Learn more about the Egyptian Mau
The Egyptian Mau
Originally published in The Cat Fanciers Almanac, 2002
The statuesque Egyptian Mau silhouetted in the evening dusk can quickly transport the observer to the pyramids of ancient Egypt. Spotted cats were seen virtually everywhere on the walls of the pharaohs’ chambers, and were the kings’ most revered and sacred companions. According to a translation from the Egyptian Book of the Dead in 240 B.C., “The male cat is Ra himself, and he is called by reason of the speech of the god Sa, who said concerning him, ‘He is like unto that which he hath made, thus his name became “Mau.” ”
The spotted cat most often depicted in scenes on the tombs most were likely descendants of the small African wildcat Lybica Ocreata, who bears a remarkable resemblance to cats of today. Cats in general were deified by the ancient Egyptians, and the many mummified cats as well as their toys and food that were carefully placed in the kings’ tombs, were testimonial to their feelings for their feline friends and their firm belief in the place of cats in the afterlife. It is said that the goddess Mafdet was the primary protector of the Pharaohs; however, later writings show two lion-headed goddesses to both be daughters of Ra. One of them was Sekhmet, who represented wrath and vengeance; the other was Bastet, who was the spirit of fertility, love and joy. Bastet became the central figure of worship in the lives of the Egyptians, and often a whole family would shave off their eyebrows in grief to mourn the passing of their beloved cats.
While we may not go to such extremes today, most of us who are fortunate enough to have an Egyptian Mau also enjoy a unique and beautiful friendship with our feline companions. Breeders of this wonderful cat are faced with a dilemma: we know that while some cats must be kept whole to perpetrate the breed itself, the thought of these intelligent and loving animals being sold into life in a cage often makes us hesitant to relinquish them to a breeding situation. Altered Maus also make excellent pets and many prospective breeders often learn the ins and outs of showing them in the Premiership Class. Pet owners who have one Mau nearly always ask to be placed on waiting lists for another. One recent first time owner summarized it very well for me. He described his relationship with his new kitten thusly: “You can tell cats what to do, but Egyptian Maus save time; they just read your mind.”
Those of us who love and show this breed agree. Judges also quickly realize that the Mau, so innocently sitting on the judging table, is only waiting for the chance to see what favorite toys might be kept somewhere nearby. The Mau is an active cat, and showing them can be a challenge when they are allowed by their owners to do as they wish at home. Socialization of young kittens includes toy training, but they must be taught that fun does not include aggression.
Most people are attracted to the Egyptian Mau for its wild spotted appearance. Selective breeding and use of the permitted outcrosses have resulted in a healthy and beautiful animal. The Egyptian Mau is stated to be a “medium” sized cat. The body is of moderate length with athletic muscular grace. Some lines have maintained an original “skin flap” toward the rear of the underside, which gives the cat an advantage in jumping.
The head is a modified wedge with wide “slightly almond-shaped” eyes of distinctive gooseberry green. An important feature of the Mau head is the parallel structure of the nose, i.e., the width between the eyes must be equal to the width across the end of the nose. This feature, combined with a slight “eyebrow,” gives the Mau what some describe as a traditional worried look. In the Egyptian Mau standard, many points and much importance are allocated to pattern and contrast. Spots may be any shape or size; however, they must be clearly visible and should not run together. Three colors are recognized for show: silver, bronze and smoke. The self black is accepted for breeding only and the blue was recently given a number for tracking purposes only. The coat should be glossy and resilient and show bands of ticking. A complete description is found in the CFA Egyptian Mau Standard.
Selective breeding has aided temperament. An intelligent cat may sometimes also show traits of recalcitrance, which was a problem at times in the infancy of the breed. Special traits exhibited by the Mau are chortling, treading the paws or kneading and wiggling the tail when pleased. They are a fiercely loyal animal and are possessive of their owners as well as their toys. Kittens are very adaptable to new situations but those who choose to adopt older cats often experience an “adjustment” period during which the cat must acclimate to the new home and owners. Once this period is over, an altered older cat forms a very special bond with its people and makes an excellent pet.
Royalty attracts royalty, or so they say. The pets of the pharaohs also captured the attention of Natalie Troubetskoy, an impoverished and exiled Russian princess living in Italy. Part of her immigration baggage included two silver females, Baba and Liza, as well as a bronze male, Jojo. The Princess settled in New York City in 1956, where she established her well-known Fatima Cattery. The Egyptian Mau immediately began to gain popularity. A domestic cat with the appearance of its early wild cousin had long been desired by many. This dream had now become a reality!
Those of us who enjoy success with the Maus in the show ring today should reflect for a moment in gratitude to those early breeders who exhibited their cats and continued to breed for many years until Championship acceptance in 1977. Some of these dedicated individuals are Suzanne Schwertley (Polka Dots), Wain Harding (Bastis), Jean Kryszczuk (Far East), Jill Archibald, Mary Vail (Phiset), Natalie S. Smyth (Trillium) and Shirley Charbonneau (Sangpur). As more breeders and spectators were introduced to the Egyptian Mau at shows, this desire to own a domestic spotted cat became greater; however, the limited number of cats in the gene pool caused many prospective Mau fanciers to face a long wait.
Throughout the late 1970s and 1980s, additional catteries came to the forefront. Among these were: Brockhaven (Guerdon and Dot Brocksom), Matiki (Jan and Bonnie Wydro), Zaynzalbar (Dr. Susan Little), Kaakhamit (Kerry Conway), Froghaven (Sharon and Dale Buchbinder), Kathaus (Dr. Cheryl Kleist), Daytown (Jane Dayton), Oubastis (Jessie Brown) and Maipet (Doris Morgan).
