Egyptian Mau

Cat impersonating Meerkat
Lisa Beattie / Getty Images

The Egyptian mau is the only naturally-occurring spotted breed of domestic cat. The name mau literally means "cat" in Egyptian. Learn more about this striking and dignified cat that resembles the cats worshipped by the ancient Egyptians.

Breed Overview

  • Size: 6 to 14 pounds
  • Coat and Color: Medium-length coat with a fine texture. Spotted coat in silver, bronze, or smoke with random spots produced by color only on the tips of the hairs.
  • Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

Characteristics of the Egyptian Mau

Affection LevelHigh
Energy LevelHigh
Tendency to VocalizeLow
Amount of SheddingMedium

History of the Egyptian Mau

The 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 have 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 the known survivors found in Italy.

A Russian Princess, Nathalie Troubetskoy, who had a varied and distinguished history, was exiled in Rome shortly before World War II. While there, a young acquaintance gave her a spotted kitten that was living in a shoebox. Through research, she determined the kitten to be an Egyptian mau and named her 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, Fatima, and set off to establish the Egyptian mau as a recognized breed in North America. Her efforts were successful, with the acceptance by the Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) in 1968, and The Canadian Cat Association (CCA) shortly after.

It was fitting that in 1972, a silver Egyptian mau female bred by Princess Troubetskoy became the first Egyptian mau to win a grand championship in CCA. During those early years, because of the lack of breeding stock, the mau was likely outcrossed with selected domestic cats, along with some inbreeding. However, more recent imports of maus from Egypt and India, have preserved and strengthened the breed. The legacy of Princess Troubetskoy will live on in the remarkable Egyptian Mau breed.

The current breed standards have these characteristics:

  • Body: 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 its being the fastest-running domestic cat. They also show a skinfold from their flanks to their knees, a trait seen in the cheetah that may also contribute to running speed.
  • Head: The 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 of a medium size, moderately pointed, with ample width between the ears.
  • Eyes: 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 the eyes give them a bit of a worried expression.
  • Coat: 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 in a show hall. The stripes on the forehead may form a letter M, known as the mark of the scarab. They also have stripes that form mascara lines that may have inspired the ancient Egyptians to mimic them. 

    Egyptian Mau Care

    The coat is easy to care for with weekly combing, and Egyptian maus rarely need a bath. You will want to learn how to help your cat with good dental hygiene to keep its teeth and gums healthy.

    The mau will appreciate having places to climb and play to satisfy its exercise needs and the need to feel like he is in control of the whole room. Provide a cat tree or a window perch and a scratching post. Be sure to provide lots of cat toys and note that maus enjoy playing fetch. Most maus like to play in water, including splashing in their water dish.

    Note that they are good hunters and you will have to be careful if your household includes pet birds or rodents and keep him away from your bird feeder.

    Highly intelligent and personable, the mau is extremely loyal and devoted to his family members, both human and four-legged. They tend 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 doesn't have any breed-specific nutritional needs, but it is important to understand how much and what a cat should eat. They like to eat just a few bites at a time throughout the day, so many cats are free-feeders 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.

    More Cat Breeds and Further Research

    Before you decide whether an Egyptian mau is the right cat 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 are interested in similar breeds, look at these to compare:

    Otherwise, browse all of our other cat breeds.