The Maine Coon cat is generally considered one of the oldest natural North American feline breeds, as well as being touted as a native of the state of Maine. There are numerous legends regarding the origins of the Maine Coon cat, not the least fantastic biologically unfeasible being that it is the result of a cross between domestic cats.
and raccoons. It is believed by many that this myth, along with a busy tail and a common coloring of raccoon like brown tabby that led to the name Maine Coon. Another popular and far-fetched theory is that the Maine Coon descended from the six pet cats which Marie Antoinette sent to Wiscasset, Maine when she was planning to escape from France during the French Revolution. More purebred feline enthusiasts realistically are of the view that the breed originated from matings between pre-existing shorthaired domestic cats and overseas longhairs.
First mentioned in the literature of the mid 1800s, Maine Coons became popular in early cat shows, as evidenced by a female Maine Coon named “Cosie” Best Cat at the 1895 Madison Square Garden Cat Show. With the arrival of the exotic Persian feline breed, Maine Coons lost some popularity as show cats in the early 1900s.
While never wavering as New England’s top cat, it was not until the 1950s that Maine Coons regained widespread popularity. In 1968, six breeders formed the Maine Coon Breeders and Fanciers Association (MCBFA) to 1000 fanciers and 200 breeders.
Maine Coon cats are well equipped to withstand the harsh winters and rugged nature of the New England landscape. Known as excellent hunters, strong fighters, and hardy, healthy creatures, the Maine Coon has natural selection to thank for its unique gifts. Planned breedings, a relatively recent development in the history of the Maine Coon, have subsequently been geared toward preserving the Maine Coon’s natural, rugged qualities.
All the traits of the Maine Coon are a reflection of its adaptation to harsh climate. Its glossy heavy, water resistant haircoat, is like that of no other feline breed, and must be felt to be truly appreciated. It is longer on the abdomen to protect against wet and snow, and shorter on the back and neck to guard against tangling in underbrush. The coat falls smoothly, and is virtually maintenance free, with perhaps only a weekly combing necessary to maintain its top condition. The trademark long, bushy tail which the cat wraps around himself when curling up to sleep or sitting upright, can serve as protection from cold weather. The ears are more heavily furred both inside and on the tips than many breeds to aid in protection from the cold; Lynx-like tufting of the tips of the ears are a common and desirable trait. Big, round, tufted feet serve as physiological snow shoes to help navigate through thick snow. Large eyes and ears create optimal sensory input for greater survival. The long, square muzzle aids in both grasping prey, as well as in lapping water from streams and puddles. There has been no restriction in Maine Coon patterns or colors, owing to a wide variety of colors and patterns seen among Maine Coons.
Main Coons tend to be large cats, with females normally weighing 10-15 pounds and males commonly weighing 13-18 pounds, although it is not unusual to see Main Coon cats 25 pounds or heavier (typically, however these enormous cats are so because of obesity). With their long, bushy, flowing coats, they can look as though they are wild cats living among people.
Maine Coons are known as gentle giants of the cat world, typically being very people oriented, outgoing, and good natured. Main Coons are not lap cats, but will always be near by or next to you, quietly conveying the loyalty and affection they hold for people in their families. Maine Coons cats uniquely are very tolerant of children, dogs, and other cats, making them excellent family cats. Main Coons love to play interactively with people, and many even engaged in fetching.
Main Coon cats are prone to hip dysplasia and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, making it important to ask for documentation of pre-breeding screening of the tom and queen prior to purchase of a kitten.
Life expectancy is 12-14 years.
By: Roger L. Welton, DVM
President Maybeck Animal Hospital
Author Canine and Feline 101