The Egyptian Mau is famous for being one of the cat breeds with the longest recordable history, being perhaps the first domesticated cat. Of course the cat breed we see today in the West is not the same cat of ancient Egyptian times. But the Egyptian Maus persecuted on Cairo’s streets are certainly more closely related. A student in Egypt is doing research into this.
Want a quick tour? – the video above might do it.
Some experts say (in a recently published article – 2008) that the wild cat was domesticated some 9,500 years ago. If that were true the Egyptian Mau wouldn’t be the first domestic cat breed. Although at the time wild cats were domesticated there were no formally recognized domestic cat breeds.
It seems that the evidence that the Egyptian Mau is a domesticated sub-species of the African wildcat is to be found in ancient Egyptian illustrations (see video above of African wildcat). This may be fairly good evidence but probably isn’t conclusive. The African wild cat is certainly of similar size and appearance however. Indeed this recent article (4th Sept 2010) throws all the theories into the air: The Nile Valley Egyptian Cat
In any event since domestication some 4000 years ago and since being adopted by the Cat Fancy in 1953 or 1956 (and being selectively bred thereafter) its appearance has changed. Certainly the Egyptian Mau today does not have the appearance of a wild cat that has been domesticated.
This cat looks distinctly a domestic cat, although of medium to slender build (semi-foreign) and very athletic, it does not have the strong and slightly wild appearance of a wild/domestic hybrid cat, for example an F1 Savannah or the Ashera GD (the same cat incidentally).
However, two things seems sure, (a) the spotted coat has uniquely been acquired naturally (i.e. without our interference through cross-breeding) and (b) this cat is a very old established domestic cat breed. This cat has a conistent spotted pattern. It is possible that a spotted gene (Sp) produces this rather than this cat being a modified mackerel (striped) tabby cat. Careful selective breeding maintains the evenness of the spots.
Photo ©Helmi Flick
Photo ©Helmi Flick
Photo ©Helmi Flick
Photo ©Helmi Flick
|Photos above are thumbnails|
|3,500 BC||Beginning of this breed in Egypt – uncertain.|
|2000 BC||Allegedly first became a domestic cat.|
|Pre- WWI||Shown in European shows.|
|WWI & II||Negative impact of the World Wars on the development of this breed.|
|1953 or 1956||Egyptian Mau imported into USA by Princess Natalie Troubetskoy. Apparently she imported a female Cairo street cat to Italy and then mated the cat to a local tom1….|
|1955||…Egyptian Mau exhibited at Rome Cat Show. This cat must have looked similar to the feral cats that inhabit Egypt today (see photo at base of page). Subsequently the princess travels to the USA with her three kittens, the offspring of the above mating.|
|1968||CFA recognize this breed. The cats that are breed in the USA are reported to be descendants of the three importations mentioned above.|
|1972||This breed wins Grand Champion in CCA Show (Canadian Cat Association).|
|1977||CFA Championship status granted (Full Status).|
|Current||Recognized in the UK by GCCF. Full status in TICA.|
There is a nice connection between the goddess Bastet or Bast, the domestication of the wild cat and the Mau (which incidentally means “cat” in Egyptian). The African/Asian Wildcat still inhabits the region although obviously to a much less dense level than at the time of its possible domestication.
Bast was worshiped by a cult in the city of Bubast (or Bubastis) in the Delta region of the Nile (see below). Some experts say that this is the area that witnessed the beginnings of the domestication of the African wildcat.
In this area there is and was a high concentration of snakes so a good domestic working cat would have been very useful. See map immediately below for this location.
Considered to be the only natural spotted domestic cat, meaning not bred to be spotted. This is a medium sized short haired cat of elegance and distinction; looking extremely attractive and is described as being “semi-foreign type (see cat body types). The conformation is also described as “Modified Oriental”. Understandably, this is a very popular breed of cat, supported by the current poll on this website.
This cat has more than good looks, however, as she is claimed to be the fastest domestic cat breed (31 mph, 48 kph). This would seem to be anecdotal. Cats such as the tamed Serval (therefore domesticated on occasion) are bigger and have longer strides and are therefore, faster at 50 mph. In doesn’t surprise me that she is fast.
