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Big Maine Coon Cat: Quirks & Facts

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Maine coon cat kitten with tufted ears

The official cat of the state of Maine, Maine Coon cats are recognizable for their brawny builds, Lynx-like tufted ears, furry paws, and shaggy coats. But don’t let their rugged appearance fool you.

Maine Coon cats are soft, gentle, and extremely friendly. They’re a welcome addition to any household, especially ones with kids.

Origin of the Maine Coon cat

The Maine Coon  is one of the oldest natural cat breeds in North America and is said to have originated in Maine, where they’re now the official state cat.

Most breeders believe that Maine Coons were born from native short-haired domestic cats in Maine mating with long-haired cats from overseas. Some say Angora types were introduced by New England seamen, others say from felines the Vikings brought to America were the foreign cat mates.

Fun facts

While we know the truth about how Maine Coons truly came to be, there’s also plenty of fun myths and lore that “explain” the origin of the Maine Coon.

One theory suggests that they originated from matings between domestic cats and raccoons, hence the name – Maine Coon. This myth was inspired by the Maine Coon’s bushy tail and their raccoon-like brown tabby coloration.

Another popular myth is that the Maine Coon cat originated from six pet cats Marie Antoinette sent to Wiscasset, Maine, where she was planning to escape the French Revolution.

In May of 1895 in Madison Square Garden, New York a male brown tabby Maine Coon, Cosey, was awarded Best Cat at the first major cat show ever held in the United States.

Cosey’s silver collar and medal are on display at the Feline Historical Museum at The Cat Fanciers’ Association, or CFA, headquarters in Alliance, Ohio.

He’s not the only Coon kitty celebrity either. A Maine Coon named Barivel holds the Guinness World Records title for the longest cat, measuring 3ft 11.2 ins, or 120cm, from his nose to the end of his tail.

Maine Coon’s are also known for one of their biggest quirks. Unlike most of our feline friends, Maine Coons actually like water! They often enjoy baths, and thanks to their water-resistant furs, they’re excellent swimmers.

Maine Coon cat with ginger coat

Where to adopt a Maine Coon cat

According to the CFA, a Maine Coon cat is the third most popular breed in America. Here’s where you can adopt a Maine Coon

Only Maine Coons Rescue

Only Maine Coons Rescue is a non-profit organization that specializes in rescuing, rehabilitating, and rehoming Maine Coon cats and kittens from shelters and neglectful situations.

East Coast Maine Coon Rescue 

East Coast Maine Coon Rescue is a non-profit organization founded in 2009. They rescue Maine Coon and Maine Coon mixed cats and kittens from open-admission shelters and other bad situations.

Breed standards

Maine Coons are the only native longhaired American breed among pedigreed cats. They have sturdy, muscular builds and are heavily furred so as to survive the harsh New England winters.

In the breed’s early development, they were often born with six toes on their paws, which made them polydactyls.

The extra toes stemmed from a genetic mutation believed to have acted as “snowshoes,” enabling them to walk on snow regardless of the severity of the weather conditions.

Although Maine Coons were highly sought as pets in the early 20th century, their popularity declined after the introduction of other long-haired breeds to the US.

In the 1950s Maine Coons were briefly thought to be extinct. The breed returned to being a household name in 1976 when it was included in the CFA championship. Today it’s one of the most popular cat breeds in America.

Personality & Temperament

Maine Coon 

Affectionate

Grooming needs

Playfulness

Health

Intelligence

Lifespan

Activity level

Pet friendly

Vocalization

Shedding

Affectionate

Despite their wild and unruly look, Maine Coons are known to be so sweet-tempered they’re known as the “gentle giants” of the cat world.

Although Maine Coons are highly affectionate, loyal, and love to hang out with their people, they aren’t clingy lap cats. They’d much rather follow you from room to room or settle down beside you rather than sit in your lap. Considering their size, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing!

Thanks to their kind disposition, Maine Coons are often sought after as family pets and therapy cats.

Vocal

While Maine Coon cats aren’t particularly chatty they have an unusual way of communicating with their people and other animals.

Rather than a meow, Maine Coonstypically chirp, trill, and purr.

Energetic

Maine Coons are high-energy cats well known for their curious personalities. These cats will want to know everything you’re up to and they’ll be willing to lend you a helping paw, without necessarily demanding your attention.

Maine Coon cats don’t pay much attention to privacy, and they may get a bit intrusive. Since they’re big on water, don’t be surprised if they follow you into the shower or offer to help you with the dishes.

Intelligent

Maine Coons are very intelligent and described as dog-like in terms of how well they can be trained. Simply look at the amount of Maine Coons that appear in major films in Hollywood, like 2019’s Pet Sematary!

Meeting 'Church' the cat from Pet Sematary

You can train them to walk on a leash, play fetch, rollover, and more. They also enjoy performing tricks– especially if they’re followed by a treat.

Playful

Maine Coons retain their playfulness well into old age, so you can count on them staying active throughout their lives. Be sure to mix up activities like chasing a laser pointer with other indoor enrichment such as wand toys, battery-operated interactive toys, and food puzzles to enjoy bonding time while also keeping them physically and mentally entertained.

Good with kids

Maine Coon cats love to be around people and socialize. They make excellent companions for families of all sizes, types, and ages. They are friendly and patient even with little kids, especially as they don’t mind being picked up, held, and cuddled.

Good with dogs

Maine Coons get along well with most animals, including dogs. However, bear in mind that they are still skillful mousers, so if you have pet rodents, Maine Coons probably aren’t the best choice for you.

Friendly toward strangers

Maine Coons’ laid-back, fun-loving personality enables them to make new friends easily, especially with human strangers. While they may be reserved at times, they’re rarely aggressive.

