From tales of sea captains to Marie Antoinette and even a romance between a cat and a raccoon, the origins of the Maine Coon cat are undoubtedly full of feline fantasy. Unfortunately, while these tall tales surely make you smile, they aren’t much more than myths and legends. However, one thing is for sure — many consider the Maine Coon one of the most beloved cats in America. But, just what is it about this cat that makes them such a national treasure?
Characteristics of Maine Coons
Maine Coons feature some distinctive qualities, including being the largest domestic cat (with no ancestral ties to wild cats) and one of the oldest natural breeds in North America. They are also highly sociable and playful, and many dub Maine Coons as “the dogs of the cat world.” Also, due to their large size and sweet natures, they’ve earned the nickname “gentle giants.”
Here’s a glance at the Maine Coon’s physical traits, from size to coloring and stature.
- Height and Length— Maine Coons can reach 10 to 16 inches in height, with males typically larger than females. The average length of Maine Coons is about 19 to 30 inches. To put that in perspective, the average length of a house cat is 15 to 20 inches. When full-grown, some Maine Coons can reach closer to 40 inches long.
- Weight— A male Maine Coon weighs approximately 13 to 18 pounds, while a female averages between 8 and 12 pounds. Some Maine Coons can even reach a staggering 25 pounds.
- Coloring—The Maine Coon comes in about 65 to 75 different color combinations, including solids and various patterns like tortoiseshells, shaded, and classic and mackerel tabbies. Colors you’re likely to spot in a Maine Coons coat are white, blue, cream, brown, black, silver, or golden, just to name a few. When it comes to the eyes, they can be green, gold, copper, or green-gold. Plus, white cats may have blue eyes.
- Coat— If you’re looking for a low-shedding cat, then this may not be the cat for you. The Maine Coon’s coat features long, silky fur, and they tend to shed a lot. Typically, the coat is shaggy and longer around the stomach and back legs.
- Stature— Maine Coons are impressively large, with broad chests and a muscular, well-proportioned body.
- Shape— According to the Cat Fanciers’ Association, Maine Coons typically feature long heads with a square-shaped muzzle and large, tufted ears. They usually have large, expressive eyes with an oval shape. In addition, they have a long, flowing tail with a broad base, and large, tufted paws.
Maine Coons are highly sociable, perhaps sometimes to a fault since they won’t really allow you much privacy. However, these friendly cats want to be with you every second, and sometimes, the only way to get some alone time when you’re home is to lock yourself in a room (if you have a toddler, then it’s kind of like that).
Seriously, though, these cats thrive on attention and companionship. They also love to play and will likely maintain a kitten-like playfulness well into their golden years. Affectionate and loving, these cats make incredible companions, and their patient and gentle natures also make them ideal pets for families with children.
Maine Coons are very intelligent animals and trainable; it’s yet another quality that makes them so “dog-like.” If you have a Maine Coon, you could very well train your cat to walk on a leash, sit, or do several fun tricks. Plus, your feline friend will love the bonding time that comes with training since they always want to be by your side.
When it comes to taking care of your Maine Coon, daily brushings with a brush for long-haired cats are best to avoid a tangled coat. However, if you start getting your Maine Coon used to these grooming sessions at a young age, it can become a fun, bonding time. As long as you keep up with regular combings, grooming won’t be too much of a hassle. Regular nail trimmings with high-quality nail clippers and dental check-ups are also essential. Ideally, you would brush your cat’s teeth once a day, but if it proves to be a challenge, consider oral hygiene products that you can add to your pal’s water.
Beyond the obvious necessities, like regularly scooping the litter box, feeding, grooming, and scheduling routine vet visits, Maine Coons have a few extra factors you need to consider. For example, Maine Coons are susceptible to obesity, so ensure you provide adequate opportunities for exercise and play and serve your furry friend a nutritious diet. If you’re concerned about your cat’s weight, it’s worth scheduling a consultation with your vet to discuss various food options.
Maine Coons are also prone to Hip Dysplasia, as many large cat breeds are, and other issues including Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, Spinal Muscular Atrophy, periodontal disease, and problems with inflammation in the gums and mouth.
Origin of the Maine Coon
The Maine Coon is one of the oldest breeds native to America, originating in, you guessed it, Maine. While many tales abound about the breed’s origin (like a cat mating with a raccoon -- not possible), the exact origin is actually unknown. However, the most accepted (and plausible) origin story is that the Maine Coon is a result of breeding between short-haired domestic cats and long-haired cats that were possibly brought to America by European sailors in the 1700s. They evolved to withstand Maine’s rugged terrain and harsh winters, developing into the native Maine Coon.
Genetic testing has shown that Maine Coons are descendants of Norwegian Forest Cats, and many believe that they possibly came to America via the Vikings. Experts consider the Maine Coon the only longhair domestic cat breed that is native to the United States.
Some More Interesting Facts About the Maine Coon
- It’s the official state cat of Maine (no, not every state has an official cat, but Maine does, and it’s been the Maine Coon since 1985).
- The longest Maine Coon on record is a male named Stewie, measuring 48.5 inches from tip to tip (tip of the nose to tip of the tail).
- The average lifespan of Maine Coons is 10 to 12 years, but there are records of those living beyond 15 years old.
- Maine Coons absolutely love water -- they love to play in it, jump in it, you name it. In fact, don’t be surprised if your Maine Coon tries to jump into the bathtub with you the next time you’re trying to have a relaxing soak. Plus, don’t be surprised to find your cat playing in their water dish, which means it’s essential to ensure you keep it full of fresh water for drinking.
- A Maine Coon named Pebbles played Mrs. Norris (Filch’s cat) in the Harry Potter movies. She was one of three cats that shared the role.
- Maine Coons love to hunt, and initially, to better navigate the snowy Maine terrain and climb tall trees, many Maine Coons were polydactyl. This means they had 6 toes (some even had 7 or 8). Eventually, the trait came to be undesirable, and breeders started breeding it out, but you can still find some purebreds sporting an extra toe or two.
To learn more interesting facts about cats, dogs and how to care for them, check out the rest of our blog. We’re always adding fresh content so you can find what you need to be the best pet parent you can be.