Maine Coon cats are one of the most distinctive cats you’ll ever see, and they are most famous for their size.
The record for the world’s largest domestic cat belongs to a Maine Coon who was over four feet in length!
If not their size lending them infamy, then it’s their skill as a mouser and their long, gorgeous coats and tufted ears. But owners also note their gentle demeanor, their patience (you won’t find them scrabbling around when they get the door shut in their face by accident), and their playfulness long into their adult years.
They are also a very rugged and sturdy breed, built to withstand the cold and dampness of many northern climates (though they were would vastly prefer to be inside curled up near their human.)
Aside from their typically large size and playfulness, what else should you know about the Maine Coon?
The History of the Maine Coon Cat
Maine Coon cats hail from the state of Maine where they were very popular mousing cats, farm cats, and ship cats as far back as the early 1800s. (if not earlier – more on that in a bit).
The Maine Coon is a North American natural breed, considered to be one of the first natural breeds, and as such, it’s difficult to say where precisely they came from. The prevalent theories are:
- Descendants of longhair cats sent to North America in advance of Marie Antoinette who had hoped to flee there
- Sea captains bringing longhair cats that then mated with local shorthair cats
- Or my favorite: Vikings brought them centuries before the Spaniards arrived! This theory has a little more credence than pure fantasy – they share many attributes with the Norwegian Forest Cat and it’s not entirely inconceivable that Norwegian Forest cats bred with local populations to create the Maine Coon. (This would also incidentally make Maine Coons one of the oldest breeds in North America, which is pretty cool on its own).
In any event, the first published reference to this breed goes back to 1861 and in 1895, a female was named Best Cat in a cat show in Madison Square Garden. They were popular show cats until the Persian and Siamese cats came in.
Then the popularity of this cat faded out until the 1960s when the Maine Coon Breeders and Fanciers Association was formed to revive them. At this time, Maine Coons are considered by many to be an ‘American’ cat and a symbol of the country.
Today, the Maine Coon is the Official State Cat of Maine (because of course!) and it is a popular breed, loved for its personality, beauty, and ability to hunt rodents and bugs. They are as comfortable as barn or working cats as they are indoor companions.
Common Characteristics of the Maine Coon Cat
Of course, the main thing that Maine Coons are known for? Their size! This is funny because some Maine Coons are actually smaller than many housecats by weight (especially compared to British Domestic Shorthairs who can be quite bulky).
By weight, a Maine Coon (male) is between twelve and eighteen pounds and a female is between 8 and 12 pounds. Yes, there are legends of Coons getting up to 35 pounds, but it’s likely any cat that heavy is overweight.
Compare this to the average male house cat who weighs between 9 and 10 pounds and a female weighing 8 to 9 pounds. This means you could have a housecat that is bulkier than a Maine Coon, depending on what other breeds are in the cat. But on average, Maine Coon Cats are heavier than other breeds.
Where Maine Coons tend to win is sheer length. The average length of a Maine coon is a whopping 19-30 inches, excluding the tail which can add another 12-18 inches. Sheesh!
The average housecat on the other hand is 15-20 inches with a tail length of up to 10 inches. So, in terms of length, a Maine Coon will almost always win hands down and this is why they are considered to be the largest domestic cats. It’s certainly why they keep winning world records.
But Maine Coons are also known for their gorgeous coats. The traditional color is a brown tabby, (it’s certainly the color you see when you see the usual Maine Coon pictures), but actually, they can come in a whole range of colors such as white, silver, golden, red, cream, black and tortoiseshell as well as calico, tabby and shaded (but not Siamese pointed – this color is never seen in Maine Coons).
Their coat is uniquely suited to handle the cold, damp climates of places like Maine: a heavy, silky coat that drapes longer on the stomach and behind the legs, but it is shorter on the shoulders and back. This keeps the stomach and legs warm while preventing tangling from hunting in the underbrush.
Their coats are fairly easy to take care of – weekly combing is usually enough to keep it healthy and clean, and the occasional bath if needed. They also often have a ‘mane’ around their neck and tufted ears with a lot of hair on the inside to keep them warm.
They may also have tufty paws and a long, furry tail. Eyes tend to be green, gold, greenish-gold, copper, or even odd colored (one blue, one green, for example).
Maine Coons are large cats and as a result, they take longer to mature than the average housecat. They don’t tend to reach their full size until they are between three and five years of age and they tend to have a life expectancy of around nine to thirteen years.
It’s hard to mistake a Maine Coon for any other cat – they are quite distinctive and beautiful.
Temperament of the Maine Coon Cat
Maine Coon cats are not only popular for their appearance, but also for their temperament. This breed of cat is friendly, laid back, and quite intelligent.
