Egyptian Mau, 'Pharaohs' cat', at risk of extinction

Cairo NGO trying to save descendants of ancient, sacred felines

07 August, 17:31

    An ancient Egyptian statue of a sacred cat An ancient Egyptian statue of a sacred cat

    (by Rodolfo Calo') (ANSAmed) - CAIRO, AUGUST 7 - A Cairo NGO is seeking to save from extinction the Egyptian Mau, the oldest known descendants of the cats existing in Egypt during the times of the pharaohs. The Egyptian Mau Rescue Organization (EMRO, underscores on its website that in Egypt the cats ''are currently unrecognized, routinely poisoned, and often suffer from endemic feline diseases. Outside of Egypt, many Maus are also endangered due to interbreeding and lack of new bloodlines''. The ancestors of the cats date back over 5,000 years, an EMRO representative told ANSAmed. In the time of the pyramids, he said, they were revered and it was a crime to hurt them, while killing them - even by accident - could result in the death penalty. When a cat died, its owner and family members shaved their eyebrows as a sign of mourning, and many Mau cats were mummified and placed inside of tombs. The ''M'' mark on their foreheads was considered sacred and was called the ''scarab mark'' (though it resembles the fur markings of many common European tiger cats). ''Mau'' was the ancient Egyptian word for ''cat''. According to the EMRO website, ''the Egyptian government views these animals as undesirable pests, and sadly these magnificent cats run feral throughout the country, and forage in rubble and trash cans for food, with little veterinary care.

    They live a terrible, painful and short, hungry life. The Egyptian government, in order to try to curb the growing number of stray animals, are shooting the stray dogs in large numbers, and systematically poison the stray cats, many of which are feral Egyptian Maus.'' The organization's representative told ANSAmed that the use of strychnine to ''put stray cats to sleep'' results in terrible agony to the animal for 15-20 minutes. EMRO also said that cats - though less than dogs - are also shot in order to keep the streets clear of stray animals. Set up in 2004, the Egyptian Mau Rescue Organization is officially registered in Egypt as a charity, an NGO that works also as a ''local and international adoption agency''. EMRO is supported by donations,''sponsoring'' of cats by aficionados and ''kind souls'', revenue from its veterinary clinic and a small merchandising business. Among its aims is that of helping to educate the public, in an attempt to save this species, considered highly intelligent. Donations can be made to EMRO through its website, adoptions and 10-euro-a-month sponsorship. Recently up for sponsorship was a cat called 'Dusty', which disappeared during clashes between protestors and security forces in February but later went back to the cat kennel. Another way to help is to accompany a Mau adopted by someone in the world that needs someone else to bring it to them: in late July, for example, there was a urgent need for a transfer from Cairo to Houston, Texas. Apart from volunteering and the use of the veterinary clinic for those in Cairo, another way to support the organization is through the EMRO e-store, a mail-order shop for such things as t-shirts and a book on the history of Mau cats.


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