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Affectionately known as coonies, the Maine Coon been around for many centuries. They are a natural breed of cat, and anyone who has ever met one and to everyone who has ever lived with one, the Maine Coon is a very special breed of cat.  The exact origins of the Maine Coon is a mystery, but there are several theories as to the origin of Maine Coons including:
- Being an outcross between a Bobcat/Wildcat and a domestic cat.
- Coming to America as ship cats from European countries and mating with native feral cats.
- They are descended from six Angora cats Marie Antoinette sent on a ship to the safety of Maine, prior to her beheading.
- It is a cross between a house cat and a raccoon (which is impossible, by the way).
Image source, Pixabay
Maine Coons were first exhibited at the local Skowhegan Fair held by New England farmers in the early 1860's. Twelve Maine Coons were shown at the Boston Cat Show in 1878. The first national cat show was in 1895 at Madison Square Garden where a female Maine Coon by the name of Cosey won Best in Show. During the first half of the 1900's the breed dropped out of favour, with the arrival of Persian cats from England taking the spotlight. In fact the Cat Fanciers Association declared the Maine Coon extinct in 1959 claiming that the breed had failed to adapt to warmer climates.
However during this time, the breed continued in the background as pets. Mrs Ethelyn Whittemore of Augusta, Maine had continued to breed Maine Coons keeping records of parents and their litters. The breed was resurrected in the 1950's using many of the Whittemore cats and the Central Maine Cat Club (CMCC) was formed in 1953 by Alta Smith and Ruby Dwer. The Maine Coon was accepted with the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) in 1975 and was awarded Championship status with the in 1976. Eventually interest in the Maine Coon started to spread abroad with the first Maine Coon was sent to Britain in 1983.
According to Desmond Morris in his book Cat World A Feline Encyclopedia, other names which have been used include Maine Cat, Maine Trick Cat, American Longhair, American Forest Cat, American Shag and American Snughead.
Did you know?
The world's longest cat was a Maine Coon by the name of Stewie, measuring in at a whopping 48.5 inches. Stewie also holds the world record for the longest cat tail at 16.34 inches. You can read more about Stewie here.
The Maine Coon is the official cat of the state of Maine.
Mrs Norris, Argus Filch's cat in the Harry Potter films was played by three Maine Coon cats.
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Maine Coons are the largest breed of domestic cat in the world with females weighing between 5-7 kg (11-15.4 lbs) and males 6-8 kg (13.2-17.6 lbs). They have the solid and rugged appearance which is a reminder of their working cat history. Maine Coons don't reach their full size until they are between 3 to 5 years of age.
The body is long, strong, broad and muscular, there is a thick ruff around the cat's neck.
Their semi-longhaired coat is of varying lengths, they were well built to survive in the harsh North American winters. It is shorter around the head and shoulders, with a ruff around the neck and chest. This coat is very water resistant and quite soft to the touch. An amazing plumed tail of large proportions finishes off this wonderful coat.
Image source, Pixabay
Maine Coons have large ears which are wide at the base, tapering to a pointed tip with their distinctive ear furnishings inside and the 'lynx tips' on the top of the ears, which give them their wild look. The head is broad and is slightly longer than it is wide, the cheekbones are set high. The muzzle and chin are square, strong and blunt. Oval shaped eyes are large, wide set and beautifully expressive. The eyes can come in copper, yellow, blue or green.
Legs are muscular and well proportioned. The front legs are set wide apart, the upper hind legs have a covering of long fur known as 'britches'. Feet and toe feathering or furnishings were also needed to enable them to run through the snow and icy waters and these keep the paw pads from getting too cold. Paws are large and round.
The tail is long, broad at the base, tapering to the tip. It is covered in thick, bushy fur.
Overall the Maine Coon is a beautifully well balanced cat with no extreme features.
Image source Tambako the Jaguar, Flickr
According to the CFA, the Maine come in a large variety of colours and in several tabby patterns as well as solid, van, parti-colours and chinchillas. Some colours include:
- Solid colours
- Tabby colours
- Shaded colours
- Mackerel tabby
- Ticked tabby
- Classic tabby
For a full list of Maine Coon colours, see the CFA breed standard.
