7 Egyptian Cat Breeds

Egypt is a culture known for its love and reverence for cats. But what cat breeds originated in Egypt? I introduce you to seven Egyptian cat breeds and discuss why felines were so important to Egyptian culture.

Danielle DeGroot

Last Updated: March 6, 2024 | 9 min read

Cat walks on the background of the Egyptian pyramids in Cairo.

When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a commission. Here’s how it works.

Have you ever wondered about Egyptian cat breeds? Egypt is famous as a land full of culture, lore, mystery, and a long-standing love of cats. It is often credited as being the place where keeping kitties as pets started. Feline depictions echo throughout Egypt’s culture and history. While many breeds are associated with Egyptians, what breeds originated there?

Throughout history, Egyptian fashion and jewelry have illustrated their devotion to felines. Early art, including paintings, statues, temples, and tombs, show how important felines were to ancient Egyptian culture. Cats were also part of everyday life, serving to chase off pests like poisonous snakes, scorpions, and other vermin that threatened food sources and brought disease to civilizations.

I’ve long been curious about the feline breeds that originated in Egypt, so I dove into the research to find out. Come along with me and learn about Egyptian cat breeds and why these furry creatures were so crucial to the ancient Egyptians.

Due to the ancient Egyptians’ devotion to cats, Egypt has become known as the origin of domestic kitties. In truth, only a few feline breeds originated in Egypt. Below, I introduce you to these remarkable and sometimes ancient Egyptian cat breeds.


Abyssinian cat sitting on blanket looking at the camera.

Abyssinians share some of the regal features shown in many ancient Egyptian depictions of cats. Abyssinians are one of the ancient Egyptian cat breeds. The breed has been traced back to Egypt about 4000 years ago. Many mummified cats found in Egypt’s tombs resemble today’s Abyssinian breed. Professional and targeted breeding of Abyssinians can be traced to England. For this reason, the breed is sometimes categorized as European rather than an Egyptian breed.

Abyssinians are incredibly athletic and love attention. They have lean, long bodies and are quite muscular and agile. Their legs are long, and they have wedge-shaped heads and very expressive eyes. The Abyssinian has large, pointed ears set prominently on their heads. They also bear the classic tabby “M” markings on their foreheads. Abyssinians have ticked coats due to the agouti pattern, creating a translucent look. Because of their angular bodies, Abyssinians are often called the runway models of the feline world. They can come in several colors, but their short, dense coats are frequently red, ruddy, blue, or fawn.

African Wildcat

Slightly larger in body than domestic kitties, the African wildcat is likely an ancestor to all domestic feline breeds. They are another ancient species. Though similar in appearance and size to domestic breeds, this is no cuddly critter. These wild felines are sturdy and can survive in many different conditions, including open and forested regions of Asia and Africa. They are long thought to be the first cats to become domesticated and, over the course of many years, have interbred with the modern house cat.

African wildcats are also sometimes called desert or simply wild cats. These skilled hunters are primarily nocturnal and hunt for prey like small mammals and birds. The compact wildcats look similar to domestic felines, though they are stockier and more muscular. They can reach 18 or more pounds, but some stay much smaller. African wildcats also have longer legs than domestic felines, making them look like taller pet kitties who stand up very straight. The more extended leg structure also impacts the way they walk.

Desert cats have coats ranging from red to gray and can include sandy, yellow, brown, tawny, and other shades. They often have markings, including spots and tabby strips. The hairs of an African wildcat’s coat have black tips, giving them a speckled look. They also have large, tufted ears.


Chausie cat on a grey background.

The Chausie is a unique feline breed. They are an ancient hybrid between the native Egyptian wildcats and domestic felines. This hybrid occurred naturally, developing into a gorgeous and highly active domesticated pet. They are also referred to as the Jungle Curl and the Mountain or Stone Cougar. Chausies have roots in Egypt but have also been found in the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

Though the hybrid started out with natural breeding, in more modern times, breeding programs have stepped in to create more intentional breeding. In the United States, this started around the early 1900s. Today’s Chausie breeders tend to use domestic short hairs and Abyssinians as preferred breeds to create this hybrid.

