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Rare Egyptian cats find home in Fargo

Colleen Brown says her two cats usually draw the same reaction from everyone they meet: "That's not an ordinary cat." Her cats, Cleopatra and Misty, look like they belong in a jungle rather than in her living room. The felines are Egy...

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Colleen Brown says her two cats usually draw the same reaction from everyone they meet: "That's not an ordinary cat."

Her cats, Cleopatra and Misty, look like they belong in a jungle rather than in her living room.

The felines are Egyptian Maus, the only natural spotted breed of domestic cat and one of the oldest breeds in the world. Egyptian Maus -- easily identified by their pointed faces, large ears, gooseberry-green eyes and graceful, spotted bodies -- are seen in ancient Egyptian artwork.

Brown, a respiratory therapist at MeritCare Hospital in Fargo, first saw a Mau on a trip to Florida in February 2001.

"She was so sweet and so cute," Brown says. "I almost bought that one in Florida."

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She researched the cat on the Internet and found Leighann Grice, a breeder in San Diego.

Grice, a registered nurse, has been breeding Egyptian Maus for 11 years as a hobby. She says the breed is rare -- there are about 3,000 in the United States -- but it is becoming more popular.

"People are really into different, unique and exotic-looking animals these days and they can get an animal that looks very much like an exotic pet that has been proved to have a good personality," Grice says.

Brown was put on a waiting list until Cleopatra, her "baby," was born in April 2001. In June, Grice shipped the silver Mau to Minneapolis where Brown picked it up. Brown paid $400 for Cleo, which she says is a reasonable price. Egyptian Maus can cost up to $1,000.

When Brown told her family she wanted to buy an Egyptian Mau, they thought it was crazy to spend that much. A co-worker at MeritCare told her she would never pay that much for a cat.

"Until she met Cleo," Brown says. Brown made a trip to San Diego shortly after they met to buy this co-worker a Mau of her own.

It was on this trip in October 2001 that she got Misty, then 8 months old, for herself as well. But Misty, a smoke-colored cat, attached herself to Brown's youngest son, Matt. Matt's cat had recently died.

"She took to him right away," Brown says. "She knew he needed a friend."

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Brown stresses how friendly her Egyptian Maus are.

"I've never had a kitty that's so personable, that will look right at you and talk to you," Brown says.

She compares their behavior to dogs. The cats play fetch and love to play in water. They are also intelligent, playful, and loyal to their owners, not aloof or independent like other cats she's had.

"Every time I come home from work she comes running to the door," Brown says about Misty.

Brown brings the two cats, along with one of her Shih Tzu dogs, into the hospital as therapy pets.

"It's just amazing how an animal can reach a person when another person can't," Brown says.

Grice actually gave Misty to Brown because she knew the cat would be a good therapy animal.

"I'm just so happy she's doing what she's doing with her animals," Grice says. "They're doing work of the heart."

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Brown is thinking of breeding Cleo. She has always owned cats -- and usually mixed-breed ones. But she says now she will never have any kind of cat other than a Mau. Brown says she doesn't have anything against other cats, "but these are just neat, they're so exotic."

That doesn't surprise Grice.

"These cats are so beautiful and so loving," she says. "Once people get an Egyptian Mau that's usually the cat that they'll stay with."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sherri Richards at (701) 235-7311

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