Named for the state of Maine, where it is the state’s official cat, the Maine Coon is a large, intelligent cat that came to be known initially for its skills as a mousing cat. There are many myths surrounding the history and origin of these beautiful cats. What we know for certain, however, is that the Maine Coon is one of the most beloved breeds in the United States.
The Maine Coon has gained many names in its lifetime. Also known as Coon Cats and Maine Cats, they are often called Maine Shags if they lack the distinctive racoon-like tabby pattern, the “Shag” a simple reference to their shaggy fur. As a well-loved breed native to America, they are also called the American Longhair, American Coon Cat, and the American Forest Cat.
Maine Coons are known as gentle giants. They are friendly and affectionate creatures who adapt easily to any environment and make fantastic companions.
- Originates from Maine
- The largest house cat in the world was a Maine Coon that measured more than four feet long
- The Maine Coon is an adept mouser
- A very adaptable cat breed
When it comes to the Maine Coon’s history, myths and legends abound. Some stories say that the modern-day Maine Coon is a descendent of France’s late queen Marie Antoinette’s cats which were sent to America. Others say that they come from the era of the Vikings, who brought them to the continent even before Christopher Columbus first set foot on America’s soil.
What we do know, however, is that Maine Coons were mostly used as working cats for several centuries. They were kept on farms, in homes, and even aboard ships in the 19th century working as mousers.
We also know that the first time the Maine Coon was referenced in literature was in 1861, regarding a cat named Captain Jenks. In 1895, a Maine Coon cat named Cosey was given the award of “Best Cat” at the United States’ first major cat show.
Today, the Maine Coon is a favorite among cat enthusiasts everywhere, but especially in Maine where it is the state’s official cat breed.
Appearance and Vital Stats
The Maine Coon is a large cat breed. They are recognizable by their sturdy, rugged appearances as well as their thick, tabby coats, and almost bobcat-like looks.
Polydactylism is common among Maine Coons. A polydactyl cat is one that has been born with more than the normal number of toes on at least one paw. Normally, cats have 5 toes on each of their front paws, and 4 on each of their back paws for a total of 18 toes.
The Maine Coon is known for its large size. They generally reach their full size around 3 years old. Maine Coons generally weigh between 13 to 18 pounds, though it’s not uncommon for Maine Coons to reach up to 20 pounds or more.
These cats can be 10 to 16 inches tall and measure 38 inches long including the tail.
Maine Coons generally live for about 12 years on average.
Coat and Colors
The Maine Coon comes in a variety of colors and patterns. The most well-known is the tabby, of which there are three variants. Maine coons can come in either classic, mackerel, or ticked tabby coloring. You’ll also find Maine Coons with solid coloring.
The Maine Coon’s coat is layered and shaggy and is longer on the stomach, tail, and britches. The fur should be silky and fall smoothly against the cat’s body.
The Maine Coon has a lot of fur and will shed frequently. The shedding may seem particularly prominent because of the length of the Maine Coon’s fur.
The tail is one of the Maine Coon’s most distinctive features. It will be wide at the base, and long, with the fur longer than on the rest of his body and flowing. Measuring up to 14 inches long, the Maine Coon’s tail may remind some of a raccoon’s.
Like the rest of the Maine Coon, this breed’s ears will be large. Wide at the base and tapering to a point at the tip of the ear, they will also feature tufts of fur at the ends.
The Maine Coon is known for his friendly disposition and gentleness. He’ll be happy to spend time with his owners and make a wonderful companion. That said, the Maine Coon isn’t known for his clinginess and despite his affectionate nature is a fairly independent breed. While he’ll follow you around the house wherever you go gladly, he won’t be the type of cat to throw a fit if you need to leave him along for a while.
Originally used as working cats, the Maine Coon has retained his reputation as an excellent mouser. If you hear the pitter-patter of mouse feet on your floorboards one day, don’t expect to hear it for much longer.
Maine Coons are extremely intelligent and can be trained. They have generally laid-back personalities, though male Maine Coons tend to be sillier than females. These are loving cats who respect their owners deeply.
Bear in mind that the Maine Coon can be wary at first of strangers. With consistent interaction, however, these cats will quickly warm up. They do also tend to be extremely vocal, and won’t hesitate to let you know exactly what they think of any given situation.
Although many people assume that any breed of cat can live comfortably in an apartment, that’s simply not true. The Maine Coon is one example of a cat that may need more space than an apartment can provide.
This is because the Maine Coon is a breed that loves being outside. They naturally enjoy being able to explore wide-open spaces. Being contained in an apartment, especially a small one, won’t necessarily work for these big, adventurous cats.
Children and Other Pets
Maine Coons have gained reputations as gentle giants for a reason. Although they may be uncertain at first around strangers, when it comes to family members there will be no hesitation. Maine Coons are gentle and patient with kids, and will get along great with other cats and cat-savvy dogs.
