When you see cats depicted in ancient Egyptian art, you’re looking at the more-or-less direct-line ancestor of the Egyptian mau. Cats with a noble heritage and an appearance that’s reminiscent of its ancient, feral past, the Egyptian mau is the only naturally occurring breed of spotted domestic cat recognized by the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA).
Striking to look at and as beautiful as it is rare, the Egyptian mau is a breed that stirs the imagination with its shiny, spotted coat and gorgeous, gooseberry green eyes.
Much like the ocicat, the Egyptian mau is noteworthy for its spotted coat. Unlike the ocicat, however, the mau wasn’t created by a breeder. Instead, the Egyptian mau came about its spots naturally.
These long, lean, muscular cats have a true athlete’s build. Their hind legs are slightly longer than their front legs, giving them the appearance of standing on tiptoes when they’re standing straight up. Those long hind legs, coupled with an additional flap of skin that runs from their flank to their back knees, make them incredible jumpers and the fastest of the domestic cat breeds.
In lieu of traditional tabby markings, the mau is blessed with those famous spots as well as a dark dorsal stripe running from the top of his head to the tip of his tail. Mau coats come in six colors: silver, bronze, smoke, black, caramel, and blue/pewter, with the last three being the rarest. Their heads are slightly oblong and traditionally feature either a “scarab beetle” marking on their forehead or an “M” shape—the latter is more common among North American maus. Their ears are broad based and set fairly wide apart, and their slightly almond-shape eyes are a stunning bright green.
The Egyptian mau is a regal, intelligent cat. They are very loyal to their people, often choosing to bond most strongly with one particular person, but being affectionate and loving with everyone in their family unit. They can be a little standoffish to strangers at first, but will usually warm up quickly.
They enjoy being above the action, surveying things from height. So if they aren’t provided with a high cat perch somewhere, they’re likely to make their own on top of a refrigerator or bookshelf.
Egyptian maus get along well with other cats and are independent enough to do well on their own if you need to be out of the house for extended periods of time. They enjoy playing with toys and may become protective of their favorites, so care should be taken when they’re playing with children.
Maus, while not overly vocal, tend to talk in a stunning variety of ways. Meows, chirps, whistles, and chortles are all common Egyptian mau vocalizations.
Maus also have a peculiar act when they are excited. Colloquially referred to as “wiggle tale,” they shake their extended tails in a way that resembles spraying or marking territory, though—rest assured—not a drop is being expelled.
The most important thing you can do to make your Egyptian mau happy is to provide ways for her to tire herself out. These are athletic, active cats, and they’ll even self-regulate their nutrition to keep from getting overweight, as long as they are given ways to exercise. Playtime, things to climb, or cat wheels to run in are all great options for these incredibly nimble, blindingly quick cats.
Prospective owners should be aware that Egyptian maus are more temperature sensitive than many breeds and really don’t like colder climates.
Egyptian maus shed enough to be excluded from the “hypoallergenic” list, but they are also fastidious enough that you don’t have to do much in the way of grooming. They are a breed that enjoys being brushed, however. So doing this once or twice a week is a good way to both stay on top of their shedding and orchestrate some special bonding time.
The crossbreeding done with the Egyptian mau since the 1950s has done a great job of pushing most common cat ailments to the background. While still prone to things like patellar luxation or periodontal disease as they age, none of them are high-percentage concerns for this breed.
The breed is also more sensitive to anesthesia than most, so care should be taken to make your vet aware before any procedures like surgery or dental cleanings that require sedation.
Genetic analysis points to the mau being a long-standing Egyptian breed. Much of the ancient Egyptian artwork featuring spotted cats is thought to portray ancestors of today’s Egyptian mau. While it’s impossible to pinpoint where the Egyptian mau came from—theories postulate everywhere from the Nile basin to western Europe—there’s no denying that cats strongly resembling the mau have been depicted in art for at least 3,000 years.
The cat first came to more widespread attention when exiled Russian princess Nathalie Troubetskoy brought three Egyptian maus with her, first to Italy, then to New York City in 1956. From there, the breed’s international reputation grew steadily and Egyptian maus were carefully outcrossed with Maine coons and Abyssinians to help the breed with temperament issues and to bolster their overall health and hardiness.
The breed received Championship recognition by the CFA in 1977. While Egyptian maus continue to be popular among show owners and breeders because of their beauty and grace, they remain a rare breed, with only about 200 Egypian mau kittens registered every year.