyptians because they provided them with the main staple foods of bread and beer, and it was known that cats contributed to the prosperity of the people by guarding the granaries.