Egyptian Mau

By PetMD Editorial on Oct. 30, 2009

The Egyptian Mau fascinates many cat lovers, not only because of its rich history -- which began in ancient Egypt -- but because of its good nature and unique appearance.

Physical Characteristics

This long, graceful cat really stands out in a crowd due to its unique spots and markings. These spots come in a variety of shapes, be they round or oblong, and differ from cat to cat. The Egyptian Mau's face, meanwhile, is adorned with an M-shaped mark on the forehead and two black streaking lines across its cheeks.

Additionally, the cat's gleaming coat, which is soft and silky, is covered with smoke-colored hair, and its eyes are almond-shaped and gooseberry-green.

Personality and Temperament

Beauty may inspire love at first sight but good nature nurtures it. The same goes for the Egyptian Mau. It may originally be acquired for its beautiful coat, but it is valued and loved for its good temperament and helpfulness.

It follows orders and is very good at fetching things -- perhaps a vestige of its ancestors, who retrieved game shot by their owners. Hunting is also an inherited attribute: Egyptian Maus love to play hunting games indoors and if given a free hand they would hunt outdoors.

Although it is extremely loyal to its human family, many are initially wary with strangers. The Mau also has a melodious voice, which it uses to communicate distress or hunger to its owners. The Mau may even wag its tail or tread its feet to further illustrate its displeasure.

History and Background

The Mau (which is the Egyptian word for cat) is one of the oldest cat breeds in the world; its forefathers were even part of religion, mythology, and everyday life in ancient Egypt. It was also depicted in ancient Egyptian art, such as sculptures and paintings, including a papyrus painting (circa 1100 B.C.) depicting Ra in the form of a spotted cat cutting the head off Apep, an evil serpent.

Another painting, dated 1400 B.C., portrays a spotted cat bringing back a duck for an Egyptian hunter. This evidence shows that not only were cats revered in ancient Egypt but that they had proved their usefulness to man.

It wasn't until the 20th century that Europeans began to take a keen interest in the breed. However, just when cat breeders in France, Italy, and Switzerland began to devote their energy to developing the breed, World War II began. Like many other cat breeds, few Maus survived the war.

Its history in North America began with the importation of a few Maus in 1956 by exiled Russian princess Nathalie Troubetskoy. She visited Italy and collected some Mau survivors and even imported a Mau from Egypt.

The Mau soon caught the eye of cat lovers who wanted to preserve this unique and ancient breed. But because of the small gene pool, a certain amount of cross-breeding became inevitable.

In the 1980s, breeder Cathie Rowan brought 13 additional Maus from Egypt into the United States, paving the way for more imports.

The Mau was recognized by the Cat Fanciers' Federation in 1969. It was given Championship status in 1977 by the Cat Fanciers' Association, and now has the status in all associations.

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