The Egyptian Mau breed is in a league all it’s own. It one of the oldest (if not THE oldest) domestic cat breeds on record. They were adored in Ancient Egypt and are still loved by  humans today. With their wild looks and purrrfect purrrrsonality, it’s no wonder they have remained our companions all throughout history.

Channeling the Inner Cheetah

Egyptian Mau

Photo Credit: Liz West via Flickr

The Egyptian Mau has a majestic look that is reminiscent of it’s wild ancestors. They have a thin, muscular body with long hind legs, giving the cat a “tip toe”stance. A cheetah-like flap of skin extends from the posterior end of the Egyptian Mau’s ribcage to it’s hind legs. This flap of skin allows for greater extension of the hind legs resulting an incredible leaping ability and amazing speed. The Egyptian Mau is the fastest of the domestic cats. Some have been clocked at 30 miles per hour (about 48 kph)!

Randomly placed and sized spots decorate the Egyptian Mau’s  thick, dense coat. However, unlike the Ocicat, the Egyptian Mau’s spots are only on the edge of the fur (they do not extend to the roots). A stripe runs down the cat’s back to the  tip of it’s tail. Stripes that resemble broken necklaces are found on the Egyptian Mau’s legs, neck, tail, and upper chest. Coat colors include:

  • Silver
  • Bronze
  • Smoke
  • Black
  • Blue

The face of the Egyptian Mau rounds out it’s wild look. The brow line combined with the slightly up-turned gooseberry green eyes give the Egyptian Mau a bit of a “worried” look. Their forehead features a dark an “M”, much like what is seen in tabby cats. Dark mascara-like markings also surround their eyes and grace their cheek bones.

The Role of the Egyptian Mau in Ancient Egypt

Egyptian Mau -Ra slaying Apophis (British Museum)

A portion of the Papyrus of Hunefer (British Museum) Photo Credit: Jon Bodsworth via wikimedia commons

The relationship between humans and the Egyptian Mau goes all the way back to 1580 BC.  In Ancient Egypt they were kept as pets, worshiped, and trained for hunting and retrieving ducks with their owners. In fact, mau is the Egyptian word for “cat.”Evidence of this relationship can be seen in Ancient Egyptian papyrus records, frescos, and sculptures. It is believed that Ancienty Egyptian women patterned their makeup after the Egyptian Mau’s markings.

Cats played a very important role in the Ancient Egyptian religion. One important myth is the constant fight between the sun god, Ra, and the god of darkness, Apep. Apep was an all powerful source of evil, darkness, and destruction. He was represented as a coiling snake, ready to attack. Ra transformed himself into a cat (which looks much like a bronze Egyptian Mau) and wielded a knife to chop off the head of Apep. Though it didn’t completely destroy Apep, this action temporarily was able to destroy the grip of evil and darkness over earth. Some give credit to Bast (the cat goddess) for this deed rather than Ra. The Papyrus of Hunefer captures this epic battle.

An Ancient Cat Gets Modern

World War II ravaged Europe and northern Africa leaving the Egyptian Mau nearly extinct. Thankfully, an exiled Russian princess received 3 Egytian Mau kittens in a shoe box one day and took pitty on the breed. She named the kittens Gregorio ( a black male), Lulu ( a silver female), and Geppa (a smoke male). Princess Nathalie Troubetskoy took all of the Egyptian Maus she could get her hands on and moved to the United States to start the Fatima Cattery in 1956.

The Egyptian Mau was saved by Princess Nathalie Troubetskoy’s efforts and those of the breeders than join her in her mission. However, the road to recovery was a bumpy one. It wasn’t easy getting Egyptian Mau cats, so the gene pool was very shallow. Keeping the breed going required inbreeding and outcrossing at times. Eventually as political tensions loosened, more Egyptian Mau cats were able to be obtained. Now the Egyptian Mau is a perfectly healthy and hearty breed.

The Egyptian Mau at Home

Egyptian Mau - MAU ICH Arietta Setesh of Egyptsila

Photo Credit: Nickolas Titkov via Flickr

The Egyptian Mau is a wild-looking cat that makes a purrrfect household companion. These cats can be shy with strangers, but will be extremely loyal to the person/people that they bond with. Egyptian Mau cats love to be with their humans! In their own territory, they are not fearful, but curious and playful. They prefer to tell you when and by whom they should be held. Since they love to climb and jump, so you may find them hanging out on your shoulders.

The Egyptian Mau has it’s own way of communicating with it’s humans. They have a quiet melodious voice. While conversing with a human, they may wag their tails, make cute chortling sounds, and give happy paws. Of course, they want all the love and attention that they can get!

Interested in bringing an Egyptian Mau into your family? Check out the Egyptian Mau cats available on Petfinder!

Do you know any Egyptian Mau cats? What are they like in your experience?

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