The Egyptian Mau is the only breed that acquired its spots without human intervention, making this breed a pleasing package of natural beauty and action-packed personality. The body is medium long and graceful, showing well-developed strength. Boning is medium. Allowances are made for muscular necks and shoulders in adult males. A loose flap of skin extends from the flank to the knee of the hind leg. The legs are in proportion to the body, with the hind legs proportionately longer, giving the Mau the appearance of being on tip-toe when standing upright. The slightly oval feet are small and dainty. The tail is medium long, thick at the base, with a slight taper. Adult males weigh 10 to 14 pounds; adult females weigh 6 to 10 pounds. Balance is more important than size. No outcrosses are allowed.
The head is a slightly rounded wedge without flat planes, medium in length, without full cheeks. The profile shows a gentle contour with a slight rise from the bridge of the nose to the forehead. The entire length of the nose is even in width when viewed from the front. The muzzle, neither short nor pointed, flows into the wedge of the head. The chin is firm and not receding nor protruding.
The alert ears are medium to large, broad at the base, and moderately pointed. They continue the planes of the head and are slightly flared with ample width between the ears. The hair on the ears is short and close lying, but the ears may have ear tufts. The inner ears are a delicate, almost transparent shell pink. The eyes are large, alert, and almond shaped, with a slight slant toward the ears. The skull openings around the eyes are neither round nor oriental. Eye color is a light green described as gooseberry green. Allowance is made for changing eye color, with some discernable green by eight months of age and full green eye color by eighteen months.
The vivid, spotted coat is the Mau’s most striking feature. The hair is medium length with a lustrous sheen. Texture varies with coat color; cats with the smoke color have silky, fine hair, while silver and bronze cats have dense, resilient hair that accommodates two or more bands of ticking. However, the spotted pattern is always present regardless of color.
The torso is randomly marked with spots that vary in size and shape. The spotting on each side of the torso need not match. The spots can be small or large, round, oblong or irregularly shaped, but must be distinct. There is good contrast between the pale ground color and the markings. The forehead is marked with the characteristic tabby M and frown marks, forming lines between the ears that continue down the back of the neck, ideally breaking into elongated spots along the spine. The tail is heavily banded and has a dark tip.
The cheeks are barred with mascara lines that start at the outer corner of the eye and continue along the contour of the cheek. A second line starts at the center of the cheek and curves upward, almost meeting the first line below the base of the ear. The upper chest has one or more broken necklaces. The shoulder markings make a transition between stripes and spots. The upper front legs are heavily barred but need not match. The haunches and upper hind legs make a transition between stripes and spots, breaking into bars on the lower leg. The underside of the body has vest buttons that are dark against the correspondingly pale ground color.
Silver, bronze and smoke are the only championship colors, but Maus are also sometimes found with blue markings in four colors: blue silver, blue spotted, blue smoke and solid blue. In 1997, blue Maus were accepted for registration by CFA and the three blue spotted colors can be registered in the non-championship AOV (any other variety) class. Solid black Maus can be used in breeding programs but cannot be shown.
The name Egyptian Mau conjures images of pyramids, sphinxes and cryptic symbols whose meanings have been long forgotten. The ancient Egyptians are the first people to leave extensive evidence of their alliance with cats-an affiliation that developed some 5,000 years ago, according to Egyptian writings, statues and bas-reliefs. Presumably, cats were first welcomed for their ability to keep rodents away from stores of grain and thus prevent famine, and also for their ability to kill snakes. But later Egyptian domestic cats became beloved household companions, and then sacred animals associated with the gods.
In Egyptian mythology, the goddess Bast was often depicted as a slender, stately woman with the head of a lion or cat and, in later periods, frequently surrounded by kittens. The Egyptians viewed their gods not as spirits but as intelligences who could be personified. Cats were sacred to Bast, so they were treated with great respect. So revered and loved were cats that upon a feline’s death, Egyptians went into mourning, shaving their eyebrows and wailing loudly as signs of their grief. Killing a cat, even unintentionally, was punishable by death. Cats were often mummified; more than 300,000 mummified cats were discovered when archeologists excavated Bast’s temple at per-Bast (Bubastis in Greek), the city that was Bast’s center of worship.
If, as some fanciers believe, the Egyptian Mau is a living artifact of that ancient era, then the Mau is one of the oldest breeds of domestic cat. Characteristics common to modern Maus can be seen in papyrus paintings, right down to the random spots. However, that’s not proof of anything except that spotted cats lived in ancient Egypt.
An examination of the remains of mummified Egyptian cats indicated that most were African wild cats ( Felis silvestris libyca), the primary ancestor of all domestic cats, from the finest pedigreed Persian to the scruffiest stray. Since we have no conclusive evidence that today’s Mau descended from the spotted cat known in ancient Egypt, we may never know the truth. Perhaps only Bast knows for certain.
The modern and better documented history of the Mau begins in the early 1900s, when fanciers bred and exhibited Egyptian Maus in Italy, Switzerland and France. However, World War II decimated the Egyptian Mau population in Europe, as it did so many other cat breeds. By the mid-1940s, almost no Maus were left.
