Friendly, playful, and fluffy — you could say that the Maine Coon is the perfect cat for all you feline lovers out there. Hailing from New England, this is the largest domesticated breed of cats you could call a pet nowadays.
There’s a reason the Maine Coon is often referred to as the gentle giant. The peaceful and somewhat quiet demeanor of this breed makes it a welcome addition to any home with other pets or children. However, before jumping on the bandwagon and becoming a Maine Coon owner, there are a few things regarding its health and care requirements you need to keep in mind. Without further ado, let’s learn more about this larger-than-life breed!
The Maine Coon: A Fluffy Giant Full of Love
The Origin of the Maine Coon
If it’s not obvious enough, the name of this breed comes from the U.S. state with a rocky coastline — Maine, or the Pine Tree State. But what about the Coon part? Well, that one has a bit of a weird origin.
This natural cat breed has a long history that sprawls more than two centuries. According to some sources, it dates back to the 18th and early 19th century. Back then, it was mostly known as an incredible mouse chaser, often making an appearance on ships and farms. The way it ended up in the U.S. is the most exciting part of its history, though.
Some say that the Vikings are the ones we should thank for this breed; they may have brought it to the U.S. centuries before Columbus even stepped foot on its soil.
Others, however, believe the more exciting legend of Marie Antoinette. According to that story, the Maine Coon is a descendant of longhaired cats belonging to the doomed French queen. These were sent to the U.S. as a part of her plan to escape the angry revolutionaries!
The Norwegian Forest Cat — A Possible Ancestor?
A breed that many believe is an ancestor of the Maine Coon is the Norwegian Forest Cat. This idea plays well with the legend of the Vikings. It would also explain why these two breeds look so much alike at first glance.
When you get a bit more into it, though, you’ll notice that their heads have different shapes. The Maine Coon has a wedge-shaped noggin and high cheekbones. In contrast, its Norwegian counterpart has a triangular head with a flat forehead and a straight nose.
On top of that, though both breeds are big floofs, the Norwegian Forest Cat has an even coat all around with a long, sweeping tail. The Maine Coon, however, has a shaggy coat and a fluffy tail.
Their personalities are very similar, though; both breeds are rather intelligent, friendly, and playful. You can train both of them quite easily too, though the Norwegian Forest Cat may not be super-interested in that. It’s more on the lazy side overall, whereas the Maine Coon will keep playing and running around until you decide to quit!
Legends aside, it’s far more likely that the Maine Coon came from Europe or Asia. On the other hand, it may just be a mix gotten by breeding shorthaired domestic cats with longhaired foreign ones.
And the Coon part? Well, another legend says that this breed actually descends from raccoons. For some people, its furry ringed tail and brown tabby coat may serve as proof of this theory. As much as it’s interesting, though, it has long been debunked; such a mix is simply biologically impossible!
The Breed’s Popularity
As the official state cat of Maine and one of the most popular cat breeds in the world, the Maine Coon is quite famous. However, at one point, its star potential did wane a bit. In the 1900s, more exotic breeds, such as the Persian and the Siamese, became a more fashionable choice. The poor Maine Coon had to wait about five decades to make its comeback.
But it was all worth the wait. In the 1950s, the Central Maine Coon Cat Club was established, and in 1976, the breed was classified as purebred.
Appearance, Size, and Lifespan of the Breed
Of course, before opting for a cat breed, it’s crucial to know some facts about its appearance and lifestyle in general that should make it easier to take care of. So let’s cover that here, shall we?
You’ll be happy to know that this breed can live a long life; it usually lives anywhere between 9 and 15 years. As you’ll see later on, though, the quality of its life mainly depends on whether it has any genetically predisposed ailments.
When it comes to its appearance, there’s no way going around it — this is one large, shaggy cat. As an adult, it may reach a whopping 30 to 40 inches in size and weigh up to 18 pounds. Males may weigh even more, with some tipping the scales at 20+ pounds.
In fact, they may reach the size of a regular dog too. Need proof? Here’s Samson, New York’s largest cat, as an example.
Coat Colors and Physique
Since it’s the largest domesticated cat breed, it goes without saying that the Maine Coon has a rather rugged body. Its silky, fluffy coat hides a muscular build and a broad chest with medium-length legs and rounded paws.
