In which ancient country was death the penalty for killing a cat?
The cat's association with ancient Egypt, however, is understandable in that Egyptian culture was famous for its devotion to the cat. The export of cats from Egypt was so strictly prohibited that a branch of the government was formed solely to deal with this issue. Government agents were dispatched to other lands to find and return cats which had been smuggled out. It is clearly established that, by 450 BCE, the penalty in Egypt for killing a cat was death.
The goddess Bastet, commonly depicted as a cat or as a woman with a cat's head, was among the most popular deities of the Egyptian pantheon. She was the keeper of hearth and home, protector of women's secrets, guardian against evil spirits and disease, and the goddess of cats.
Her ritual centre was the city of Bubastis (“House of Bastet”) in which, according to Herodotus (484-425 BCE), an enormous temple complex was built in her honour in the centre of the city.
When a cat died, Herodotus writes, “All the inhabitants of a house shave their eyebrows (as a sign of deep mourning). The period of mourning was considered completed when the people's eyebrows had grown back.