Scientists have revealed the brutal procedure used by a cat breeder 2,000 years ago to slaughter and mummify a kitten which was given as a sacrifice to the gods.
The animal was specifically bred for the purpose and was kept until it was five months old before a spike was put through its skull to kill it.
An X-Ray showing the mummified kitten, with a hole in its skull which was either used to kill it or to drain fluid out of the body
Wooden casket in the shape of a cat containing a mummified cat, sacrificed to Bastet, the deity was responsible for cats, the sun and the moon
The embalmers then fractured its backbone and ribs to make it take up less space and to ensure the tail was right next to the body.
The kitten - which also had its thorax squeezed into shape - was then wrapped up as tightly as possible and sold to a customer.
Italian researchers made the grim discovery after carrying out an X-Ray on a mummified cat owned by an Egyptian living between 332 B.C. and 30 B.C.
He offered it up as a tribute the goddess Bastet, the deity was responsible for cats, the sun and the moon.
The kitten was part of the Egyptian Collection of the National
Archaeological Museum in Parma, Italy and was acquired from a collector in the 18th century.
There is no other documentation so its origins cannot be traced further.
The research was carried out by Giacomo Gnudi, a professor at the University of Parma, who wrote: ‘The fact that the cat was young suggests that it was one of those bred specifically for mummification.
‘Kittens, aged two to four months old, were sacrificed in huge numbers, because they were more suitable for mummification’.
The paper, which was published in the latest issue of the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, suggested the hole in the cat’s head may have been used to drain fluid out rather than being the death blow.
The study says: ‘The arrangement of the mummy's wrappings is intricate, with various geometrical patterns. The eyes are depicted in black ink on small round pieces of linen bandage.