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Find Your Purrfect Cat! Maine Coon Breed Profile
Maine Coon
Characteristics Personality Maine Coon Copyright (c) 2006 Chanan Photography.
(click on photo to enlarge image)

More photos:
Brown tabby Maine Coon

Credits Did You Know?  
Notes To Breed Directory  
History Description  

Ancestry: Longhaired domestic cats
Place of Origin: New England, USA
Date of Origin: Unknown; have been around for centuries
Accepted by: All North American cat associations (championship)

  
 
Breed Characteristics

Size: Large.
Coat Length(s): Long.
Body Type: Moderate.
Grooming Requirement: Twice a week.
Talkativeness: Quiet.
Activity Level: Average.
Affection: Very affectionate.
Usually Good With: Everyone.
Time Alone: 4 to 8 hours per day.
Attention: Needs average attention.
Handling: Easy to handle.

 
Did You Know?
In 1985, the Maine Coon (called the Maine Coon Cat by some fanciers) was named Maine’s State Cat, bringing much-needed official recognition to the breed.
 
History

The Maine Coon, one of the large, economy-size breeds of the cat fancy, is as all-American as the Fourth of July. This breed carved out its place in the harsh New England countryside right alongside the nation’s colonists.

No one knows for sure where the Maine Coon came from and when the breed arrived in the New World, but theories and tall tales abound. Some are more believable than others. One story tells us that the Maine Coon’s ancestors belonged to Marie Antoinette and were smuggled out of France and taken to New England along with her other possessions. Another story tells of a sea captain named Coon who sailed to New England accompanied by hearty longhaired buccaneer cats, thus the name Maine Coon. While these are both intriguing stories, there doesn’t seem to be any real evidence to back up either tale.

Another account has longhaired cats arriving on Viking ships around the 11th century, long before the Pilgrims made their journey to the New World. The similarities in coat and conformation between the Norwegian Forest Cat and the Maine Coon give some small credence to this story. Much less credence can be given to the story that the Maine Coon is a cross between domestic cats and raccoons, a scientific impossibility.

Most likely, the ancestors of the Maine Coon arrived in North America with European colonists. Since North America has no indigenous wild cat breed from which a domestic cat breed could develop, cats must have arrived with journeying humans. Brought on board to protect the food stores from rodents, these working cats were hardy, rugged survivors who needed little from their human shipmates.

When the ships reached port, some of those hardy longhairs came ashore to pledge allegiance to their new country. While these feline pioneers didn’t help build the New World, at least they helped keep the rodents in check. Called "Shags" after their shaggy coats in those early years, they became an integral part of colonial life.

New England’s climate is severe, and those first years were tough on cats and people alike. Only the strongest, quickest and most adaptable cats survived. Through natural selection, the Maine Coon developed into a large, hardy cat with a dense, water-resistant coat and an adaptable temperament. Maine Coons became known for their excellent hunting abilities, nimble, hand-like paws and hardy constitution.

When cat shows became all the rage in the late 1800s, Maine Coons, then called Maine Cats, were right there to show off their beautiful, thick coats and wide palette of colors and patterns. Maine Coons were shown in local cat shows as early as the 1860s, and were prized for their beauty, size, intelligence, and mellow temperaments. In 1895, a female brown tabby Maine Cat named Cosey won Best in Show in the first American allbreed cat show at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The breed did very well in shows in Boston and New York.

However, early in the 20th century the Maine Coon fell from grace when the fickle fancy turned its collective backs on the native breed in favor of the cats being imported from Europe. Persians began winning in the show ring, and Maine Coons, once the most numerous and popular breed, soon became a rarity except in New England. In fact, in the late 1950s the breed was declared extinct.

Happily for Maine Coon lovers, that report was in error. Due to the efforts of dedicated fanciers, the breed made a comeback. In 1953 the Central Maine Cat Club was formed to promote the breed. Maine Coon shows were held in Maine, which rekindled interest in the breed. They also wrote one of the first breed standards and kept breeding records. Then, in 1968, breeders and fanciers formed the Maine Coon Breeders and Fanciers Association (MCBFA), an organization dedicated to preserving, protecting and promoting the breed. This association worked hard to bring the Maine Coon breed the respect it deserved.

Despite the ups and downs, the Maine Coon finally clawed its way into the spotlight. CFA accepted the Maine Coon for provisional status in 1975, and for championship status in 1976. By 1980, the breed was accepted by all the North American cat registries. Today, the Maine Coon is one of the most popular breeds.

 
Personality

Fortunately, the Maine Coon has a heart to match its size. These cats are jumbo-sized packages of loving devotion, kittens in big cat suits, who are playful into old age. Highly adaptable, Maine Coons may seem standoffish when first introduced to the household. They also tend to be shy around strangers—probably evidence of their jumbo-sized brains. Don’t be put off if they are shy at first or don’t take to you immediately. Breeders note that the initial adjustment period is actually a decision-making process. Maine Coons are deciding what to make of their new home and family. As soon as they make up their minds, however, they form close bonds with the household and become completely devoted. They are true family members and participate in all family routines, whether it’s watching you surf the Web, helping you fix dinner or make beds, or just providing the home entertainment with their playful antics. Most want to be near you but not on your lap.

Maine Coons are fascinated by water, perhaps because of all the time their ancestors spent on sailing ships. They enjoy dabbling their feet into their water bowls and walking around the shower or bathtub before it’s dry. Fanciers say some will even plunge in for a swim or join their human companions in the shower. Keep the bathroom doors closed and toilet lids down. On occasion, Maine Coons try to empty the water out of the toilet with their paws, and then mop it up with rolls of toilet paper. This playful antic can get old fast.

