Egyptian Maus are a medium-sized short-haired cat breed. They are the only naturally spotted breed of domesticated cat. The spots on an Egyptian Mau are not just on the coat; a shaved Mau has spots on its skin. The Ocicat is very similar in appearance to the Egyptian Mau, but was the product of selective breeding which led to its spots. Another similar looking breed is the Bengal cat, but this breed tends to be considerably larger.
Egyptian Maus are the fastest breed of domestic cat, capable of running at 36 mph. The next fastest breed is the American Shorthair which has a top speed of 31 mph. For comparison, giraffes also run at 36 mph. Maus are powerful cats for their size, alert and active. Males are usually somewhat larger than females.
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 longer hind legs are another reason for the breed's startling speed. The Mau also has a loose flap of skin on the lower abdomen, similar to the cheetah, which allows a longer stride while running, again contributing to its great speed. The recently developed American Keuda breed also sports such a flap. A Mau running at full speed is impressive, with incredible acceleration.
Egyptian Maus are thought by many 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 as evidence of antiquity or at least uniqueness from other cat breeds. Besides those already mentioned, Maus are more temperature sensitive than most breeds - they are fond of very warm temperatures. They are more sensitive to medicines and anesthesia. Maus also have an unusually long gestational period. The maximum normal period for cats is 69 days, although Siamese may take a day or two longer. For a Mau, 73 days is still considered normal.
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, moves its back legs up and down, 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.
Purebred Egyptian Maus are a relatively rare breed. Currently, the number of registered Egyptian Maus worldwide is probably about 3000 (?). Maus come in five colors: silver, smoke and bronze, which are eligible for showing, and black and blue, which are not, but which can be used in breeding. All Maus must have green eyes, but an amber cast is acceptable in kittens and young adults, up to age 1 1/2 years.
The Egyptian Mau is one of the oldest existing breeds of domestic cat, and the only naturally spotted one. Evidence in the form of depictions, paintings, and sculptures shows that spotted cats existed during the time of the Egyptian cat cult, and it is theorized that the predecessor of the Mau was the very same cat worshiped by the ancient Egyptians. A papyrus painting dating around 1100 B.C. shows Ra in the form of a spotted cat beheading the evil serpent Apep. In 1580 B.C., a papyrus record quotes a spotted cat as saying, “I am the cat which fought near the Persea Tree in Annu on the night when the foes of Neb-er-tcher were destroyed!” On a more mundane note, a 1400 B.C. tomb painting found in Thebes depicts a spotted cat retrieving a duck for an Egyptian hunter, showing that cats were not only worshiped but played an important role in everyday life as well.
Egyptian Maus joined the European cat fancy in the early 1900s. Fanciers in Italy, Switzerland, and France worked to develop the breed; however, as it did many purebred breeds, World War II decimated the Egyptian Mau population and by the mid-1940s the Mau was almost extinct.