The Chausie is no small kitty. They reach between 15 and 25 pounds on average. They have a distinctly wild-like appearance with slender, athletic builds. Their ears are prominent, very pointed, and set extremely high on the head. Chausies have high-set ears and arched cheekbones, creating a very narrow face. These kitties come in a range of brown or black, often with tabby markings. Chausies are tremendously active and intelligent and need a lot of physical stimulation. They are incredibly curious and take up training well. Because of their high activity level, this is an excellent breed for leash and agility training.

Egyptian Mau

The Egyptian Mau has a regal appearance with a striking spotted coat, tall, agile body, and wedge-shaped head. Their back legs are longer than the front, and they have a fold of skin on their underside, allowing an extra wide step. This unique feature makes them incredibly fast. These spotted beauties can reach over 18 miles per hour, an impressive feat. Egyptian Maus are also loved for their personalities. They are highly intelligent and loyal companions.

The Egyptian Mau is a rare cat breed with an uncanny resemblance to the breeds depicted in early art. They are also one of the only feline breeds to be naturally spotted. Egyptian Maus are thought to come from the area that is now Egypt, though there is some belief that they may have originated earlier in Europe. They are an ancient breed, believed by cat experts to be descendants of those revered ancient Egyptian felines. Maus are believed to be the oldest domestic feline breed in the world, and they have been traced back thousands of years.

Jungle Cat

Jungle cats are another small wildcat species native to Egypt that can often be mistaken for domestic felines at first glance. They are also called swamp or sand cats and caracals. These animals were tamed by ancient Egyptians and taught to hunt wildfowl. Some of the mummified cat species found in their tombs are thought to be jungle cats.

Jungle cats resemble a cross between a domestic kitty and a fox. They can be similar in size to pet kitties, but many reach 35 or more pounds. Jungle cats have very long, narrow faces with large, prominent pointy ears. Often, they have a white muzzle with reddish-brown coats. They tend to have some facial markings and speckled coats from black-tipped hairs. Their coats tend to have uniform colors, with no spots or stripes.

These kities also have a distinct spinal crest, long legs, and black-tipped tails. Though they were once domesticated and kept as pets in ancient Egypt, jungle cats are not good house pets as they are wild animals and are, in fact, an endangered species.

Nile Valley Egyptian Cat

The Nile Valley Egyptian cat has not been a recognized breed for very long. They are considered a native breed of feral and stray felines and are considered an experimental breed by The International Cat Association (TICA). Nile Valley Egyptian cats often live in urban areas living in large feral communities.

In many cases, these kitties resemble Egyptian Maus, and some people believe them to be simply feral populations of this same breed. They can have short or long hair, are smaller in body, and have spotted coats. They can be in a variety of colors and patterns. Nile Valley kitties often have a mantle (cape and mask coloring) on their sides and backs that does not match their larger coat pattern.

In recent years, efforts have been made to protect, rescue, and care for Egypt’s wild and feral cat populations. One group based in Connecticut works to bring some of these kitties to America, rehabilitate them, and rehome them. The feral feline populations in Egypt are quite large and are a problem the country has long worked to solve.


The Shirazi is thought to be a crossbreed between Persian cats and Egyptian Maus. Official registries or cat fancier organizations do not recognize the breed, but these kitties are common in Egypt. Today, many are feral, though they have lovely personalities and can make excellent pets when given proper care. They have athletic bodies, with longer coats similar to the fluffy Persian. The Shirazi has a short face and very round eyes. Both parent breeds are known for their looks, making this crossbreed one very cute kitty.

Shirazis are small kitties, reaching only about 12 pounds. They have adorable round faces, short necks, and full cheeks. Those with less flat faces are often called doll-faced. Shirazi kitties come in many assorted colors and can be patterned, black-tipped, or solid. Due to the sweet nature of the Persian breed, this crossbreed kitty tends to be very amicable, docile, and affectionate. These kitties are pretty smart and enjoy rigorous play and mental stimulation.

What Is A Pharaoh Cat?

The Pharaoh cat is a purposely bred exotic feline. Though these kitties have the name Pharaoh and resemble the felines of ancient art, this breed does not have connections to Egypt. The name was inspired by early Egypt and the reverence felines carried in that culture. That said, the Pharaoh is a crossbreed of the Highland Lynx and an Altai Maine Coon, both American breeds.