It would seem that the wild/domestic hybrids are very fast too. That said, all fit domestic cats can move extremely quickly for a relatively small animal. See also Cheetah Speed for some speed comparisons. The Egyptian Mau’s fur is apparently more “primitive” (evidence of the ancient origins) and cats of this breed are prone to face off danger rather than flee from it (evidence no doubt of her wild ancestor). The skin is spotted in the same pattern as the fur in common with all domestic cats.
If you look at the photographs of Starz and Luke you can see the outstanding gooseberry green eyes. Three colors are acceptable for the CFA Championship classes, Silver, Bronze and Smoke. You can see the Silver (Luke) and Bronze (Starz) above.
They have a distinctive voice, making chirping sounds and other sounds peculiar to this breed (other cats chirp too, such as the Maine Coon). The Egyptian Mau appears to demonstrate her ancient origins in some of the uniquely different anatomical features that she possesses. Apparently this cat is very sensitive to air temperature and understandably prefers very warm temperatures. She also has a longer than normal gestation period (as does the Siamese) The Egyptian Mau is recognized for her slightly worried expression, which I think you can see in the above photographs particularly Miuty (the header picture).
Update early Sept. 2008: The Wikipedia author writing an article about this cat breed makes a number of errors in my opinion. For example, he says that the Egyptian Mau is “significantly smaller than other breeds” but earlier on in the piece he says that the cat is “medium sized”. These two statements can’t be compatible and in any event this cat is not smaller than the average cat. See Largest Domestic Cat Breed for size comparisons. He also says that the Mau is the fastest of the domestic cats.
This is a very unscientific statement and almost certainly incorrect. This cat is probably a fast runner (maybe one of the fastest) but a number of other cat breeds are also going to be fast including cats that are not even breeds but plain moggies. The author’s sources are almost exclusively websites which are very incestuous in their sources of information. Great care should be exercised in using the internet for research.
He refers to the belly flap on this breed as a specific feature of this cat, which enhances running speed. Belly flaps are either loose skin related to fat loss or simply a normal feature found on many cats purebred or not -but see below. A feature of fast cats is the flexible spine (see the Savannah for instance, a cat that is almost certainly faster than the Egyptian Mau) and a lot can be learnt from the Cheetah, the fastest of land animals – see Cheetah Speed which explains why the Cheetah is fast.
Update: in relation to my comment above about the Egyptian Mau belly flap a visitor to this site, Athena, has made a valuable contribution, which I’d like other visitors to read and see: Egyptian Mau belly flap – it seems that I am incorrect – that’s fine.
He also says that the Egyptian Mau is a natural breed. It may have been but is not longer as selective breeding is very much part of the evolution of this breed. The Egyptian Mau is a feral cat in Egypt and wantonly neglected and in fact persecuted there. The coat patterns of the Egyptian Maus in Egypt are not the glamorous looking coats of the purebred American Maus but quite dull, although the basics are in place.
See a fantastic slide show of the best pictures of the Egyptian Mau cat.
It seems that in Egypt, they are treated as plain domestic cats and not treated that well. Their future looks poor in Egypt. An Egyptian website concerned with the welfare of this cat breed in Egypt says that in ancient times it was an offense to kill or hurt this cat breed. Many were mummified.
The author says that times have changed and the Mau now faces persecution and extinction as they are not protected. There are many feral Egyptian Maus in Egypt that are being systematically poisoned by the local authorities (not much different to what happens in the West then).
Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page…
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My Thai Feral Cats Look Like Egyptian Maus
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My Mutt Cat With White Feet and Belly Flap
At the moment I have been looking for what kind of cat my dear mutt is. I got her at a pet adoption fair and the woman from the shelter told me she was …
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A Cat’s Cunning or Coincidence?
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The Most Loving Cat
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Max Our Egyptian Mau
My husband and I got Max as a 6 week old kitten from a pet store. I had no idea what breed he was, I thought he was an ordinary tabby. When we got him …
The Nile Valley Egyptian Cat
Yep, I’m the same Athena who sent you the info on the Egyptian Mau belly flap . The photo was my Ankhesenamen. A huge genetic study done in 2007 …
Cats101 – Egyptian Mau Not rated yet.I watch Cats101 on animal planet and to my surprise I saw a “Mau” who looked surprisingly like my Corsican Hybrid cat- to be honest nothing like a Mau….
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