Image source Jorbasa Fotographie
Maine Coons are VERY smart cats and are also known to have dog-like qualities, and love to play fetch. They are loyal and tend to choose one human in the family as their special person. This breed is well known as the gentle giants of the cat world and do have a very kind and gentle outlook on life.
This is an highly intelligent breed of cat which makes them easy to train. High activity levels through to couch potatoes are ways of describing the day of a Maine Coon. They love to climb and be up high, so heavy based scratching poles are a necessity. Water is also a favourite with Maine Coons, whether it be to drink, play in or in some cases swim in. You will never be safe in the bath or shower if you share your home with a Maine Coon.
They love human companionship and like to follow you around the house and be a part of what you are doing.
Maine Coons can be quite talkative, their voice is more a high pitched trill than a meow and can be used in various tones depending on how they want to talk to us.
They get along with other pets and are excellent pets around children. Supervision is always important, especially if you are bringing a kitten home and they are around younger (under ten) children who may not always know their own strength when it comes to handling the kitten.
It is advisable to keep Maine Coon cats indoors at all times or alternatively allow them access to play in a solid, escape-proof enclosure or train them to walk on a harness.
All in all, the Maine Coon is a healthy cat, although some Maine Coons can be prone to the following health problems.
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
- Hip dysplasia
- Polycystic kidney disease
- Patellar luxation
- Polydactylism (more toes than normal which is usually just cosmetic)
- Spinal muscular atrophy
- Early onset periodontal disease
When meeting breeders, it is always important to ask about these conditions and if their cats have been tested for ones which can be tested for (such as polycystic kidney disease). Responsible breeders recognise take steps to test, and if necessary remove breeding cats from the pool if they are at risk of passing on inherited conditions.
Image source Michael Stefan, Flickr
Purebred cats should only be purchased from a registered cat breeder, meaning they are registered with a relevant cat council which can be verified. This helps to ensure they abide by the council's code of ethics, and all cats are registered purebred Maine Coons. If possible, ask for references from people who have purchased a Maine Coon from the breeder.
Kittens should not leave the breeder until they are at least 12 weeks old. They need this time with their mother and siblings to learn socialisation and wait until they have had at least two of their vaccinations. Many breeders won't sell 'pet' kittens (kittens not for breeding) until they have been desexed.
If you would like to show your Maine Coon, let your breeder know. Many breeders sell 'pet quality' purebred cats, which means they don't fit the breed standard perfectly. It is almost always a minor 'flaw' such as a kinked tail or a minor fault in their colour, and doesn't reflect the health or personality of the cat. Show quality cats should be just that, but usually come at a higher cost.
I personally prefer to purchase from breeders who raise their cats under-foot, that is, the cats are born and raised in the home, ensuring they get a lot of human interaction.
Always get guarantees in writing.
Image source, Pixabay
The coat of the Maine coon is silken but not as thick as other longhaired breeds, it benefits from a daily groom to get rid of loose hairs, it only takes 5-10 minutes and will keep it tangle free and beautiful. Most cats do not need a bath.
Maine Coons should be fed a good-quality diet for optimum health.
Looking after your cat's teeth is important not only for dental health but overall health, particularly as Maine Coons may develop periodontal disease from an early age. This can either be achieved with a toothbrush and cat toothpaste (never use human toothpaste on cats), with biscuits for oral health or preferably by feeding raw chicken necks, wings or raw chunks of steak two to three times a week.
All non-breeding cats should be desexed by 6 months and be microchipped, vaccinated and receive regular flea and worming treatment. An annual health check with a veterinarian is also important.
Maine Coons are very adaptable and will be happy with single person homes or in families, with or without other animals, providing the animals are accepting of cats.
They do like company whether it be human or another cat or dog, and even though they are a large cat, they can happily live in apartments as well as they can in family homes.
If they are going to be left for long periods of time it is advisable you adopt two cats so that they have company while you are away.
The lifespan of the Maine Coon is between 12 - 15 years.