Egyptian Mau Cat
History of the Egyptian Mau
The Egyptian Mau is one of the oldest existing breeds of domestic cat, and the only naturally spotted one. Evidence in the form of depictions, paintings, and sculptures shows that spotted cats existed during the time of the Egyptian cat cult, and it is theorized that the predecessor of the Mau was the very same cat worshiped by the ancient Egyptians.
A papyrus painting dating around 1100 B.C. shows Ra in the form of a spotted cat beheading the evil serpent Apep. In 1580 B.C., a papyrus record quotes a spotted cat as saying, 'I am the cat which fought near the Persea Tree in Annu on the night when the foes of Neb-er-tcher were destroyed!' On a more mundane note, a 1400 B.C. tomb painting found in Thebes depicts a spotted cat retrieving a duck for an Egyptian hunter, showing that cats were not only worshiped but played an important role in everyday life as well.
Egyptian Maus joined the European cat fancy in the early 1900s. Fanciers in Italy, Switzerland, and France worked to develop the breed; however, as it did many purebred breeds, World War II decimated the Egyptian Mau population and by the mid-1940s the Mau was almost extinct.
The efforts of the exiled Russian Princess Nathalie Troubetskoy brought the Mau back from the brink of extinction. While in Italy, she rescued some of the few remaining specimens. She was also instrumental in importing at least one Mau from Egypt via the Syrian Embassy. In 1956 Troubetskoy immigrated to the United States, bringing with her three Maus bred from her original stock. Upon arrival, Troubetskoy began her own Egyptian Mau cattery (Fatima) and began to promote the breed.
The Mau soon collected a following of fanciers who wanted to preserve the rare and historically significant breed. Because of the small gene pool and because additional Maus were almost impossible to obtain from Egypt, a certain amount of inbreeding and outcrossing were required to continue the breed in North America.
Selective breeding for temperament was also a priority, since disposition problems were noted in some bloodlines. Finally, in the 1980s breeder Cathie Rowan brought 13 additional Maus into the United States, paving the way for more imports. In 1991 breeder J. Len Davidson imported four more.
This widening of the gene pool was vital to the breed's health and well-being. In 1968 CFF was the first to accept the Egyptian Mau. CCA soon followed, and the CFA granted Championship in 1977. Today, all major associations accept the Mau.
Egyptian Mau Personality
While fanciers might at first be attracted to the Egyptian Mau's beautiful spotted coat, most become enthusiasts because of the breed's temperament and personality. Maus, like their ancestors that were invited along on the duck hunts of their Egyptian companions, love to fetch. In fact, they love any play activity that mimics hunting behavior, and if allowed outside will become very competent (some might say savage) hunters.
That's not to say they are not devoted to the humans who pay them homage. Fanciers describe them as fiercely loyal cats that generally don't take to strangers. Once they bond with their human companions, they choose to be worshiped by their own family, rather than by the entire human race. While not overly talkative, Maus will let their family know if something is amiss, particularly if that something concerns their food dishes.
Their voices are usually melodious and quiet. When engaged in conversation with their human companions, Maus wag their tails, tread with their feet, and make a variety of sounds that fanciers call 'chortling'.
Egyptian Mau Breed Traits
One of this breed's most striking features is its random, distinctive spots. Considerable variety exists in placement and shape. The spots can be large or small, round or oblong, or combinations thereof. What is important is that the spots be vivid and distinct, with good contrast between the background color and the color of the spots.
The face bears tabby markings including the characteristic 'M' on the forehead, which is sometimes described as a scarab beetle mark. Two mascara lines grace the cheeks.
The first begins at the corner of the eye and continues along the cheek's contour. As the story goes, ancient Egyptian women patterned their elaborate eye makeup after the Mau's markings.