Egyptian Mau: Cat Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Egyptian mau cat outdoors sitting up on hind legs

Lisa Beattie / Getty Images

The Egyptian mau is the fastest and only naturally occurring spotted breed of domestic cat. In Egyptian, the word mau means "cat." This striking and dignified cat resembles the cats worshipped by the ancient Egyptians. This intelligent breed generally gets along well with other cats and is considered a good choice as a friendly and loyal addition for homes with children.

Breed Overview

Weight: 6 to 14 pounds

Length: Up to 24 inches

Coat: Medium-length with fine texture

Coat Color: Spotted coat in silver, bronze, or smoke with random spots produced by color only on the tips of the hairs

Eye Color: Green

Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

Characteristics of the Egyptian Mau

Affection Level High
Friendliness Medium
Kid-Friendly Medium
Pet-Friendly Medium
Exercise Needs High
Playfulness High
Energy Level High
Intelligence Medium
Tendency to Vocalize Low
Amount of Shedding Medium

History of the Egyptian Mau

This African wild cat is thought to be the cat originally domesticated by the Egyptians over 4,000 years ago. Cats depicted in ancient Egyptian artwork resemble the spotted Egyptian mau and show that they were used for duck hunting as well as being worshipped by a cat cult.

Feline genome data actually shows that the Egyptian mau is more closely related to Western-derived breeds than those of the eastern Mediterranean. However, the Egyptian mau has some distinct characteristics not seen in other breeds.

Its ancient lineage notwithstanding, the Egyptian mau was first shown in Europe prior to World War I, but during the war, its numbers were decimated with most of its known survivors found in Italy.

Russian Princess Nathalie Troubetskoy, exiled in Rome shortly before World War II, was given a spotted Egyptian mau kitten she named Baba. In 1956, Princess Troubetskoy emigrated to the U.S., bringing with her Baba and two other rescued maus. Shortly thereafter, she established her cattery and established Egyptian maus as a recognized breed in North America. Egyptian maus were recognized by the Cat Fanciers' Association in 1968 and The Canadian Cat Association shortly after.

In 1972, a silver Egyptian mau female bred by Princess Troubetskoy became the first Egyptian mau to win a Canadian Cat Association grand championship. During those early years, because of the lack of breeding stock, the mau was likely outcrossed with selected domestic cats, along with some inbreeding. More recent imports of maus from Egypt and India have helped preserve and strengthen the breed.

According to breed standards, the Egyptian mau's body is medium long with well-developed muscles, while retaining a graceful appearance. Its hind legs are slightly longer than the front, giving the cat a somewhat "rakish" appearance. These longer hind legs may contribute to it being the fastest running domestic cat capable of speeds of up to 30 miles per hour. This breed has a skinfold from its flanks to its knees, a trait seen in the cheetah that may also contribute to its fast speed.

The cat's head is described as a slightly rounded wedge with no flat planes, medium in length. The nose, when viewed from the front, is even in width for its whole length with a slight rise from the bridge of the nose to the forehead. The mau's muzzle is neither short nor pointed, and its ears, which may be tufted, are medium-sized and moderately pointed with ample width between the ears.

One of the most distinctive features of the Egyptian mau is its eyes, which are large, slightly slanted, and of a unique light "gooseberry green" color. The set of its eyes gives the breed a bit of a worried expression.

Its lustrous, dense coat can be silver, bronze, or smoke and is distinguished by a marvelous mixture of striping and spotting, which makes this cat really stand out. The stripes on the forehead may form a letter "M," known as the mark of the scarab. It has eye stripes that form mascara lines, which may have inspired the ancient Egyptians to mimic it. 

Egyptian Mau Care

Its coat is easy to care for with weekly combing; it rarely needs a bath. Learn how to help your cat with good dental hygiene to keep its teeth and gums healthy.

A mau will appreciate having places to climb and play to satisfy its exercise needs. Provide a cat tree or a window perch and a scratching post; a high vantage point helps the cat feel in control of the whole room. Be sure to provide lots of cat toys. Maus enjoy playing fetch. Most maus like to play in water, including splashing in their water dish.

They are good hunters and you will have to be careful if your household includes pet birds or rodents; keep the cat away from your bird feeder.

Highly intelligent and personable, the mau is extremely loyal and devoted to family members, both human and four-legged. It tends to be shy or reserved around outsiders and may hide from visitors. Maus have a distinctly soft melodious voice and chortle to express their happiness.

Maus like to be in control, and even though they show affection, they prefer to come to you rather than have you pick them up. They will train you to go sit on the couch and then stroll over to join you for a snuggle.

Common Health Problems

Egyptian maus do not have any breed-specific health problems. You should ensure that your cat gets all of the usual well-cat checkups, preventative immunizations and treatments, and monitoring for any health concerns. Keeping your cat indoors will help avoid infections spread by other animals and injuries from fights. Spaying or neutering is recommended for any cat that is not bred.

Diet and Nutrition

The Egyptian mau does not have any breed-specific nutritional needs, but it is important to understand how much and what a cat should eat. It likes to eat just a few bites at a time throughout the day, you can allow it to be a free-feeder with dry food left out all day long. You can provide wet food at specific times in small quantities.

Be sure to monitor your cat for weight gain as obesity will shorten its life and lead to diseases such as diabetes. If your cat is gaining weight, discuss an appropriate diet with your veterinarian.

Pros

  • Not prone to any breed-specific health conditions

  • Highly intelligent, trainable, and energetic

  • Likes water, although does not need baths since it keeps itself clean

  • Great for families with kids, other cats, and dogs

Cons

  • Very rare to find for adoption

  • May be skittish around strangers

  • May attempt to hunt rodent or bird pets

Where to Adopt or Buy an Egyptian Mau Cat

You may be able to find a purebred Egyptian mau cat through a breeder in your area, but if you'd rather adopt from a rescue organization, check out:

More Cat Breeds and Further Research

Before you decide whether an Egyptian mau is the right for you, do your research by talking with other mau owners, reputable breeders, and rescue organizations. This is a relatively rare breed and you may have to join a waiting list if you have your heart set on a mau.

If you're are interested in similar breeds you could consider:

There are many different cat breeds for you to explore before you decide which one is right for your home.