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The Egyptian Mau cat

The Egyptian Mau cat


Egyptian Mau

The first time you see an Egyptian Mau, you might say to yourself what the exiled Russian Princess Nathalie Troubetskoy, who introduced the Mau to the western world said: I have to have one of these cats.


The Egyptian Mau is spotted like a tiny cheetah, and you may be forgiven for thinking that the animal belongs in the wild, not in your living room. But you’ll be captivated, if not by the Egyptian Mau’s exotic coat pattern, then by its appealing expression. Some say the Egyptian Mau always has a worried look on its face.


But not so fast: the Egyptian Mau is an exceedingly rare breed, meaning you may be hard-pressed to find one. And the Egyptian Mau has some peculiarities that may not make it the perfect pet for every household.


The history of the Egyptian Mau


Egyptian Mau

Some people say that the Egyptian Mau is an ancient breed of cat.


Cats with spots are clearly depicted in artwork painted on frescos and papyrus going back to 1500 B.C. or even further, in Eygpt.[1]


Cat mummies from 1000 B.C. in Eygpt have been unwrapped and some of those appeared to be spotted tabbies.[2]


egyptian mau at pompeii

There are spotted cats pictured in the tile mosaics at Pompeii, too, suggesting Romans took spotted cats from Egypt with them back to Europe in the early centuries.


Are today’s Egyptian Maus descendants of these spotted cats from a millennium or more ago?


Egyptians just call them “cats”


None of this means that the Egyptian Mau that we know today is an ancient purebred cat breed.


Cat fancy was in full swing by the time Princess Troubetskoy came along, and we know that in most countries, cats of various backgrounds and breeds mixed it up with one another. There was no effort in Egypt to keep native Egyptian cats “pure.”


In fact, the word “mau” means “cat” in Egyptian. “Mau” sounds a lot like our “meow,” and that is probably how the word evolved.


But it also says that Egyptians just called their cats “cats.” Nothing more, nothing less.


An exiled princess starts an Egyptian Mau breeding program


Nathalie Troubetskoy, an exiled Russian princess, was living in Italy in 1953 when, according to one story, she met a spotted cat belonging to the Egyptian ambassador to Italy. She convinced him to import cats to Italy from his homeland for her.


An alternative story is that she was captivated by spotted street cats in Cairo and imported a female to Italy, who she mated with a local tomcat.[3] Whichever story you believe, the bottom line is that the princess somehow came into possession of spotted cats from Eygpt and began a breeding program.  


Three years later, she emigrated to the United States with three or four of her Egyptian Mau cats.



A handful of Egyptian Maus is not a breeding program


The only way to build a healthy breeding program when you only have a few cats to start with is to outcross them, meaning breed them with cats that are not Egyptian Maus. 


These mixes were probably hidden in the pedigrees of some of the early Egyptian Maus, but they most certainly happened.


Later, more genes were added to the mix that most definitely did not come from Egypt.


In a controversial move, kittens born from stray cats found in India became registered Egyptian Maus. Jean Mill, famous for developing the Bengal breed, picked up a couple of rosetted stray cats running loose at a zoo in India to use in her Bengal program.


Then she recorded their kittens as both Bengals AND Egyptian Maus.[4] The argument made to breed registries was that Indian cats were really Egyptian, because cats arrived in India from Egypt via trade routes centuries ago.


What DNA has to say about Egyptian Maus


egyptian mau

Studies of the cat genome suggest that the Egyptian Mau is very closely related to the Maine Coon, Korat, and American Turkish Angoras.[5] 


These are American, European and Southeast Asian breeds, not Middle Eastern breeds.


In my view, the Egyptian Mau is a special cat regardless of how it came to be. The Egyptian Mau doesn’t have to be Egyptian or ancient to be the remarkable and stunning cat that it is.


What does an Egyptian Mau look like?


The Egyptian Mau's spots and stripes


egyptian mau

The most noticeable thing about the Egyptian Mau is its spots. The spots can vary in size, be oblong, round, or even irregularly shaped.


The spots only appear on the very tips of the hairs. The rest of the hair shaft is a lighter color. But the skin has spots, too!


Egyptian Maus also have a dark line that extends from between the ears, down the back of the neck, becoming long dashes down the spine, which form a line extending to the tip of the tail.


There are also bands on the legs and tail and one or more “broken necklaces” around the chest.


An Egyptian Mau’s belly might have “vest buttons” – matching spots that run on either side of the midline of the tummy.[6]


Note that the Egyptian Mau comes in only six colors: silver, bronze, smoke, black, caramel, and blue. Black and blue Egyptian Maus can’t be shown, but they may be used in breeding.[7]


The Egyptian Mau's body


The Egyptian Mau is a small to medium-sized cat, weighing in at 6-14 pounds[8]


She’s athletic, lean, and muscular. Her hind legs are longer than her front legs, making her look like she’s walking on tippy toes. She has prominent shoulder blades, and a generous primordial pouch.


The muscular body and leggy-ness give this cat speed! The Egyptian Mau is the fastest recorded domestic cat, having been clocked at 30 mph.[9] He can also leap six feet in the air from a standing position.[10] This cat is an athlete.


It takes time to grow a body like this. It may take a kitten two years to reach full maturity.


