The Egyptian Mau is a pleasing package of natural beauty and action-packed personality. The body is medium long and graceful, showing well-developed strength. Boning is medium. Allowances are made for muscular necks and shoulders in adult males. A loose flap of skin extends from the flank to the knee of the hind leg. The legs are in proportion to the body, with the hind legs proportionately longer, giving the Mau the appearance of being on tip-toe when standing upright. The slightly oval feet are small and dainty. The tail is medium long, thick at the base, with a slight taper. Adult males weigh 10 to 14 pounds; adult females weigh 6 to 10 pounds. Balance is more important than size. No outcrosses are allowed.
The head is a slightly rounded wedge without flat planes, medium in length, without full cheeks. The profile shows a gentle contour with a slight rise from the bridge of the nose to the forehead. The entire length of the nose is even in width when viewed from the front. The muzzle, neither short nor pointed, flows into the wedge of the head. The chin is firm and not receding nor protruding.
The alert ears are medium to large, broad at the base, and moderately pointed. They continue the planes of the head and are slightly flared with ample width between the ears. The hair on the ears is short and close lying, but the ears may have ear tufts. The inner ears are a delicate, almost transparent shell pink. The eyes are large, alert, and almond shaped, with a slight slant toward the ears. The skull openings around the eyes are neither round nor oriental. Eye color is described as gooseberry green. Allowance is made for changing eye color as long as some discernable green is seen by eight months of age and full green eye color is seen by eighteen months. Green-eyed Maus are given preference at all ages. Maus over 18 months whose eyes are not green are disqualified from the show ring.
The vivid, spotted coat is the Mau’s most striking feature. The hair is medium length with a lustrous sheen. Texture varies with coat color; cats with the smoke color have silky, fine hair; while silver and bronze cats have dense, resilient hair that accommodates two or more bands of ticking. However, the spotted pattern is always present regardless of color.
The torso is randomly marked with spots that vary in size and shape. The spotting on each side of the torso need not match. The spots can be small or large, round, oblong or irregularly shaped, but must be distinct. There is good contrast between the pale ground color and the markings. The forehead is marked with the characteristic tabby “M” and frown marks, forming lines between the ears that continue down the back of the neck, ideally breaking into elongated spots along the spine. The tail is heavily banded and has a dark tip.
The cheeks are barred with mascara lines that start at the outer corner of the eye and continue along the contour of the cheek. A second line starts at the center of the cheek and curves upward, almost meeting the first line below the base of the ear. The upper chest has one or more broken necklaces. The shoulder markings make a transition between stripes and spots. The upper front legs are heavily barred but need not match. The haunches and upper hind legs make a transition between stripes and spots, breaking into bars on the lower leg. The underside of the body has vest buttons that are dark against the correspondingly pale ground color.
Silver, bronze and smoke are the only championship colors, but Maus are also sometimes found with blue markings in four colors: blue silver, blue spotted, blue smoke, and solid blue. In 1997, blue Maus were accepted for registration by CFA and the three blue spotted colors can be registered in the non-championship AOV (any other variety) class. Solid black Maus can be used in breeding programs but cannot be shown.
The name Egyptian Mau conjures images of pyramids, sphinxes, and cryptic symbols whose meanings have been long forgotten. The ancient Egyptians are the first people to leave extensive evidence of their alliance with cats—an affiliation that developed about 4,000 years ago, according to Egyptian writings, statues, and bas-reliefs. Presumably, cats were first welcomed for their ability to keep rodents away from stores of grain and thus prevent famine, and for their ability to kill snakes. Later Egyptian domestic cats became beloved household companions, and then sacred animals associated with the gods.
In Egyptian mythology, the goddess Bast or Bastet was often depicted as a slender, stately woman with the head of a lion or cat and, in later periods, frequently surrounded by kittens. Bast was known as the goddess of love, fertility, and the warm, life-giving energy of the sun, but was also associated with the Eye of Ra, as an instrument of the sun god's wrath. Cats were sacred to Bast, and so they were treated with great honor and respect. So revered and loved were cats that upon a feline’s death, Egyptians went into mourning, shaving their eyebrows and wailing loudly as signs of their grief. Killing a cat, even unintentionally, was punishable by death. Cats were often mummified; more than 300,000 mummified cats were discovered when archeologists excavated Bast’s temple at per-Bast (Bubastis in Greek), the city that was Bast’s center of worship.
An examination of the remains of mummified Egyptian cats indicated that most were African wildcats (Felis silvestris lybica), the primary ancestor of all domestic cats, from the finest pedigreed Persian to the scruffiest stray. A 2007 genetic study indicated that domestic cats descended from as few as five female African wildcats in the Mideast around 10,000 years ago.
If, as some fanciers believe, the Egyptian Mau is a living artifact of that ancient era, then the Mau is one of the oldest breeds of domestic cat. Characteristics common to modern Maus can be seen in wall and tomb art and papyrus paintings, right down to the randomly placed spots. A tomb painting dating from 1400 B.C.E. excavated from the remains of Thebes depicts a spotted cat retrieving a duck for an Egyptian hunter, indicating cats played an important role in everyday life. However, that’s only proof that spotted cats were common in ancient Egypt. On the other hand, spotted cats can be found in Egypt today, and contributed to the development of today’s Mau. So, while we have no conclusive proof that today’s Mau descended from the spotted cat known in ancient Egypt, the evidence we do have indicates the Mau may well be descendant of the regal Egyptian cat. Perhaps only Bastet knows for certain. The modern and better documented history of the Mau begins in the early 1900s, when fanciers bred and exhibited Egyptian Maus in Italy, Switzerland, and France. However, World War II decimated the Egyptian Mau population in Europe, as it did so many other cat breeds. By the mid-1940s, almost no Maus were left.
In the 1950s, however, Russian Princess Nathalie Troubetskoy, living in exile in Italy, was given a silver female Mau she named Baba. The young boy who gave her the kitten allegedly got Baba from a member of the diplomatic corps at a Middle Eastern embassy. Troubetskoy was fascinated by the lovely spotted kitten, and learned that she was an Egyptian Mau. When Troubetskoy immigrated to New York City in 1956, she brought three Maus: Baba; Baba’s bronze son, Jojo; and a silver female Mau named Liza. With these cats, Troubetskoy established the Fatima Egyptian Mau cattery and began to spread the word about the delightful qualities of the breed. Many Maus can trace their ancestry back to Troubetskoy’s cattery.
Because the gene pool was small and additional Maus were very difficult to obtain, inbreeding and outcrossing were used to keep the breed going. Eventually, more Maus were imported—some from India and some from Egypt, introducing badly needed bloodlines.
The Mau was first recognized by CFF in 1968, and CCA followed soon after. CFA granted championship in 1977. Today, all North American cat associations accept the Egyptian Mau. In the 1980s and 1990s, more Egyptian imports further enlarged the gene pool. The new bloodlines and hard work from dedicated fanciers brought the breed the larger gene pool it needed. While still fairly uncommon (according to CFA’s 2014 registration totals, the Mau ranks 20th out of the 41 breeds CFA recognizes for championship), the breed is growing in popularity as more fanciers see spots.