The Egyptian mau is an elegant, spotted cat whose ancestry may date back three thousand years, to the cats whose images adorn the temples and halls of ancient Egypt. The name “mau” comes from the ancient Egyptian word for cat. They are known for their athleticism and are some of the fastest runners among domestic cats–reaching speeds of up to 30 miles an hour. In addition to their striking appearance as one of the few naturally spotted cat breeds in the world, Egyptian maus are friendly and interactive with their family members. Within the family, they may form a strong bond with one select person. The Egyptian mau tends to be aloof with strangers, though they will warm up to new people when given time. They are expressive cats, and when they’re happy, they perform a unique tail wiggle that can be surprising to people who’ve never seen it before. Egyptian maus can make wonderful additions to homes willing to make them an integral part of the family.
PERSONALITY: Playful, active, devoted, loyal, alert, affectionate on their own terms
WEIGHT: 6 to 14 pounds
HEIGHT: 8 to 14 inches
LENGTH: Up to 16 inches
COAT: Medium-length shorthair, may be silky and fine or dense, depending on color.
COAT COLOR: Silver, bronze, or smoke with dark spots of varying sizes that occur only on the tips of the fur. Other characteristics include a dorsal stripe extending along the tail to a dark tail tip. The forehead has an “M” marking and the face has “mascara” lines that start at the corner of the eyes and sweep along the cheeks. Black, caramel, and blue/pewter coat colors also occur.
COAT PATTERN: Tabby
EYE COLOR: Green
LIFE EXPECTANCY: 12 to 15 years
Egyptian Mau Characteristics
|Tendency to Vocalize||Medium|
|Amount of Shedding||Medium|
History of the Egyptian Mau
The Egyptian mau may have descended from ancient Egyptian domestic cats, though definitive genetic linkages are difficult to trace. Egyptian art dating back to 1900 BCE depicted cats with similar spotted markings in the homes of Egyptians, and by 1450 BCE cats were commonly shown in many domestic situations, where it was likely that they formed close, mutually beneficial relationships with humans. Cats also became associated with the Egyptian goddess Bastet. The worship of Bastet remained popular during the Roman rule of Egypt, and it is likely that Romans took some of these eye-catching spotted cats back to Italy. In this way, the precursors of the Egyptian mau breed ended up in Europe.
Cats resembling the Egyptian mau were bred in Italy, Switzerland, and France in the early 20th century, but the breed declined during World War II and may have died out, were it not for the work of a Russian-born nurse living in Rome in the 1950s. The nurse, Nathalie Troubetskoy, was given a silver-spotted kitten that purportedly came from an embassy in Rome. She discovered that the kitten was an Egyptian mau, and she was so taken by the beauty and personality of the cat that she became determined to revive the breed.
Troubetskoy managed to acquire a male cat named Gregorio, along with her silver cat Lulu, and later imported additional cats from the Middle East, including Geppa, a male smoke-colored cat. She produced the first litter of Egyptian mau in 1956. In 1968, the breed was recognized by the Cat Fanciers’ Association and the Canadian Cat Association.
However, because there were so few Egyptian maus in the U.S., the breed suffered genetic disorders and illnesses because of a limited gene pool. Breeders sought ways to expand the population. Jean S. Mill, of the Millwood cattery, located two cats that appeared to be Egyptian maus at a zoo in New Delhi. She brought them to the U.S. in 1980 and established the Indian breeding line, which was accepted by the Cat Fanciers’ Association in the late 1980s.
Egyptian maus remain a rare breed and there may be only around 3,000 worldwide. The Middle Eastern origin of the Egyptian mau was confirmed in a 2012 genetic analysis that connected the breed to other Middle Eastern cats like the Turkish van.
Egyptian Mau Care
Egyptian maus are intelligent, highly active, and playful cats who require lots of stimulation in their environment. Like all cats, feeding them a high-quality diet, minimizing their stress, and getting them regular preventive veterinary care will help them have long, healthy lives. Spaying, neutering, vaccinating and keeping them indoors with plenty of activities and interaction will result in happy and healthy cats.
