Bastet first appears in the third millennium BC, where she is depicted as either a fierce lioness or a woman with the head of a lioness. Two thousand years later, during the Third Intermediate Period of Egypt (c. 1070–712 BC), Bastet began to be depicted as a domestic cat or a cat-headed woman.
Bastet, also called Bast, ancient Egyptian goddess worshiped in the form of a lioness and later a cat. The daughter of Re, the sun god, Bastet was an ancient deity whose ferocious nature was ameliorated after the domestication of the cat around 1500 bce. She was native to Bubastis in the Nile River delta but also had an important cult at Memphis. In the Late and Ptolemaic periods large cemeteries of mummified cats were created at both sites, and thousands of bronze statuettes of the goddess were deposited as votive offerings. Small figures of cats were also worn as amulets; this too was probably related to the cult of Bastet.
Cats in ancient Egypt were highly revered, partly due to their ability to combat vermin such as mice, rats (which threatened key food supplies), and snakes—especially cobras. Cats of royalty were, in some instances, known to be dressed in golden jewelry and were allowed to eat from the plates of their owners. Dennis C. Turner and Patrick Bateson estimate that during the Twenty-second Dynasty (c. 945–715 BC), Bastet worship changed from being a lioness deity into being predominantly a major cat deity. Because domestic cats tend to be tender and protective of their offspring, Bastet was also regarded as a good mother and sometimes was depicted with numerous kittens.
The native Egyptian rulers were replaced by Greeks during an occupation of Ancient Egypt in the Ptolemaic Dynasty that lasted almost 300 years. The Greeks sometimes equated Bastet with one of their goddesses, Artemis.