Remember, however, that if you have kids you should teach them how to respectfully approach a cat. Teach them never to pull on a Maine Coon’s fur, tail, or other body parts.
Because they are the largest cat breed, Maine Coons require more food than most other breeds. You should feed your Maine Coon a high-quality food to keep them healthy and active. In general, Maine Coons should eat 3 ounces of dry food or 9 ounces of wet food every day.
Bear in mind that indoor cats may get less exercise and require fewer daily calories to prevent obesity. Likewise, outdoor cats will require slightly more calories than an indoor cat.
One of the things the Maine Coon is best known for is his beautiful, flowing coat. Since the fur is naturally silky, this prevents matting though you’ll still need to brush your cat. Brushing a couple of times a week should do the trick.
You may also want to use a “grooming rake” on occasion to help pull up dead hairs in your Maine Coon’s undercoat.
If you live in an area where it’s safe for cats to go outside, letting your Maine Coon out to run around and explore is a great way to help him get the exercise he needs.
Not all areas allow cats to be outdoors, however, and many people choose to keep them inside for the cat’s safety. If you’re keeping your Maine Coon inside, there are still ways to make sure he’s getting enough physical activity.
Playing with your cat with cat toys, laser pointers, or with string for about 15 to 20 minutes daily is a good way to exercise him. Getting a cat tree and making sure your cat has access to it is another fantastic way to let your cat get in a little activity as he climbs around and explores.
One of the greatest things about this breed is their trainability. Many cats can’t be trained in the same way dogs can be, but Maine Coons can be trained to walk on a leash. This means that even if you prefer keeping your cat indoors and supervised, you can still take him outside for walks once you teach him to walk on a leash.
Maine Coons are generally very sturdy and healthy cats. That said, there are some health conditions that these big kitties tend to be more prone to than others.
Feline Hypertrophy Cardiomyopathy
This is a condition commonly affecting Maine Coons. This causes the walls of the cat’s heart to thicken, most commonly in the left ventricle. In turn, this reduces the efficiency of the cat’s heart.
The severity of this condition can vary greatly. Some cats experience little to no side effects throughout their lives, while for others the condition can be fatal.
Spinal Muscular Atrophy
This is an inherited condition very common to Maine Coon cats. It is caused by the deterioration of the motor neurons in the cat’s lower spinal cord. Cats who are affected by this disease will often be unable to walk evenly and will experience muscle weakness.
You will usually see symptoms of spinal muscular atrophy when the cat is around 3 to 4 months old. Cats who have spinal muscular atrophy don’t experience pain from the disease, and can still live comfortable lives.
This is a disease common in larger cat breeds like the Maine Coon. It occurs when the cat’s hip joint does not fit together correctly, causing the bones to grind against each other rather than gliding into place.
Cats affected by hip dysplasia will usually begin limping as the first sign. As the disease progresses, the grinding can lead to arthritis in the cat’s joint.
Norwegian Forest Cat
Like the Maine Coon, Norwegian Forest Cats are large a large breed, with females weighing between 8 to 18 pounds and males 10 to 20 pounds. Originating from northern Europe, the Norwegian Forest Cat is thought to have come to Norway around the year 1000 as a result of the Crusaders.
Norwegian Forest Cats, also called Skogkatts, are heavyset cats with thick coats, long legs, and a long tail with flowing fur. These cats have particularly strong claws, which makes them great climbers. You’ll want to make sure you have a cat tree available to climb around on when you get one of these cats.
These cats tend to live around 14 to 16 years old. Like the Maine Coon, they are adept hunters and have a lot of energy. They do not, however, do well around other high-energy pets, and prefer to be the only animals in the household.
These gorgeous cats are recognizable by their long, flowing fur. Although the most iconic image of a Turkish Angora is that of a white cat, they do come in other colors including tabby variations.
Similar to the Maine Coon, these are sturdily-built cats with long, silky tails. Male Turkish Angoras generally weigh between 7 to 10 pounds and females 5 to 8 pounds, making them smaller than the giant Maine Coon.
These cats are easily able to be trained and have very high levels of intelligence. They are friendly with people, though will usually attach themselves to one specific person in the family. They can be very protective of this individual, and may even ride around on their shoulders.
Siberian Forest Cat
The Siberian is another large domestic cat breed. These big beauties weigh between 15 to 20 pounds and have naturally long, silky fur that doesn’t easily become matted. They have very similar colorations to the Maine Coon, and you’ll find Siberians in tabby, tortoiseshell, and even colorpoint variations.
This is an extremely affectionate breed, especially with members of their household. They value snuggle time with their humans, and won’t be afraid to approach strangers. Like the Maine Coon, they are extremely intelligent cats, and their naturally easygoing natures make them very trainable.
Siberians can be playful but are overall calm and laidback animals. They’ll be more than glad to spend some time playing with you, but their extremely affectionate natures will make them even happier just to cuddle up next to you.