Pharaoh cats have an incredibly unique appearance, with deep blue or black eyes, large ears, and square muzzles, making them resemble the feline gods and goddesses depicted in ancient Egypt. The breed should not be confused with the pets the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt kept.

Cats & Ancient Egyptians

Archaeologists have unearthed clues about how important felines were to ancient Egyptian society and culture from ornate paintings they left behind on the walls of preserved tombs. Felines are shown in many different positions and activities. Clearly, they were held in high regard as companions and protectors. Their art and myths tell us that felines were more than simple pets meant to catch mice. They were highly revered creatures, both in the physical and spiritual worlds.

One thing that stands out about Egypt’s early society is the way they treated their feline companions both in physical life and in the afterlife. Wealthier families adorned their four-legged companions in gorgeous jewelry, treating them as almost human-like family members. It is believed that members of Egypt’s royal class would even allow their kitties to eat off their plates alongside them. Cats would be mummified after death and laid in eternal slumber in the family’s tomb. They were believed to protect the deceased and the living from the underworld.

After a feline companion passed, their human family would engage in an extended mourning period. Historians have learned that owners would shave off their eyebrows when a kitty died and mourn until their eyebrows were fully regrown.

Why Did Egyptians Worship Cats?

In ancient Egypt, cats were so revered that to kill one resulted in a death sentence. Felines were not thought to be gods, but they were magical creatures and bringers of good luck. They were vessels that the gods and goddesses could inhabit or adopt a likeness of. There were some gods and goddesses that took feline form. Felines were revered for their ability to show both ferociousness and grace, a representation of the gods in physical form. Below, I introduce you to a few of these feline deities.


Bastet is a feline goddess from ancient Egypt often depicted as a cat, a lioness, or a woman with a feline-like head. She has been described as a fierce warrior goddess to the sun. She was a protector of Egypt and defender of the sun god Ra. In some places, she is said to be Ra’s daughter. Bastet had the ability to become both feline and human, switching between the two forms.


Sekhmet was the Egyptian goddess of war. She often is portrayed as a woman with the head of a lioness. While the goddess of war, she was also depicted as a healer. Ancient Egyptians would make offerings to her to help solve troubles and challenges in their lives.


The goddess of justice, judgment, and execution, Mafdet, is portrayed as a woman with the head of a cheetah. She has long braids that end in scorpion tails. Like the other feline goddesses, she served as protector to the sun god Ra.

Egyptian Cat Misconceptions

I see a lot of questions and a few misconceptions about Egyptian cat breeds. Below, I clear a few of these up. If I missed your question, drop me a line in the comments.

Are Sphynx Cats From Egypt?

No, Sphynx kitties, despite their resemblance to the ancient Sphinx, are not from Egypt. Sphynx are a much newer breed, starting from a spontaneous mutation. The breed is traced to Canada, where a litter of short-haired or “hairless” kittens was found in the 1970s. Those kittens are the predecessors of today’s hairless Sphynx.

That said, hairless cat breeds were depicted in different geographical areas and early cultures, including ancient Egypt and the Aztecs. No hairless feline breeds have yet been found native to Egypt.

The Myth Of A Cat’s Nine Lives

You may have heard the expression that cats have nine lives. That belief is connected to the myth of the goddess Bastet. The goddess’s unique ability to switch from feline to woman led to the belief that cats have multiple lives. Some cultures refer to six or seven rather than nine.

Learn About Other Cat Breed Origins

Cats and the people of ancient Egypt had an undeniable bond, as do many other cultures. If you are wondering about other feline breed origins, check out our articles on Asian, German, Japanese, and Russian cat breeds. We also have guides on specific breeds like the Siamese, Bengal, and Dragon Li.

Why Trust Love Your Cat?

Danielle is a feline owner with over 30 years of experience. Cats have been a part of her life since she was a toddler, and she has rescued every kitty she met that needed a home. She currently shares a home with two ten-year-old beauties she rescued as kittens. Danielle is a dedicated and skilled writer who works hard to stay on top of the latest science-backed research, developments, and trends in pet care, training, food, and products. Danielle works alongside a talented and committed team to provide pet owners with helpful and up-to-date information to better their lives.

Group of different cat breeds sitting together on a white background

Author's Suggestion

19 Most Popular Cat Breeds In The World

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top