In the 1950s, however, Russian Princess Nathalie Troubetskoy, living in exile in Italy, was given a silver female Mau who she named Baba. The young boy who gave her the kitten allegedly got Baba from a member of the diplomatic corps at a Middle Eastern embassy. Troubetskoy was fascinated by the lovely spotted kitten, and learned that she was an Egyptian Mau. When Troubetskoy immigrated to New York City in 1956, she brought three Maus: Baba, her bronze son Jojo, and a silver female named Liza. With these cats, Troubetskoy established the Fatima Egyptian Mau cattery and began to spread the word about the delightful qualities of the breed. Many Maus can trace their ancestry back to Troubetskoy’s cattery.
Because the gene pool was small and additional Maus were very difficult to obtain, inbreeding and outcrossing were used to keep the breed going. Eventually, more Maus were imported, some from India and some from Egypt, introducing badly needed bloodlines.
The Mau was first recognized by CFF in 1968, and CCA followed soon after. CFA granted championship in 1977. Today, all North American cat associations accept the Egyptian Mau. In the 1980s and 1990s, more Egyptian imports further enlarged the gene pool. The new bloodlines and hard work from dedicated fanciers brought the breed the larger gene pool it needed. While still fairly uncommon, the breed is growing in popularity as more fanciers see spots.
In the late 1950s when the Egyptian Mau was being developed in the United States, inbreeding within the small gene pool created some hereditary health problems. Feline asthma and the serious heart disease feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy(HCM) were both known to exist in this breed. However, breeders have worked hard to eliminate these problems by introducing new bloodlines from India and Egypt and by using selective breeding, with apparent success. The Mau’s health has improved dramatically but some problems such as food allergies still exist, say fanciers. It’s also possible that the more serious diseases have not been completely eliminated from some lines, so it’s wise to talk to your chosen breeder about possible inherited health problems. Be sure to buy from a breeder who provides a written health guarantee.
If you don’t plan to show, you may want to consider buying a black Mau. Solid black Maus do have spots, but the dark spots are hard to see against the black background. Black Maus are rare and some are used in breeding programs, but they are usually less expensive because they can’t be shown for championship. However, black Maus still have the classic Mau personality and make great pets. According to fanciers, they have softer, shinier coats than Maus of other colors.
Did you know?
The Egyptian Mau is the fastest breed of domestic cat, clocked running more than 30 miles per hour. A unique flap of skin extending from the flank to the back knee gives this cat greater agility and length of stride. Mau is the Egyptian word for “cat.”
The spots will catch your eye, but the Mau’s personality will catch your heart. Maus are face kissers, toy chasers, shoulder perchers and, early in the morning, furry alarm clocks with cold noses and warm tongues. Fanciers describe Maus as fiercely loyal; they usually bond with one or two members of their human families and become devoted, loving, constant companions for as long as they live. Spending time with their preferred persons is their favorite activity, particularly if their favorite people would like to join in a game of fetch. Maus are the epitome of the curious, energetic, playful cat.
Extremely active and intelligent, Maus require a good supply of toys, cat trees and other amusements or they will make toys out of your knickknacks. Feathered wands and toys with faux-fur or catnip are always popular. Actually, everything is a toy to the lively Mau, and they approach play with an intensity that is lacking in the more sedate breeds. Finding and bringing down prey, mock and otherwise, is serious business to them. Maus actually keep track of their toys; if you put them away, they’ll find out where they are and then drive you crazy demanding they be returned.
Like their alleged ancestors who tagged along on bird hunts, Maus stalk anything that moves. They love all hunting games, and particularly adore playing fetch. Toss a catnip mouse and your Mau will run it down, kill it and trot it back to you, eyes gleaming with predatory triumph. If allowed outside they usually become skillful hunters. For the sake of your Mau’s health and the well-being of local wildlife, however, it’s best to keep your cat inside. Most Mau breeders demand it as a condition of sale.
Maus aren’t overly talkative but they do make their desires known, particularly if those wishes involve food. When communicating with their favorite humans, Maus wiggle their tails, tread their feet, and make a variety of musical chortling and trilling sounds rather than typical meows. However, their desire to vocalize and the sounds they make can vary greatly from cat to cat. Their unique tail wiggle can look like the movements of a spraying cat, but there’s no need to get out the cleanser because they do not actually spray while communicating in this manner.
Maus love being up high so they can observe their domain in safety. Refrigerator vultures, Maus can be found peering down from the top, waiting for someone to open the door and, the great cat goddess willing, provide a tasty snack. Free-feeding can result in obese Maus; for this breed, measured meals are usually a better choice. Maus are keen observers and readily learn to open cabinets and doors. While Maus do fine as indoor-only cats, they hate closed doors, particularly when their favorite people, toys or treats are on the other side.
Many Maus enjoy water (on their own terms, of course), but their enthusiasm also varies greatly from cat to cat. Some like to play in it, but the majority enjoy dabbling their toes or drinking from the faucet. Kitty fountains that provide running water are a big hit with Maus.