The only thing small about Maine Coons, in fact, is their voices, and fanciers say it’s hard not to laugh when you hear those high-pitched squeaks coming from those big, king-sized bodies. They also make a variety of other sounds; they have an interesting vocabulary of cheeps, chirps and trills as well as meows. They chortle when they are playing, trill when they are happy to see you and chatter when they spy a bird, squirrel or moth on the other side of the window.

 
Notes

There are two distinct facial types: the "sweet" look and the "feral" look, which is a more rugged or wild appearance. The sweet look has been associated with CFA cats, while the feral look has been associated with TICA. According to some fanciers, in recent years there’s less of a difference and more cats are meeting in the middle, not appearing too sweet nor too feral.

While the Maine Coon is usually a healthy and hardy breed, a few diseases and conditions have been found in some lines. Feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the most common feline heart disease, is the most serious. While it’s possible for any cat to have this disease, whose first symptom is often sudden death, ask your breeder if any cats with the disease are known in either the pedigree or the cattery, and also ask if breeding cats are tested. A genetic test is now available for the dominant mutation causing HCM in Maine Coons. The test can identify which cats will develop the disease, and is available from the Veterinary Cardiac Genetics Lab of the College of Veterinary Medicine, Washington State University (http://www.vetmed.wsu.edu/deptsvcgl/). Test kits can be ordered by email. This is a breakthrough as Maine Coons can be tested for the disease before they are used in breeding programs.

The Maine Coon is also prone to the inherited disease spinal muscular atrophy, which causes the death of spinal cord neurons that activate skeletal muscles, resulting in muscle weakness, muscle atrophy, and a short life span. Governed by a recessive gene (Maine Coons must inherit the gene from both parents to have the disease), the disease has no cure. However, a genetic test to identify carriers exists through the Laboratory of Comparative Medical Genetics at Michigan State University—a wonderful discovery because carriers can be culled from breeding programs before they pass on the gene.

Lastly, the inherited joint disorder feline hip dysplasia is known to exist in some Maine Coon lines. This is not a life threatening disorder, but it can cause extreme pain, stiffness, lameness and dysfunction, and often crippling osteoarthritis as the cat ages.

Be sure to talk to your breeder about these and any other health concerns, and buy from a breeder who provides a written health guarantee and registration papers.

 
Description

Known as the gentle giant of the cat fancy, the Maine Coon is a large, easygoing, affectionate cat. Despite rumors of 30- or even 40-pound Maine Coons, adult males generally weigh 14 to 20 pounds and adult females weigh about 9 to 12 pounds, although there are exceptions. However, the Maine Coon is still one of the largest domestic cat breeds. It’s a good thing the breed is good-tempered! Quality and type is never sacrificed for mere size.

The Maine Coon has a muscular, broad-chested, long body, with all parts in proportion, to create a well-balanced rectangular appearance; no part of the anatomy is so exaggerated as to foster weakness. The body feels solid, with firm muscle and no flabbiness. Since the Maine Coon is the result of adaptation to harsh conditions, it’s not surprising that the breed is muscular with substantial, wide-set, medium length legs and large, well-tufted paws suitable for walking on snow. The forelegs are straight; the back legs are straight when viewed from behind. The tail is long, wide at the base and tapering. The tail fur is long and flowing.

The head is medium in width, slightly longer than wide, with high cheekbones. The muzzle is visibly square, medium in length and blunt-ended when viewed in profile. Length and width of the muzzle should be proportionate to the rest of the head and present a pleasant, balanced appearance. The chin should be strong, firm and in line with the upper lip and nose. The head’s profile should be slightly concave, relatively smooth, and free of bumps or humps.

The ears are large, not flared, well-tufted, wide at the base, and taper to appear pointed. They are approximately one ear’s width apart at the base. The large, expressive, wide-set eyes have a slightly oblique setting with a slant toward the outer base of the ear. The neck is medium long.

The size difference between the genders is substantial, but the females are still forces to be reckoned with—they firmly believe they're just as sizable as their male counterparts and tend to be slightly less easygoing, as most female cats are. Maine Coons are slow to develop and don’t reach full size and musculature until about four years of age. No outcrosses are allowed.

The thick coat adds to the appearance of girth. One of the Maine Coon’s main attractions is its semi-long, all-weather, water-resistant fur. Unlike the Persian’s, the Maine Coon’s coat doesn’t tangle easily. Heavy and shaggy, the coat is shorter on the shoulders and longer on the tummy and britches, with a frontal ruff desirable. Tufts and furnishings decorate the ears. The texture is silky; the coat falls smoothly over the body. A Maine Coon with a coat that’s short or even overall is penalized.

While tabby is the most common pattern, Maine Coons come in any color or pattern, with the exception of those indicating hybridization resulting in the colors chocolate, lavender, the pointed pattern, unpatterned agouti on the body (Abyssinian type ticked tabby), or these combinations with white. Eye color is not linked to coat color and can be shades of green, gold, green-gold or copper. Blue and odd eyes are permitted for white, bicolor and van patterned cats.

 
Credits
Photo copyright (c) 2006 Chanan Photography. All rights reserved.
Text copyright (c) 2006 Telemark Productions. All rights reserved. Written by J. Anne Helgren for Telemark Productions.