Twice a week.
Usually Good With:
4 to 8 hours per day.
Needs average attention.
Easy to handle.
|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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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,
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
|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.