Origin & History
Ancient Egyptians began keeping domestic cats at least five thousand years ago, and artwork depicting cats dates back at least as far as 1400 BCE. Some of the cats depicted were spotted and otherwise resembled today’s Egyptian Maus. According to PetMD, a painting dated to 1400 BC depicts a spotted cat retrieving a duck for a hunter. The ancestors of Egyptian Maus thus fetched game for their owners as well as protected their grain from rodents. Mau, by the way, is the Egyptian word for “cat.”
Cat breeders didn’t begin working with Egyptian Maus until the 20th century. French, Italian, and Swiss breeders all began working with Egyptian Maus in the early part of that century. Unfortunately, many of the cats were killed during World War II, and the Egyptian Mau was virtually extinct by the end of the war.
The exiled Russian Princess, Nathalie Troubetskoy, decided to try to resuscitate the breed. She began by gathering the few surviving cats in Italy. She also secured the Syrian Embassy’s help in importing at least one Mau from Egypt. Troubetskoy immigrated to the United States in 1956 and established the Fatima Egyptian Mau Cattery.
Since Troubetskoy and other breeders only had a handful of cats to work with, inbreeding soon became a problem. In the 1980s, Cathie Rowan imported 13 more Maus from Egypt and thus led the way to importing more cats. Those cats were crossed with the existing bloodlines and the Egyptian Mau’s health improved over the generations.
The Cat Fanciers’ Federation (CFF), which is based in Ohio, was the first registry to recognize the Egyptian Mau as a breed; it did so in 1968. The CFA followed suit nine years later, and the Egyptian Mau is now recognized by all major cat registries.
In March 2018, the CFA listed the Egyptian Mau as the 25th most popular breed of the 42 breeds it recognizes.
Coat Colors & Appearance
Egyptian Maus are known for their black spots that occur in a random pattern and form bars around the cat’s legs, neck, upper chest, and tail. The cat also has a single stripe going down the spine to the tip of the tail. Egyptian Maus have a “M” on their forehead that is sometimes called “the mark of the scarab.”
Show cats have to have bronze, silver, or smoke coats. Black and dilute colors can occur but are only accepted in pet cats or breeding stock. Dilute colors are lighter versions of other colors; blue (gray) is the dilute version of black, for example.
Egyptian Maus always have light green eyes of a shade called “gooseberry.” The color is similar to that of a grape. The obliquely-set eyes are shaped like rounded almonds, and the set of the eyes give the cat a “worried” look.
The coat’s texture can vary depending on the color. Cats with a smoke coat, for example, tend to have fine, silky fur, while cats with bronze or silver fur tend to have denser coats.
The Egyptian Mau often appears to be standing on tiptoe for its hind legs are a bit longer than its forelegs. It has a lithe and athletic look.
The Egyptian Mau isn’t as rambunctious or extroverted as the typical Abyssinian. While it is devoted to its chosen people, it tends to be more reserved around unfamiliar humans. Once it gets to know them, however, it will happily play with children and dogs. Because of the Mau’s strong hunting instincts, it is probably not a good idea to keep a bird or small mammal around it.
Some say that the Egyptian Mau likes things and people on its terms and has definite opinions about who its friends are, while others simply describe the Mau as wary of strangers. The International Cat Association (TICA) says the Egyptian Mau is a shy sensitive cat that is easily upset by loud noises. If you plan to show your Mau, TICA recommends getting them acclimated to noise and handling from kittenhood.
Egyptian Maus like to talk to their humans. They have a melodious voice and can produce a variety of trills and chortles. They may also wag their tail like a dog or knead their paws when pleased.
Egyptian Maus often enjoy games of fetch, possibly because their ancient ancestors used to retrieve game for Egyptian hunters. The enjoy hunting games, in general, and a Mau that is allowed outside will hunt. Some Maus can be leash-trained.
Egyptian Maus are intelligent enough to learn tricks. That means they are also smart enough to open doors or drawers to get something they want.
Grooming Your Egyptian Mau
An Egyptian Mau is a shorthair with a thick coat. As such, it doesn’t need a lot of grooming. Brushing the cat once a week will suffice to keep its coat shiny and healthy.
Brush the cat’s teeth frequently to keep the teeth healthy and the breath fresh. Ask your vet to recommend a toothpaste for your cat.
Similarly, ask the vet to recommend a good cleaner if the cat’s ears appear dirty. Trim your cat’s claws once a week.
Like other cats, Egyptian Maus often don’t enjoy all of these attentions. If you just got a kitten, begin grooming them as soon as possible so they will get used to your brushing their fur, cleaning their teeth, and trimming their claws.
Egyptian Maus are generally healthy cats. They can, however, develop a degenerative neurological condition called leukodystrophy, which can appear in kittens as young as seven weeks old. PetInsurance.com warns that the condition is fatal and that there is currently no cure.
According to the College of Veterinary Medicine at University of Missouri, Egyptian Maus are susceptible to bladder and kidney stones.
The Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at University of California Davis has conducted a survey of 38 cat breeds to determine their susceptibility to a type of hemolytic anemia called Erythrocyte Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency (PK Deficiency). The condition is inherited, so affected cats can pass it down to their kittens. While the symptoms can vary, they often include extreme lethargy, jaundice, weight loss, enlarged abdomen, and weakness. The Egyptian Mau proved to be one of the breeds that are most susceptible to PK Deficiency.
There is a genetic test that can be used to identify both affected cats and carriers. Mating two carriers would result in a quarter of the kittens being born with PK Deficiency.
The Egyptian Mau can be prone to obesity, which can cause it to develop health problems like arthritis as it gets older. You will thus have to watch your cat’s diet to keep it slim.
What Makes The Egyptian Mau Different?
The Egyptian Mau is the only naturally spotted cat breed. It is also the fastest of the domestic cats and can run up to 30 mph. It owes that speed to a loose flap of skin that extends from the flank to the knee. Because of its speed, the Egyptian Mau is sometimes described as the “greyhound of cats.”
Buying An Egyptian Mau
You will, therefore, most likely have to buy your Egyptian Mau from a breeder. Cat registries like TICA and CFA keep lists of breeders. The Fanciers Breeder Referral List has a page devoted to Egyptian Mau breeders in the US and Canada.
Most breeders won’t sell kittens until they are at least 12 weeks old. The cattery Ajaharah includes a detailed description as to why that is. By 12 weeks, a kitten will be fully weaned, and its mother will have taught it proper cat behavior.
Similarly, a kitten’s immune system is still developing. After it starts eating solid food, it will need vaccines to bolster its immune system and protect it from disease. Buying a kitten before it has had all of its shots jeopardizes its health.
You should expect to pay between $1000.00 and $1400.00 for a pet kitten; show quality kittens will cost significantly more. Many breeders have their kittens inoculated, and the price covers that. Some breeders also microchip their kittens.
Interestingly, smoke kittens often cost less than silver or bronze kittens: $700 or $750 to $1000+. If you’re looking for an adult, some breeders will sell retired show cats and/or queens and sires.
Adopting An Egyptian Mau
There are some rescue groups that work with pedigreed or purebred cats. They are not guaranteed to have Egyptian Maus, but you could get lucky and find one.
Specialty Purebred Cat Rescue has been working with surrendered or abandoned pedigreed cats for over 20 years. They are based in the American Midwest. While they mostly have common breeds like Persians and Siamese, they will sometimes have something rarer, like an Egyptian Mau or American Bobtail.
Purebreds Plus Cat Rescue is a non-profit staffed entirely by volunteers that specializes in pedigreed and special needs cats. It is based on the US West Coast.