Felis Sylvestris Lybica
The Egyptian Mau is the oldest known domesticated cat. Genetic, morphological and archaeological evidence suggests that African wildcats were domesticated by the Egyptians 9,000–10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent region of the Near East, coincident with the rise of agriculture and the need to protect harvests stored in granaries from rodents. The most likely ancestor of the Mau is Felis Silvestris Lybica, also known as the North African Wild cat. Praised for controlling vermin and its ability to kill snakes such as cobras, the domesticated cat became a symbol of grace and poise in Egyptian society. The Egyptian goddess Mafdet, the deification of justice and execution, was a lion-headed goddess. The cat goddess Bast (also known as Bastet) eventually replaced Mafdet, and Bast's image softened over time and she became the deity representing protection, fertility, and motherhood.
Egyptian art shows the skills of the mau cat in both killing of snakes and in assisting in bird hunting. The mau is the fastest domesticated cat and has been clocked at 37 mph and is able to leap 10 to 12 feet straight up in the air, if you present a toy to a mau you had best be prepared to lose it. Maus are also notorious for playing and insisting to play fetch with members of the family, carefully selecting a toy of choice and bringing it to you.
It is also believed that the maus received god like status within Egyptian society. Over 80,000 mummified cats and kittens were discovered in a site outside the town of Beni Hasan in 1888, these cat mummies date back to 1,000 B.C.. Of the mummies that have been examined, many reveal the spotted pattern and physical characteristics of the modern day Egyptian Mau.
It is also known, from translated Egyptian documents, that the maus status was so high that the all were believed to be the property of the Pharo, as mere humans were not worthy of owning a god and that killing or harming a cat was punishable by death weather intentioned or not.
It is believed that the Romans brought this lovely spotted cat to Europe, where it grew in popularity up until WWII. During WWII the majority of all cat breeds declined and the Mau was facing near extinction until Russian princess got involved. The story goes, that one day in Rome, a young boy brought Princess Nathalie Troubetskoy a small silver spotted kitten as a present. She was fascinated by the animal and began to research it origins. She learned that is was a Silver Egyptian Mau, a breed that had been shown in Italy before the war but was now all but extinct in Europe. She acquired more Egyptian Maus and began breeding the cats. She immigrated to the USA in 1956 bringing the breed (3 cats)with her, she imported more cats and began breeding and showing the Mau.
The Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) officially recognized the breed in 1968 and the princess gained champion status with her cat Baba of Fatima. The Egyptian Mau soon acquired a keen group of supporters committed to preserving the distinctive qualities of the breed. By the late 1970s Maus began to suffer from the effects of their extremely limited gene pool, and it became imperative to find some new blood to improve the health and vigor of the breed. Jean S. Mill (Millwood) located two rufous bronze spotted tabby kittens of pronounced Egyptian type in a zoo in New Delhi. In 1980 she imported these siblings, named Toby and Tashi, into the USA. The cats were registered with the American Cat Association in 1982, and Toby’s line was accepted by The International Cat Association (TICA) shortly thereafter. The progeny of these cats bearing the Millwood cattery name were finally recognized by CFA as Egyptian Maus in the late 1980s after a battle in the course of which the cats were first accepted only to have this acceptance temporarily retracted. Following the assimilation of the Indian lines, CFA changed its registration policy for Egyptian Maus to allow cats that meet the Mau standard and have the proper geographic origin (i.e.Egypt) to be registered as Egyptian Maus. This change in policy resulted in a new wave of Egyptian imports.
Currently TICA, the CFF, the CCA and the CFA all recognize the breed.