Its fur, though, gives it more bulk since it’s rather thick and long. It’s made up of an undercoat and a glossy top coat, but it doesn’t make the cat seem unkempt. In fact, you’ll be happy to know that this breed does not require much grooming.
Since the coat isn’t even everywhere, it may appear more shaggy than in some other breeds. The cat has naturally shorter hair on the head, neck, and shoulders — other areas have more length to them.
The ears, however, have a feathered appearance. The paws too are a bit fluffier than some other parts, with tufts that extend backward. Thanks to having so much hair on the paws, this breed doesn’t mind colder weather or snow.
Finally, the coat colors vary a lot, with the brown tabby pattern still being the most popular one. Other than that, the Maine Coon can be a solid color (white, red, or black) and come with a coat in various tabby patterns and colors, including:
- Bi-color coats (red and white, blue and white)
- Patterns such as tortoiseshell and calico.
In a nutshell, it’s difficult to find two identical Maine Coons, which bodes well with the breed’s popularity and uniqueness. Even the Maine Coon’s eyes vary; some of them have copper, while others sport green or gold eyes. If they are white, they may have blue eyes as well.
A Loveable Personality and Friendly Demeanor: Why the Maine Coon Is the Perfect Family Pet
Many, if not all, Maine Coon owners would agree — this breed’s personality is its main “selling point.” Even though its appearance may make it seem intimidating, this gentle giant is super-friendly and sociable.
Of course, as any cat out there, the Maine Coon has a curious streak. However, that doesn’t make it troublesome at all. As long as the cat has some entertainment, like a puzzle toy or some balls, it won’t make a huge mess when left alone.
One of its best traits, though, is that it is not too demanding. Sure, the Maine Coon loves its family, and though it’s not a lap cat per se, it doesn’t mind being showered with attention.
Still, if you’re busy or have to do something else, it won’t make a huge fuss; in fact, it will be perfectly happy to stay on the sidelines and watch you go about your day. That makes it a great travel companion too!
A Wonderful Pet for Kids and Adults Alike
Cats and children aren’t that great of a team as dogs and children, but the Maine Coon actually gives felines a good name in that regard. This cat is one of the best breeds you could possibly get for your kids since it loves to play so much and isn’t fussy at all. What’s more, it doesn’t mind other pets, no matter if they are the same species or not — it is truly one of the friendliest felines out there.
Patient, sociable, and a friend to all — what more could you ask for? Well, since it comes from a mouse-chasing background, you can bet that the Maine Coon will keep your home free from rodents too. On top of that, you can even leash-train it and take it out for walks. Just know that most people will be so impressed by its size that you’ll soon become quite popular around the neighborhood!
No Cat Is Truly Perfect, Though
Don’t get us wrong — the Maine Coon just might be as close to perfection as cats can get. However, keep in mind that some of its shortcomings may not be right up your alley.
The only real “issue” people have with Maine Coons is their high energy level. This cat is, by no means, lazy and loves its playtime so much that it will push all boundaries until both of you drop down to your knees. What’s more, since its body is large and it has a somewhat thick build, running around tends to get pretty loud. As such, it may not be the best option for those living in apartment buildings with downstairs neighbors!
Another factor to keep in mind is that some Maine Coons can be somewhat vocal. Experts don’t seem to agree on this, though; some say that the breed is quiet, while others deem it extremely vocal due to the range of sounds it can make.
Whatever the case may be, don’t be surprised if your Maine Coon speaks its mind. Even though it doesn’t demand too much attention, it will let you know when it’s hungry, thirsty, excited, or angry. However, it will rarely meow; its main vocalizations include various soft chirps and trills instead.
Potential Health Problems You Should Keep in Mind
Should You Spay or Neuter Your Maine Coon?
Just like with any cat out there, it’s best to spay or neuter your Maine Coon if you don’t plan on breeding it.
That should make the cat more relaxed in general; it won’t have to be a victim of its natural instincts. At the same time, it should ease its demeanor (if it has been a bit too territorial, for instance) and prevent it from roaming around.
Unfortunately, though the Maine Coon is likely the perfect pet by all accounts, we do have to pay close attention to its health. And one of its main issues happens to be obesity — but it’s not exclusive to this breed.
In general, cats may get bored when they’re not stimulated enough, so if their bowls are always full of food, they may nibble throughout the day and gain weight fast. That in and of itself isn’t healthy and may contribute to various health conditions later on, the most dangerous being diabetes.
