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.
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.
Egyptian Maus typically are slender and muscular and they are thought to be one of the progenitor breeds of the modern domestic cat. They have anatomical, metabolic, and behavioral differences from other cat breeds which could be considered evidence of antiquity or at least uniqueness from other cat breeds. Some anatomical differences are their legs, which are slightly shorter in the front than in the back. They also have a skin fold under the belly, resembling that of the cheetah, which assists in running by allowing the legs to stretch back farther. Also one of the most important recognizable “traits” of this particular animal is a long, dark, dorsal stripe that runs from its head to its tail along its spine.
Maus are more temperature sensitive than most breeds—they are fond of very warm temperatures. They are more sensitive to medicines and anesthesia. Maus allegedly have an unusually long gestational period, about 73 days. The maximum normal period for cats is 65–67 days, although Siamese may take a day or two longer.
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.