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Egyptian Maus are a small-medium sized short-haired cat breed. Along with the Bahraini Dilmun Cat, they are one of the few naturally spotted breeds of domesticated cat. The spots of the Mau occur only on the coat. There are no spots on the actual skin. The spotted Mau is an ancient breed from natural stock; its look has not changed significantly as is evidenced by artwork over 3000 years old. Unlike other spotted cats such as the Ocicat or Bengal cat, the Egyptian Mau is a natural breed. Other breeds are created from domestic breed outcross or, in the case of the Bengal cat, domestic outcrosses with wildcats. The Mau is significantly smaller than these other breeds.
The breed conformation is described by The Cornell Book of Cats as a balance between the compactness of a Burmese and the slim elegance of a Siamese. Its medium-length body is muscular, with the hind legs longer than the front, giving the Mau the appearance of standing on tiptoes when upright.
The Egyptian Mau is the fastest of the domestic cats, with its longer hind legs, and unique flap of skin extending from the flank to the back knee, providing for greater agility and length of stride. Maus have been clocked running over 36 mph (58 km/h).
Maus often possess very musical voices. They are known to chirp, chortle and emit other distinctly unusual vocalizations when stimulated.
Another behavior, quite common in happy Maus, has been described as "wiggle-tail." The cat, male or female, wiggles and twitches its tail, and appears to be marking territory, also known as spraying, but it is not actually releasing urine. Even veteran Mau owners are known to check after a joyous Mau does this little dance.
The exact origin of the Egyptian Mau is not recorded and therefore cannot be known for certain. The Egyptian Mau is often said to be descended from African wild cats, and its ancestor is depicted essentially unchanged in wall paintings of Ancient Egypt. The breed name itself references the Middle Egyptian word mw (literally, cat).
In Ancient Egypt, Maus were used for hunting due to their bird like voices. They were small enough to not carry away the prey for themselves and were able to alert hunters to the location of the prey without scaring off other animals of prey.
The modern Mau is said to have originated in 1953, Italy, when exiled Russian Princess Natalie Troubetskaya met the cat of the Egyptian Ambassador to Italy. She convinced him to obtain several cats from Egypt for her, and she began to breed them. From her the Mau has been described as having a "troubled" look, with their round eyes and open expression. The Mau achieved championship status in some organizations in 1968. There were attempts by British breeders to create Maus from cross-breeds of Abyssinians, Siamese and tabbies, however these did not resemble the true Maus. This mix became the basis for the Ocicat.
Egyptian Maus will either have a 'scarab beetle' or 'M' marking on their foreheads, those with the latter tend to be from the United States.
Egyptian Maus are typically slender and muscular and they are thought to be one of the progenitor breeds of the modern domestic cat. They have anatomical, metabolic, and behavioral differences from other cat breeds which could be considered evidence of antiquity or at least uniqueness from other cat breeds. Some anatomical differences are their legs which are slightly shorter in the front than in the back. They also have a skin fold under the belly, like the cheetah, which assists in running by allowing the legs to stretch back farther. Also one of the most important recognizeable "traits" of this particular animal is a long dark stripe that runs from its head to its tail on its spine.
The typical Mau is known for having what is considered a loyal, friendly, but slightly dog-like personality.
Maus are more temperature sensitive than most breeds - they are fond of very warm temperatures. They are more sensitive to medicines and anesthesia. Maus allegedly have an unusually long gestational period, about 73 days. The maximum normal period for cats is 65-67 days, although Siamese may take a day or two longer.
Albeit largely anecdotal, the Egyptian Mau is well known for intelligence and close bonding with responsible and loving owners. Such owners typically report their Maus eagerly greet them at the door at the end of a long day at work. Usually requiring more effort than other breeds, Maus can be "lap cats," but their alert nature makes the task difficult. Although ill-advised by most veterinarians and animal-care givers, the Egyptian Mau loves an outdoor life. Their speed, coupled with their innate intelligence, allows them to avoid almost all dangers if carefully introduced to an outdoor world very early in life. Unusually averse to loud noises and fast-moving objects, Maus are rarely "road kills," and instead are far too busy decimating the mouse and rat population in the back yards and farms of your neighbors. Many responsible farmers report that a few Mau crossbreeds have saved entire crops from rodents. The typical Mau is not social with strangers of any species, other cats in particular. As kittens, maus will also test out their ability to attack and scratch. Providing them with large sausage-like dog toys so they can practice "gutting" and "killing" is a must if you want your cat to be a ratter. Also, they are very hard to wash if you do not have thick gloves or thick skin. Maus will fight trespassing cats with astonishing ferocity and uncannily disappear from strange and loud humans. Accordingly, the Egyptian Mau is not a good choice for an absentee condo owner who, when home, brings in strange pets and humans. But over-all, the Mau is a great pet known for creating a special and strong bond with generally one or two people in the family.
Egyptian Maus are a relatively rare breed to encounter. As of 2007, fewer than 200 kittens are registered with the GCCF each year.
As of 2006, a total of 6741 Maus are registered with the CFA. Maus come in five colors. From most to least common these colors are: silver, bronze, smoke, black and blue/pewter.
Black and pewter Maus cannot be shown, but may be used in breeding. All Maus must have green eyes, but an amber cast is acceptable in kittens and young adults up to eighteen months old.
The Egyptian Mau Rescue Organization (EMRO) is an adoption agency both locally and internationally for tame Maus. Supported solely by private and corporate donors, EMRO aims to increase education, in Egypt and around the world, about cats. EMRO's cats are not pedigreed Egyptian Maus; they are Egyptian and Arabian street cats of unknown pedigree. The only cats that can be legitimately called Egyptian Maus are cats that have registration papers from a reputable registry that certify them as such. Although EMRO's cats come from the Egyptian Mau's current region of import, CFA, the world's largest registry of pedigreed cats, will not consider these cats and their offspring Egyptian Maus unless they have met a number of exacting requirements to rule out disqualifying physical traits and detailed record-keeping to verify parentage. The first generation imported cats themselves are considered to be Native Maus and their second and third generation offspring are considered Domestic Maus. Finally, the fourth generation cats are eligible for placement on the active registry provided they have been fully evaluated and approved by a designated representative of the Egyptian Mau Breed Council.