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Egyptian Mau

Egyptian Mau

Place of origin

Egypt

History

Although regarded as one of the initial ancient cat breeds, the modern Egyptian Mau was developed in Europe from spotted cats imported from the Middle East. The breed name is derived from the Middle Egyptian word mau (an onomatopoeic word that means "cat"). Along with the rare Bahraini Dilmun Cat, the Egyptian Mau is one of very few naturally occurring spotted breeds of cat recognized by cat registries. To add to the romance of the breed, it was saved from possible extinction by an exiled Russian princess.

Cats resembling Egyptian Maus are depicted in Egyptian artwork more than 3,000 years old. The ancient Egyptians are said to have trained their Mau-like cats to hunt and retrieve birds. They are known to have worshipped cats and mourned their death and said to punish those who harmed a cat with death. Ironically, cats were also bred en masse by temples in order to be sacrificed and mummified.

During the Second World War, like many breeds, the Egyptian Mau faced extinction. Already, the native spotted domestic cats were becoming increasingly mongrelized with stray pets, losing the distinctive look of their ancestors. According to some accounts, the modern Egyptian Mau Biblebegan when an exiled Russian princess, Nathalie Troubetskoy, met a cat belonging to the Egyptian ambassador to Italy, where she was living. Intrigued by the cat's looks, she persuaded the ambassador to import several more of the Egyptian cats for her. According to other accounts, she was given a silver-spotted Mau kitten by a boy who had received it from a diplomat working in the Middle East, and she persuaded the Syrian Embassy to obtain more cats from Egypt. Still other accounts will tell you that Troubetskoy was so impressed by the spotted markings of street cats in Cairo that she imported a female to Italy to mate with a local tom. Whatever the case, the cats she imported from Egypt became the basis of a breeding program, and in 1956, Troubetskoy immigrated to the United States, taking three Egyptian Maus with her.

Three cats made inbreeding inevitable, so it is likely Troubetskoy outcrossed her purebred Maus to other cats to keep the gene pool healthy. Early pedigrees show only silver, bronze, and smoke-colored cats, but where there are smokes there also had to be solid black cats, even if these were not recorded or bred from. Outcrossing may have introduced the classic tabby pattern and the blue colors that occur in the modern Egyptian Mau.

In 1980, Bengal cat breeder Jean Mill imported a bronze rosetted stray male cat from New Delhi, India, for her own breeding program. Along with a bronze female, these two cats created the "Indian Mau" breed line that was incorporated into the Egyptian Mau. This controversial move opened the door to further imports of cats from Egypt in the 1980s and 1990s. The new "Egyptian Lines" tended to be larger and more vigorous than the now inbred original breeding lines.

These cats are not accepted for registration as Egyptian Maus by cat fancies unless they meet an exacting standard. In the CFA, the imported cats are known as "Native Maus." The second and third generations are "Domestic Maus." The fourth-generation cats can be considered for registration as Egyptian Maus as long as they meet the breed standard. However such imports are essential to expand the gene pool, especially because the Egyptian Mau may not be outcrossed to any other breeds. The Egyptian Mau Rescue Organization is an adoption agency for Egyptian and Arabian street cats of unknown pedigree.

The Egyptian Mau was recognized as early as 1968 by some organizations and by TICA in 1979. Maus first arrived in the United Kingdom from the United States in late 1998 and achieved recognition in 2004. However, they remain rare in the United Kingdom and in continental Europe. They have also achieved recognition in Australasia.

Physical description

The show bench Egyptian Mau has a randomly spotted pattern on a silky, resilient coat. The coat of the smoke variety tends to be somewhat softer. This spotted pattern is showcased on a strong, slim, but muscular body held by elegant, long legs. This is a medium-size, well-balanced cat of moderately foreign conformation. Females range from 6 to 8 pounds (2.75–3.5 kg), while males can weigh up to 12 pounds (5 kg).

The Egyptian Mau has a distinctive flap of skin hanging from the belly extending from the flank to the hind knee. This is called a primordial flap or greater omentum and is seen only in the Egyptian Mau and the American Keuda (a breed that is in development), whereas all other domestic breeds should have a tucked-up belly. Its purpose is to allow the cat to run very fast by hyperextending her longer hind legs and may be evidence of the breed's antiquity.

Overall, the Mau is an elegant cat who manages to combine a regal bearing and alert appearance with a unique "worried" expression caused by the brow line and set of the eyes. This cat appears to be standing on tiptoes. It has a gently concave profile from nose to forehead, large upright ears, and characteristic gooseberry green eyes.

Colors and varieties

As a result of the limited gene pool and careful selective breeding, Egyptian Maus occur in five colors. From most to least common these colors are silver spotted, bronze spotted, smoke (with ghost spotting), solid black, and blue/pewter (spotted, smoke, and solid). Classic tabby Maus also sometimes occur due to recessive genes. Although the solid colors, classic tabbies, and blue varieties cannot be exhibited except as household pets, they inherit the same conformation and temperament as the recognized colors and are equally good pets for anyone wanting an Egyptian Mau.

The show bench Egyptian Mau has been developed in three black-based colors in the spotted pattern: bronze, silver, and smoke. Other colors occur, but are not recognized for exhibition except as household pets. All Maus will either have a scarab beetle or M marking on their foreheads. The legs, tail, neck, and upper chest are striped, while the haunches and shoulders show a transition between spots and stripes; there is a dorsal stripe along the length of the spine.

The smoke Mau is genetically a solid-colored cat. It has "ghost" spotting resulting from selective breeding toward high contrast in the underlying tabby pattern (solid colors simply mask out the tabby pattern). This results in subtle black spots on a charcoal gray color, with silver undercoat, unique to the breed. Genetically, the bronze Mau is a brown (black) spotted tabby and the silver Mau is genetically a black silver spotted tabby. Due to recessive genes, all of these patterns also occur in blue (pewter). Solid-color and classic (blotched) tabby Maus also occur.

Temperament

Affectionate and sensitive cats, Egyptian Maus can be slow to accept strangers and change in their environments. This can make them seem aloof and shy; however, they forms loyal and close bonds with their people and can be very demanding of their attention. Their extremely alert nature means they tend not to be lap cats. Maus are intelligent cats who retain their ancestors' good hunting instinct, and they need toys or interactive play with their owners. Their intelligence means they can be trained for tricks and walking on a leash, and they seem to have a penchant for getting into mechanical mischief, such as learning how to turn on faucets or open doors.

Activity level

Moderate

Vocal level

Low; although Egyptian Maus will chirp or chortle when they feel it necessary.

Special needs

Kittens mature slowly and may need to stay with their queens for a longer period of time than other breeds. Egyptian Maus appear to be more sensitive to anesthetics, vaccines, and pesticides than many other breeds. Breeding females may also have longer pregnancies than other breeds. The short Mau coat is nearly maintenance free, but owners need to comb the coat to reduce shedding. Don't brush vigorously; doing so can strip away the spots formed by the ticking at the end of the hair shaft.

Variations

Another naturally occurring spotted cat Bibleis the Bahraini Dilmun Cat, which only recently has been developed as a breed and has not received widespread recognition.

Egyptian Mau

Black Smoke Egyptian Mau

From The Cat Bible, Copyright by Sandy Robins, licensed through ContentOro, Inc and used by arrangement with I-5 Press

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