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Back in the 1970s, the name of Egyptian Mau was originally given to the Oriental Spotted Tabby in Britain, when breeders attempted to re-create the original Egyptian Mau by crossing Siamese with tabby breeds, although they did not achieve the original look. However, this was a short-lived naming and it is no longer used for this breed. The cat that is known as an Egyptian Mau nowadays is a medium sized shorthaired cat of 'foreign' type that bears a strong resemblance to the cats depicted on ancient wall paintings and scrolls in Egypt. Interestingly, mau is the Egyptian word for cat and there has been little significant appearance in these cats over 3000 years. The Egyptian Mau is reputed to be the fastest of all domestic breeds of cat, with speeds recorded of 36mph - this is thought to be down to their physiology, with long hind legs and a flap of skin extending from the flank to the back knee giving them a longer stride. They are still a relatively rare breed in Britain, with only 194 kittens registered with the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) in 2010. An Egyptian Mau featured in the 2004 film 'Catwoman', starring Halle Berry who was reported to like the breed, which was just as well, as three separate cats took on the role in turn!
The exact origins of this breed are not recorded, and there is not a definitive history of the breed, although the Egyptian wall paintings do depict a very similar cat to the modern Egyptian Mau, and similar cats are still seen roaming the streets of Egypt today. In Ancient Egypt, these cats were often used for hunting due to their bird-like voices and also because they were also small enough to alert hunters to the location of prey without carrying it away for themselves. The cat we know as the Egyptian Mau today is thought to have originated from an exiled Russian Princess, Nathalie Troubetskoy, who was living in Rome and encountered a kitten that had been given to a small boy by a diplomat working at the Egyptian embassy. She was taken with what she saw and when she investigated further she was led to believe that they were Egyptian Maus, popular in Italy before World War 2. Egyptian tabbies had been bred in France, Italy and Switzerland before the war, but seemed to have died out. She was determined to save the breed and arranged to have some cats imported, and in 1953 her first kittens were born. She subsequently went to live in the USA, and the two breeding programmes in Italy and the USA were the start of the re-birth of this breed. Egyptian Maus first arrived in Britain in 1998 from the USA, and they finally gained full Championship status with the GCCF in 2007.
Egyptian Maus are a dramatic-looking breed, distinguished by their random spotted coat pattern in tabby (bronze and silver) and smoke colours. The spots can be large or small, round, oblong or an irregular shape, and the spotting does not need to match. The front legs are heavily barred and/or spotted and do not necessarily match, and the upper hind legs show a pattern between stripes and spots which changes into bars on the lower leg. The coat is close lying with a lustrous sheen, and in the silver and bronze colours each hair has at least two bands of ticking separated by lighter bands. These are active, well balanced cats of medium size, with amazing strength and a muscular feel to them, yet this is a very elegant breed. They have a very subtle light eye colour, described as 'gooseberry green', and they are large and almond-shaped. The ears are of moderate size, slightly pointed, and cupped forward giving them an alert look, and yet the facial markings, together with a wide eye shape give this breed a unique worried expression.
The Egyptian Mau is an assured, confident cat (despite the worried look!), and has an independent nature as might be expected from the ancient Egyptian ancestry. They often possess very musical voices, and are very chatty cats that chirp, chortle and make other unusual cat sounds when something catches their imagination. They are intelligent and affectionate, although not as demanding as some other breeds such as Siamese and Orientals, and although they are happy to sit on a lap for short periods, they are always on the lookout for something more interesting going on. They become attached to their 'special' humans, often greeting when people return home from work, but they are definitely their own person! They don't always adapt well to changes in the home, including the introduction of a new pet, or a visit from a human with a loud voice.
The Egyptian Mau often lives into the mid to late teens, with no health problems specific to the breed. In common with other cats, they need annual vaccination boosters against the common feline ailments of flu and enteritis, as well as against Feline Leukaemia if they go outdoors.
The Egyptian Mau is not a fussy eater and will eat most good quality proprietary brands of cat food, but will also enjoy treats of cooked chicken, ham and grated cheese. However, cows' milk will probably give them a stomach upset, and a bowl of water should always be available. Their coats will not need much grooming on a daily basis and stoking will normally remove any dead hairs, although a weekly comb will help to keep the coat in tip-top condition. The natural instinct of this breed is as an outdoor hunting animal, and if allowed out, they may bring home samples of their prey, usually dead. They are also very territorial and may get hurt defending their patch from marauding cats, but they will adapt to life indoors which will be much better for their wellbeing and their survival into old age.