"Are you sure he’s alive?" I asked as our cat slumped over his food bowl. We leaned closer. We were relieved to see his sizeable frame heave a bit as he breathed and let out an audible sigh.
Tazo, our silver Egyptian Mau, had been lording over the food again. We needed to keep reducing the amount and be creative to ensure the other cats got to eat too. He had fallen asleep in his chow, protecting it from the others.
Despite living in Canada, Tazo was destined to indirectly become an Egyptian cat hero. Who could have known?
It all started when our small son decided he wanted a pet. I would normally adopt a cat from the local shelter, but I researched specific breeds this time. To my surprise, there was one called an Egyptian Mau. It looked elegant! Given that my husband was Egyptian-Canadian, we felt it would be suitable to try to get one as a family pet.
Finding such a cat proved to be no easy task. Most Egyptian Mau breeders in Canada in the early 2000's charged an extravagant sum for a kitten. After a year of research, perseverance, and a good measure of patience, we found a Canadian breeder who had silver Egyptian Mau looking for a home at a good price.
Tazo Chai (not very Egyptian, I thought, given his Asian tea name) was a two-year-old neutered, ex-breeder with a notably nurturing nature. Tazo had been kept in the breeder’s kitten room. Later, we learned that this meant Tazo was an overly affectionate cat; kittens were the only ones who would allow him to lick them! He would try to wrestle adult cats to clean their ears and whiskers, and they did not appreciate this. Poor Tazo was often rejected and misunderstood by his cat companions.
Tazo had a quizzical look about him. He would approach items, like rocks and even a defrosting turkey, and give them a tap to see if they lived. He inadvertently coined our family's term for a hesitant yet brave motion: the Tazo Tap.
I figured we would get an Egyptian Mau friend for Tazo when we visited my husband's family in Egypt later that year. We thought a cat from there would understand him better than the local ones.
While in Egypt, we went to a few pet stores, but no one seemed to understand what we wanted: "Egyptian Mau? What is that? You must mean a Siamese or Shirazi (Persian)?" We found no ads in the Arabic or English newspapers advertising the breed, and there were few veterinarian clinics there at that time.
Then, we saw a movement under a car in Cairo and a flash of brown; it was a stray Egyptian Mau! Later, across the street from a relative's house, a group of Maus hunted by the trash cans around dinner time. They were pretty cats, spotted and tabby-like; some with green eyes, others amber. Their fur was brown, sometimes reddish-orange. We began to see them all over the city. We even tried to catch a feral kitten near Alexandria, but it hissed and clawed its way out of my hands and ran off, giving me a glare over its shoulder. I w