The Egyptian Mau's head


An Egyptian Mau’s head is rounded and medium-sized. The ears are medium to large: wide at the base with a pointed tip.


His eyes are round and large, and light green. A Mau kitten may start out with amber eyes, however.


There is something very appealing about an Egyptian Mau’s face. Some combination of the brow line, the cat’s natural “mascara” markings, and the set of the eyes give this cat a worried look.[11]


Makes you just want to scoop her up, doesn’t it?


What is the personality of an Egyptian Mau?


Egyptian Maus are even-tempered and gentle. They are loyal and loving to their people, although they do tend to choose one “special” person in the family to devote themselves to.[12]


This devotion can be charming: an Egyptian Mau may wait at the door to greet you when you come home, bringing a toy for play.[13]


This devotion can also be a little obsessive. An Egyptian Mau is not the kind of cat to take no for an answer when she’s looking for attention.[14] 


Maus can suffer from depression and loneliness if they don’t get enough companionship from their people.[15] This is probably not a cat that should be left home alone for long hours every day.


As friendly as the Egyptian Mau is with his family, he can be aloof and wary of those he doesn't already know. An Egyptian Mau will take his time getting to know other people and pets, and will not be interested in interacting with human guests and animals who don’t already live in his household.[16] A fight might ensue if an unwelcome animal enters an Egyptian Mau’s world.[17]



Egyptian Maus can be vocal - some say "musical" - with little meows, chortles, and trills, as they follow you around the house, telling you about their day. Maus also have a special tail-wiggling behavior, which is almost like the tail wagging of a dog, that seems to indicate happiness.


Is the Egyptian Mau a healthy cat?


The gene pool for Egyptian Maus is small, and the lack of genetic diversity causes certain health problems to crop up with unfortunate frequency. Egyptian Maus are prone to:



Urolithiasis is the scientific term for bladder stones. Bladder stones are hard deposits that form in the kidneys and urinary tract. They can cause painful urination, urinary tract infections and obstructions, and can be life threatening, especially in male cats.


Nearly half the population of Egyptian Maus will suffer from urolithiasis in their lifetime.[18]


Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency (PK-Def)

Cats with this disease lack an enzyme that their red blood cells need. They often suffer from anemia.



This rare disease affects the spine and brain.


Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)

This is the most common cause of heart disease in cats. Read all about it in this post on HCM.


Love Pinterest? Here's a Pinterest-friendly pin for your boards!
The Egyptian Mau


DAwn and Timmy
Dawn LaFontaine

Dawn LaFontaine is a lifelong animal lover who always seems to have a little pet hair in her keyboard. Her blog, Kitty Contemplations, helps cat guardians better understand and care for the special beings they share their lives and homes with. Her cat-products business, Cat in the Box, sells beautiful, well-made, and award-winning products that she designed to meet the biological needs of cats.



[1] Wydro, Bonnie, and Melanie Morgan. “The Egyptian Mau.” Cat Fanciers’ Association, 1999,


[2] Hartwell, Sarah. “Egyptian Mau History.” Egyptian Mau History, Accessed 23 Apr. 2024.


[3] ibid.


[4] ibid.


[5] “Egyptian Mau.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 9 Mar. 2024,


[6] “What Do Egyptian Mau Cats Look Like?” What Do Egyptian Mau Cats Look Like?, Accessed 24 Apr. 2024.


[7] “Egyptian Mau.” Wikipedia.


[8] “Egyptian Mau: VCA Animal Hospitals.” Vca, Accessed 17 Apr. 2024.


[9] “Egyptian Mau.” Wikipedia.


[10] “Egyptian Mau: VCA Animal Hospitals.” Vca.


[11] “Egyptian Mau Cat Breed Information.” Purina, Accessed 17 Apr. 2024.


[12] “Egyptian Mau.” The Cat Fanciers’ Association.


[13] “Egyptian Mau: VCA Animal Hospitals.”.


[14] “Egyptian Mau Breed.” Welcome to TICA - The International Cat Association, TICA Cats, TICA Pedigreed Cats, Pedigreed Cats, Pedigreed Cats Registry, Household Pet Cat Registry, Domestic Cat Registry, Savannah Cat, Bengal Cat, Persian Cat, Maine Coon Cat, Accessed 24 Apr. 2024.


[15] “Egyptian Mau: Personality, Diet, Grooming, Training.” Petplan, Accessed 24 Apr. 2024.


[16] “Egyptian Mau: VCA Animal Hospitals.” Vca.


[17] “Egyptian Mau Cats: Breed Appearance, Personality & History.” Nationwide Pet Insurance, Accessed 24 Apr. 2024.


[18] Albasan, H., Osborne, C. A., Lulich, J. P., & Lekcharoensuk, C. (2012). Risk factors for urate uroliths in cats. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association240(7), 842-847. Retrieved Apr 17, 2024, from


[19] “Egyptian Mau: VCA Animal Hospitals.” Vca.


[20] Egyptian Mau Cat Breed - Facts and Traits | Hill’s Pet, Accessed 17 Apr. 2024.


[21] Ahmad, Dr Hafiz Muhammad. “Egyptian Mau vs Bengal Cat: Characteristics, Care, and Cost Comparison.” LinkedIn, 21 Feb. 2024,


[22] “Egyptian Mau.” PetMD, Accessed 17 Apr. 2024.


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