A few of these earlier catteries are still producing competitive cats today. In addition, there are: Bacamamdit (Linda Buzonas), Freckles (Susan Johnson), Kikori (Richard and Kathy Kopp), Emau (Melanie Morgan), Hajja (Jill Archibald), Maume (Mike and Vicki Michaels), Sharbees (Sharon Partington), Ocali (Verdery Brown) and Tavaron (Becky and Steve Bergeron) are often seen names in the show rankings. Other promising newcomers include Maullenium (Dot Mardulier), Ramah (Dee Keenan), Mauraj (Stephanie Walkley) and Maus-Ree Maus (Kay Sasser).
The limited gene pool could have presented a severe stumbling block in the survival of the breed. However, Jean Mill (Millwood) imported several badly needed outcrosses from the Delhi Zoo, which CFA accepted for use in the late 1980s. Cathy Rowan (Rocat), J. Len Davidson (Grandtrill) and Marie-Christine and Didier Hallepee (Fondcombe) of France have provided others. Thanks to their efforts, Egyptian Maus of today enjoy a robust and healthy life, free of cardiomyopathy, asthma and several other problems which plagued the traditional cats. Temperament was a problem in many early lines; however, careful breeding has fostered much improvement in this trait. Most breeders have finally realized that a “perfect” show cat is not perfect at all if it cannot be handled and displayed by the judges.
We all know that we must assist others if the breed is to survive and grow. Close mentoring should include honesty in relationships, helping others with feeding, grooming and health maintenance, as well as show conditioning and assistance in scrutinizing pedigrees for successful and healthy breeding. Thanks to the generosity of those early breeders, we have been able to successfully preserve and love our breed. It is up to those of us working with the breed today to share this joy with others.
Today, Maus are seen all over the world. The Japan Region has produced excellent examples of the breed in the past decade, with Regional Winners there as well as several National Breed Winners. Joyfulpal (Yoshiko Moriya), Nekono-Mori (Tomiko and Sadafumi Morizumi), Wisteria FL (Hiroko Fujiwara), Celsior Mau ( Yukio Watanabe) and Ambroisie (Rii Teranishi) are but a few of the leading catteries represented in the show ring in Japan.
The Mau is also enjoying great popularity in the International Division, and the European breeders have been generous in sharing cats and new import lines. Among the accomplished Mau breeders in Europe are: Hans and Olga Garretsen (Schooiertjes) of the Netherlands, Heide and Lothar Horn (Natango) of Germany, Didier and Marie-Christine Hallepee (Fondcombe) of France and Rossella Perniola (De Joha) of Italy. We all share the common goal: to protect and preserve the cat with whom we feel so fortunate to share our lives…the Egyptian Mau!
As stated before, the Egyptian Mau loves toys and looks forward to his turn on the judging table. Maus do best when they are permitted to show themselves off. They do NOT like to be held with their hind feet off the table. When reaching for a Mau, one must use a direct approach and avoid apprehension. If one is tentative, the Mau sometimes responds aggressively. If they are treated with respect and kindness at all times by their owner and on the judging table, they will generally respond well and resist the urge to “bolt.” They are extremely quick both physically and mentally; but, when the Mau and owner show each other sincere mutual love and respect, both will enjoy much pleasure in the show ring and at home.
Two CFA clubs exist to promote the Egyptian Mau, friendship and breeders. The oldest is The Egyptian Mau Breeders and Fanciers Club established in 1975, which offers both associate and voting memberships. The International Egyptian Mau Society was chartered some years later. Both clubs have produced shows as well as participated in exhibitions, Mau displays and other activities to showcase the breed. Those interested in participating can obtain additional information from the CFA Central Office.
* Primary teeth are often not lost until the permanent teeth have come in, thus there may be two full sets of teeth. This can result in sensitivity when touched around the mouth and usually occurs from about four to seven months.
* Mau eye color can take from one, to one-and-a-half years to come in. One can often see a green ring around the iris when the green color is starting to appear. The eye color can flash to black and then to green again, usually when the cat is excited.
* Maus love to “wiggle-tail” when happy which replicates “spraying” in whole male cats. Owners have often washed the paint off the wall trying to clean the non-existent urine!
* The Mau gestation period is longer than most other breeds. Kittens can come any time from 63 to 67 days. Some females go 70 days and deliver healthy kittens without difficulty.
* Maus love to eat and many owners make the common mistake of believing “food is love,” and the result is an obese cat who will troll the house looking for food of any kind. They can be very stubborn when their owner tries to diet them, resulting in a “stand-off” hunger strike. In this case, the cat almost always wins!
* If a person who dislikes cats visits the home, the Mau will often instinctively go about trying to “win them over.” Various behaviors may consist of sitting close to or on the person, bringing them toys or crying for attention.
* Maus love to “thwack” household objects. It can be an article such as a house shoe that they have seen many times. Suddenly, it becomes an enemy to be severely trounced. An unattended coffee cup or glass of wine sometimes is the recipient of this unwanted attention!
* The Mau has a sweet musical voice and they sometimes go about the house chirping or chortling, much like a bird. This usually happens when he or she is a happy cat or sees something especially exciting such as an insect!
* It has been reported that “Maus love water” in various publications. This varies greatly with the individual cat. Some owners report their cats enjoy getting in the tub or shower; however, sometimes it is quite the opposite when it is time for a show bath. When they are upset in the bath, they will usually lightly put their teeth on you – the owner is well to heed this warning!
* Maus will often “test” their drinking water with their paw before sipping it. This is said to be a holdover from ancient times when their ancestors urinated in streams to keep predators from getting their scent. In this case, anyone would do well to check first!