Adaptable

Maine Coon cats are very adaptable, and they can adjust well to any type of environment. Maine Coons can live in apartments, condos, houses, or even RVs as long as they’re properly cared for.

Physical traits

Size

Maine Coons are the largest of all cat breeds, with males typically weighing 18-22 pounds, and females weighing 12-15 pounds. They are muscular, big-boned cats that typically reach their full size between the ages of 3 and 5.

Coat

The Maine Coon cat’s appearance reflects the breed’s adaptation to the harsh winters and cold climate of New England. They have a heavy, water-resistant coat, furry ears, and a long, bushy tail to ward off freezing temperatures. Their big, tufted paws enable them to walk on snow regardless of their size and weight.

Maine Coons have a long, square muzzle (the area on the face which includes nose, mouth, and jaw), which makes grabbing their prey and lapping water from streams and puddles easier.

Coat color

Maine Coons come in a variety of colors, including brown, orange, cream, blue, and silver, with patterns. They have a relatively darker face, ears, feet, and a tail. You can also find them in solid colors like white, black, and grey.

Tortoiseshell, tabby, bi-colored, smoke, and shaded colors are also recognized.

Coat pattern

The most common coat patterns in Maine Coons include tabby markings in the colors of brown, orange, cream, blue, and silver, with or without white patches. Some have bold, swirling striped patterns resembling marbled cake, while others have vertical mackerel stripes or ticked patterns.

Coat length

Maine Coons have a double-layered, shaggy coat that’s longer on their belly, ruff, and legs to protect them from the wet and cold. It’s shorter around their shoulders, on their neck, and back to prevent them from getting entangled in the shrubs and small trees.

Shedding

Due to their long-haired and thick double coat, Maine Coon cats tend to shed quite a lot. Brushing and combing their fur on a weekly basis is the best way to maintain your Maine Coon’s coat and help you get rid of loose hairs to prevent hairballs.

Eyes

Maine Coons have large eyes and ears to increase their sight and hearing ability and make them better equipped for survival. They often have green, gold, or copper-colored eyes. White cats or cats with white patches can have blue eyes or heterochromia when they have eyes that are two different colors. Also known as “odd eyes” Maine Coon’s with this mutation can have one blue eye with one yellow, brown, or green eye.

Best food for Maine Coon cats

Just like all cats, Maine Coons need high-quality cat food that’s rich in protein and low in carbohydrates. This is especially true for indoor-only Maine Coons, as they have a greater tendency to become overweight. Generally, the Maine Coon cat needs ¾ of a cup of wet food and access to multiple bowls of clean, freshwater per day.

Best environment for Maine Coon cats

Although Maine Coons have adjusted to living in hostile weather conditions, you should keep your Maine Coon cat indoors. As we’ve already mentioned, Maine Coons are extremely adaptable, and they can live in all kinds of spaces, provided they have the right care. If you want to allow your Maine Coon cat some supervised time outdoors, you can train them to walk with a leash and harness or build them a catio.

maine coon cat breed indoors

Caring for a Maine Coon

Common Health Issues

The Maine Coon cats are highly susceptible to developing a heart condition known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM).

This illness is characterized by the thickening of the heart muscle, which reduces the volume of blood that the heart can pump. HCM is the most common form of heart disease in cats, and it can cause heart failure, thromboembolism, and even sudden death.

Although it can occur as a result of illnesses like hyperthyroidism or hypertension, HCM is in most cases genetic. Research has shown that the genetic mutation is fairly common in the Maine Coon cats and about 30 percent of this breed carry the mutation.

Although the presence of a defective gene increases the risk of a cat developing a disease, this doesn’t always happen – a cat can have a mutation, but it doesn’t have to fully develop into a disease.

Despite the genetic mutation being present at birth, most Maine Coons develop the condition after 3 years of age, and some even after 6 or 8 years of age. Therefore, experts recommend that cats have a blood sample or a cheek swab taken at vet clinics or via at-home cat DNA testing kits to determine their genetic status.

Maine Coon also benefit from regularly undergoing heart ultrasounds, so any cardiac problems can be identified early.

Maine Coons can also be susceptible to hip dysplasia and patellar luxation, or dislocation of the knee cap. Spinal muscular atrophy and Pyruvate Kinase deficiency, or reduction of red blood cells, have also been identified in the breed.

If you choose to get your Maine Coon from a breeder B ask them for proof of a DNA test that measures for HCM, as well as scans of the cat’s heart and hips.

Grooming requirements

Maine Coon kittens tend to have shorter and thinner coats than adult cats.

Adult and senior Maine Coon cats have a two-layer coat that’s heavy and waterproof. The texture of the coat depends on the ancestral lineage of a Maine Coon. Some have a glossy, silky coat that doesn’t require much maintenance, while others have a cotton-like coat that requires daily combing and regular grooming.

Even if you are able to regularly brush and comb your Maine Coon, professional grooming is extremely helpful and worth your consideration. Regardless of age, many Maine Coon cats benefit from what’s known as a “lion cut”, especially if they live in areas where summers or the general climate is hot.

Senior and geriatric Maine Coons also benefit from frequent professional grooming appointments. Arthritis and other bodily aches and pains may prevent your aging Maine Coon from properly being able to tend to their fur, causing large and painful matts to develop. Regular “hair cuts” from groomers can save your Maine Coon this added stress and hurt.

Trim your Maine Coon kitten’s nails once a week. Once they reach adulthood, you can reduce the trimming to every 2 or 3 weeks. As with all cats, regular tooth brushing is recommended. If you’re unsure about any aspect of the grooming requirements of Maine Coons, ask your vet for advice.

Lifespan

Despite having some hereditary problems, Maine Coons are generally a healthy breed and their typical life expectancy ranges from 10 to 15 years.

Ana Markovic
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