They are moderate shedders and don’t require extensive grooming. Brushing them regularly will help with any shedding and will also prevent them from ingesting large amounts of hair via grooming–which can lead to hairballs.
This breed requires frequent exercise and opportunities to run, jump, and climb. Tall cat trees, scratching posts, toys, and safe indoor places to run and climb should be available to them. They enjoy interactive play with people, and can be taught to fetch toys and walk with secure leashes and harnesses. They are often conversational, with a variety of vocalizations that include chirping, chortling, and meowing.
Egyptian maus enjoy water, and like all cats, they should have a continuous source of fresh water available. Water fountains can not only provide them incentive to drink water more often, but also offer entertainment opportunities for them to splash and play.
Common Health Problems
Because Egyptian maus come from a limited genetic background in the US, they may develop health issues like kidney disease, bladder stones, and lower urinary tract disease.
Egyptian maus may also be prone to a heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which can shorten their lifespan. Depending on severity, this condition can be managed with medications, and regular veterinary examinations are crucial to monitor for the development of this disease.
They may also experience dental disease and gingivitis, and it’s important to brush their teeth regularly with a cat-friendly toothpaste and have their teeth cleaned periodically by a veterinarian.
Egyptian maus have several unusual characteristics that make their appearance unique among cat breeds. Their spots are naturally-occurring and appear in random patterns on their coat. While the only colors accepted by the Cat Fanciers’ Association are smoke, bronze, and silver, they can also be found in black, blue, and caramel colors.
They have a distinctive “M” or scarab shape on the top of their heads, and “mascara” lines that run from the corners of their eyes to their cheeks. Their tails are heavily banded with a dark tip and a dorsal stripe that runs the length of the tail. The overall coat pattern of the Egyptian mau is tabby. Smoke-colored cats generally have finer fur than the other colors.
They have short hair on their ears that may be tufted at the tip of the ears. Their eyes are a striking light green called “gooseberry,” and they are often described as having a slightly worried look.
They are fast, athletic cats with well-developed muscles. Males are generally larger than females. Their hind legs are longer than their front legs, giving them a “tiptoe” stance. They have a skinfold from their flank to knees, a trait shared with cheetahs that may relate to their speed.
Diet and Nutrition
Egyptian maus should be fed a high-quality diet that includes both wet and dry food. A veterinarian can help determine the best diet for an individual cat, based on lifestyle and activity level. Certain medical conditions may require that specialized diets be fed.
Where to Adopt an Egyptian Mau
Egyptian maus are not very common, and finding one to adopt may require patience and persistence. You can search for the breed on sites like Adopt-A-Pet and Petfinder, or contact breed-specific cat rescue organizations in your area.
Egyptian Mau Overview
Active and intelligent
Bonds strongly to family members
Doesn't require extensive grooming
Rare and not commonly found for adoption
Health issues like hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
May be too high energy for some homes
More Cat Breeds and Further Research
Before you adopt a cat into your home, do plenty of research about what may be the best fit for your family and lifestyle. If you’re interested in similar cat breeds you can take a look at these:
There are many different cat breeds to explore, and the best way to welcome a new cat to your family is to adopt a homeless cat from a rescue or shelter.
The Cat Fanciers' Association. Egyptian Mau Show Standard.
Egytian Mau. VCA Animal Hospitals. Accessed June 6, 2022
Egyptian Mau. VCA, VCA Garden State Animal Hospital. Accessed June 6, 2022
Morgan, M, Wydro, B. The Egyptian Mau. Cat Fancier's Association. Accessed June 6, 2022
Lyons L, Kurushima J. (2012). A short natural history of the cat and its relationship with humans. The Cat; 2012: pp. 1254-1262., doi:10.1016/B978-1-4377-0660-4.00042-9