They enjoy getting attention, but they don’t demand it, and they like to hang out with people on the person’s terms. If you shut a door on them, they’ll wait for you to fix the mistake without screaming at you.
They tend to be very adaptable to different situations and environments, though they are much happier with room to run around, making them less than ideal for small apartments or small living spaces.
Male Maine Coon cats tend to be more ‘clownish’ than female ones, getting into more pranks and being sillier. Most Maine Coons are not lap cats, but they like to hang out near their people and poke around at what you’re doing. They don’t particularly care for being babied, but they do like getting involved in the goings-on of the house.
Maine Coons are so laid back that they are even good with children, so long as children aren’t pulling their tails or harming them, and some have even consented to playing dressing up, or riding in baby buggies!
They also get along with dogs, assuming that the dog gets along with cats, and of course with other cats who are also amicable and friendly.
But they are also just as happy to be the only pet in the house and get all the attention from their humans. Either way, they tend to be happy cats.
It is very important to give Maine Coons space to run around, climb and play. They can be prone to becoming overweight and losing muscle tone, plus most of them simply enjoy playing long into their lifespan, so constricting their ability to do so may cause them physical and mental health issues.
Health Concerns For the Maine Coon Cat
Maine Coon cats tend to be a very sturdy breed – after all, they are made to survive winters and harsher conditions! That being said, there are still some things to watch out for, as well as something to do to give them the best chance at a healthy life.
Problems that are particular to Maine Coon cats:
- Hip dysplasia
- Polycystic kidney disease: this is a slow progressive one that is heritable and can cause renal failure
- Spinal muscular atrophy: a genetic disorder that affects the trunk and limb skeletal muscles. One can get kittens and potential carriers testing
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which is a form of inherited heart disease
As noted before too, Maine Coon cats that don’t have the ability to exercise regularly can also get overweight and get softer muscle tone which can cause other problems down the line such as arthritis and feline diabetes.
Just like any other cat, they can get periodontal disease, so brush their teeth regularly and comb out their coats about once or twice a week, mostly to get rid of dead hair.
They may also need their ears cleaned once in a while, though the hair in their ears tends to keep this chore down to a minimum.
Otherwise, Maine Coon cats tend to be very healthy and athletic cats with very few health problems. To really minimize the chances of problems though, make sure to get your cat from a reputable breeder.
You can also get genetic testing done to make sure you are aware of any disorders that may impact your pet at some point in its life.
What Type of Owner is Best Suited for the Maine Coon Cat?
Maine Coon cats are adaptable and enjoy being around people to be sure, but there are some things which they need to really live their best life.
Maine Coons tend to do better in households with a few people (with or without children) and with space enough for them to run around and play. They don’t need to have people around them all the time, but they do like to have the chance to stretch out and relax with their people regularly.
It’s also a good idea to have the time to commit to grooming and joining in on playtime with games of fetch or puzzle toys to stimulate their brains.
If you are someone who lives in a very small apartment or suite, or you live in a very cluttered area, Maine Coons may not be a good fit, simply because they literally won’t fit! A big cat who enjoys games is going to need room to sprawl out.
Maine Coon cats are also healthier if they stay as indoor cats, when possible, as they won’t run afoul of other animals, traffic, or thieves. Maine Coon cats that are barn cats tend to stay as barn cats, so they may not be as friendly as their indoor counterparts.
Final Thoughts on the Maine Coon!
The Maine Coon cat is a very popular breed, not only in America but in many places all over the world. It’s a large, sturdy breed that looks as though it would be quite intimidating until you quickly realize that it has a polite chirpy meow and is incredibly affectionate and friendly without being overbearing.
Intelligent, playful, and fun to hang around, this is a cat that is great for families of all sorts. Plus you get a huge fluffy cat cushion! What more could you possibly want from your furry feline friend?
I have talked about my cats at length before: the grey part Siamese, the white part Siamese, our part British shorthair/Persian, and our (probably) part oriental longhair. But there’s a fifth cat in my family history that I have neglected: Callantha (aka Cally), who was, in appearance anyway, a mini Maine Coon!
Now, she wasn’t really a Maine Coon (she was way too tiny for that), but she looked a lot like one and acted somewhat like one as well. She was playful far into her senior years, loved attention on your terms (didn’t really care on her own terms as much), liked being around her people, and chased everything.
But she was a small and rather shy ball of fluff, so she was definitely not one of these gentle giants, though it’s not inconceivable that she had some of the blood in her background somewhere. If she didn’t have any Maine Coon in her background somewhere, it certainly didn’t stop her from looking or acting like a mini one!
Do you have a Maine Coon or always wanted one? What is your favorite thing about this gentle giant of a cat?
Pam is a self-confessed cat lover and has experience of working with cats and owning cats for as long as she can remember. This website is where she gets to share her knowledge and interact with other cat lovers.