As I said, I had a bit of a love affair with Bengals before the Egyptian Mau came to my attention. However, when we visited Lou’s mom for his birthday dinner in October, she showed us the Mau. When I saw how delicate and lovely they were, I was hooked.
The petite bone structure and overall delicate and refined appearance is, to me, the main difference between Egyptian Maus and Bengals. Bengals are bred from a wild cat – the Asian leopard cat – and a feral Indian Mau. They have wild blood in them, and their wide faces and sturdy bodies are more reminiscent of what you see in a lion or leopard. Rounded ears and a thick tail are treasured qualities in the Bengal breed because they contribute to this wildness.
Bengals have rosettes, which are erratic circles of color. The bolder the rosettes, the better. The arrangement is also important. You’ll also see people refer to ‘glitter’. Glitter is specific to Bengals. Every single hair on a bengal is encased in a hollow shaft. When light hits the hair, it has to pass through this shaft first, and it bends, leading to a sparkly and glitter-like experience. It’s magical.
Note Goldar’s rounded ears, thick tail with a rounded end, his round head, and his multi-colored rosettes. His paws are also quite large, and he has a powerful-looking body.
In contrast, this is one of the cats from my breeder’s cattery, Arietta. Tiny paws, long legs, slim body, more triangular ears, and spots rather than rosettes.
When I started reading about the history of Maus, my decision became clear. First, they are the only naturally spotted domestic breed of cat. They have no wild blood. Bengals are a wild hybrid, as I mentioned. Ocicats are also a hybrid – they were created recently through a cross of domestic Siamese and Abyssinian cats. They have a more common look because their heritage is based in cats we see all the time.
Egyptian Maus are not so familiar. Though they were the first breed of domestic cat, they almost went extinct after the devastation of World War II. An exiled Russian princess was given one in Italy in the 1950s, and she became determined to save the breed. She took four kittens to America and began a rigorous campaign to introduce and preserve the Mau.
It was almost an end to a legacy stretching back at least 3,000 years, when Egyptians actively worshipped the cat. They are featured on pyramid walls and other artifacts, and there were two feline gods in the Egpytian Pantheon – Bastet and Sekhmet. Indeed, the animals were mummified upon their deaths, and their owners shaved their eyebrows in mourning. After thousands of years of inbreeding, the Mau the Russian Princess found in 1953 was certainly not the same as the cat entombed with pharoahs, but they do look similar.
Some people believe they are magical, given their history and their ability to transform Halle Berry into Catwoman.
It was all this history that attracted me to the animal. Of course I’d love an ancient and rare and magical spotted kitty. We could summon primordial gods together, right injustices, and fulfill my dreams of wearing a slinky leather catsuit.
My decision was made.
(More info on the history of Egyptian Maus can be found here: http://www.petpublishing.com/catkit/breeds/mau.shtml)