Vital Stats:Life Span: 12 to 15 years
Whether the Mau is a product of thousands of years of Egyptian culture is a matter of debate, but if fanciers of the strikingly spotted cats wish to claim that they date to the times of the pharaohs, well, who knows? It could be true.
The Egyptian Mau (mau being the Egyptian word for cat) is notable for being the only naturally spotted domesticated cat. In other words, the spotting pattern was not created by human manipulation of feline genes. The cats were known in Europe before World War II, but the devastation of the war left the breed in a perilous state.
The breed as it is known today dates to a silver female kitten given to Russian princess Natalie Troubetskoy when she was living in Rome. Depending on the story, the kitten was given to her by a young boy who had been keeping it in a shoebox or she acquired one from the Egyptian ambassador to Italy. Troubetskoy named the kitten Baba. When she moved to the United States in 1956, Baba and two of her offspring came with her. Troubetskoy wanted to ensure that the Mau survived as a breed, so she wrote a breed standard and began breeding the cats under the cattery name Fatima.
The breed was recognized in 1968 by the Cat Fanciers Federation, followed in 1977 by the Cat Fanciers’ Association. Importation of more Maus in the 1980s and again in 1991 increased the breed’s gene pool. Today the breed is recognized by most cat associations.
The Mau is a medium-size cat of 6 to 14 pounds
When the Egyptian Mau is happy, you know it. He vocalizes (called chortling) in a quiet, pleasant voice, swishes his tail rapidly, and kneads with his front paws. What makes him happy is being with his family, to whom he is fiercely devoted, or showing off his hunting prowess by chasing and retrieving a tossed toy or stalking and pouncing on a wriggling lure at the end of a fishing pole toy.
This is a moderately to highly active cat. He likes to jump and climb and will appreciate a tall cat tree, a window perch or two, and a sturdy scratching post that allows him to stretch out to full height. The Mau also enjoys playing in water. Don’t be surprised to find him dipping a paw into your koi pond or aquarium, turning on the tap in the bathroom or kitchen, or splashing water out of your pool — or his water dish.
The Egyptian Mau prefers family members to anyone else. When he’s not playing fetch, he enjoys sitting in a lap and being worshipped, just as his ancestors may have been.
The Mau has the distinction of being the fastest domestic housecat, as she can run at speeds of up to 30 mph.
Both pedigreed cats and mixed-breed cats have varying incidences of health problems that may be genetic in nature. Egyptian Maus are generally healthy, but be sure to ask a breeder about the incidence of health problems in her lines and what testing has been done for any that are genetic in nature.
The Egyptian Mau’s coat is easily cared for with weekly combing to remove dead hair and distribute skin oils. A bath is rarely necessary.
Brush the teeth to prevent periodontal disease. Daily dental hygiene is best, but weekly brushing is better than nothing. Trim the nails every couple of weeks. Wipe the corners of the eyes with a soft, damp cloth to remove any discharge. Use a separate area of the cloth for each eye so you don’t run the risk of spreading any infection. Check the ears weekly. If they look dirty, wipe them out with a cotton ball or soft damp cloth moistened with a 50-50 mixture of cider vinegar and warm water. Avoid using cotton swabs, which can damage the interior of the ear.
Keep the litter box spotlessly clean. Cats are very particular about bathroom hygiene, and a dirty box may cause them to start using other places in the house instead.
It’s a good idea to keep an Egyptian Mau as an indoor-only cat to protect him from diseases spread by other cats, attacks by dogs or coyotes, and the other dangers that face cats who go outdoors, such as being hit by a car. Keeping him indoors also protects local birds and wildlife from this avid hunter. Egyptian Maus who go outdoors also run the risk of being stolen by someone who would like to have such a beautiful cat without paying for it.
Coat Color And Grooming
The Mau’s most striking characteristic is his spotted coat in silver, bronze or smoke (pale silver fur tipped in black), closely followed by his large gooseberry-green eyes. He is a medium-size cat with a muscular body and a slightly rounded wedge-shaped head topped with medium-size to large ears. With hind legs slightly longer than the front legs, he gives the appearance of standing on tiptoe on his small, dainty feet. A medium-long tail is thick at the base, tapering slightly at the end.
The medium-length coat has a silky, fine texture in the smoke coloration and a dense, resilient texture in the silver and bronze colors. The body is covered randomly with distinct spots that can be small or large, and round, oblong or other shapes. The forehead bears an M shape, the cheeks are adorned with “mascara” lines, and the tail is banded, ending with a dark tip. On the pale belly are dark spots that resemble “vest buttons.”
In addition to the silver, bronze and smoke colors, Maus can come in solid black, blue silver, blue spotted (a dilute version of bronze), blue smoke and solid blue, but these colors are not permitted in the show ring. These cats of a different color make fine pets, however, sharing all the other characteristics of the Mau.
Children And Other Pets
The active and playful Mau is a perfect choice for families with children and cat-friendly dogs. He will play fetch as well as any retriever, learns tricks easily and loves the attention he receives from children who treat him politely and with respect. He’s smart enough to get out of the way of toddlers but loves school-age children because they are a match for his energy level and curiosity. Nothing scares him, certainly not dogs, and he will happily make friends with them if they don’t give him any trouble. He is a skilled hunter, however, and pet birds or other small animals are probably not safe in his presence. Always introduce any pets, even other cats, slowly and in a controlled setting.