To ensure your Maine Coon doesn’t overeat, we suggest following a meal schedule. Give it about two to four smaller meals a day. In between the meals, the cat should get enough exercise and playtime to ensure its activity levels are up to standard.
Infections and Parasites
There are a couple of preventable infections cats are prone to, such as rabies, calicivirus, and the like. Preventable is the keyword here, as your feline can avoid these infections by getting its core immunizations.
Vaccinating your cat is a crucial part of taking proper care of it. The core vaccines include those that are against:
- FHV1 (feline herpesvirus 1)
- FPV (feline panleukopenia virus)
- FCV (feline calicivirus)
- FeLV – kittens (feline leukemia virus)
The core vaccines should keep the cat out of danger of contracting the most common infections.
When it comes to parasites, you ought to make sure you regularly test your cat for them. Doing a fecal exam on a regular basis should help you get some peace of mind and ensure parasites such as ringworm, heartworm, and the like aren’t jeopardizing your Maine Coon’s health. For fleas and ticks, we recommend going for preventative products, such as various shampoos, sprays, topicals, and collars available on the market.
Genetic Predispositions of the Maine Coon
Maine Coons are at a higher risk of developing patellar luxation, which basically means that the cat’s knee cap gets dislocated. That usually happens if the stifle joint hasn’t developed properly.
Sadly, the longer we ignore the condition, the worse it gets. But you could easily check for it when you are having your cat neutered or spayed. The vet can perform an X-ray and look for clear signs of the condition.
If the vet catches it early on, and the condition affects only one leg, the cat may just need some arthritis medication. In more severe cases, surgery may be the only option.
As a hereditary condition, hip dysplasia is common in dogs, but it can definitely affect cats as well. It is a partial or complete hip dislocation, which is a result of the femur (i.e., the cat’s thigh bone) not fitting well into the hip joint. The basis of it all is a genetically inherited ball-and-socket joint malformation.
In cats, this condition can cause lameness, pain, and arthritis, even in cats that are as young as six months. Some, however, may not display any symptoms. Instead, they may simply slow down and act as an older cat (i.e., they are not as playful or energetic as most Maine Coons are).
Treating hip dysplasia could be a total success if we detect the issue early on. Since Maine Coons are purebred cats, it’s best to opt for preventative measures in that case. If you’re getting the cat from a breeder, ask to see the X-rays of the parents (if they exist). You should also get a pelvic X-ray when the cat is getting neutered or spayed.
In terms of treatment, the best course of action is to keep the cat on a healthy diet. If the cat is overweight, it ought to lose some weight too. Medications are also available, but if the condition is severe, the cat may need surgery. In that case, its pelvis will be restructured to ensure better mobility and pain relief.
Spinal Muscular Atrophy
Another hereditary condition Maine Coons are prone to is spinal muscular atrophy. In this case, the skeletal muscles in the cat’s lower body are affected, with the cat exhibiting symptoms as early as 3–4 months of age. Some of the telltale signs include standing with toes out in the front and displaying an abnormal gait.
Fortunately, this is not a fatal condition, and the cat shouldn’t suffer at all. There’s no pain associated with spinal muscular atrophy either, so the use of medications is unnecessary. The expected lifespan for cats with SMA, though, is about eight to nine years. The cat also has to be cared for indoors.
Breeders are well aware of this condition, and if they take the time to test both carriers and affected cats, they may avoid mating felines that carry the genes. Since this is an autosomal recessive disease, it needs two mutation copies to produce it.
Sadly, Maine Coons are familiar with renal failure as well. They may develop Polycystic Kidney Disease, a hereditary condition whose symptoms start when the cat is still young. It causes the formation of fluid cysts in the kidneys, which then prevents them from working properly. As such, chronic renal failure is a possibility too.
The most common symptoms of this disease include frequent urination, excessive thirst, vomiting, and changes in appetite (lack thereof). The cat may also display signs of depression and lethargy.
Feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a heart muscle condition that is a result of the thickening of the heart’s walls. It’s fairly difficult to diagnose since cats tend to hide that they aren’t feeling well, so one of its first (and last) symptoms is sudden death.
The thickening of the heart’s walls is often a result of an underlying thyroid gland issue (overactive thyroid), so getting the cat to the vet for regular checkups is a must.
There’s also another type of this disease called dilated cardiomyopathy, but it is not as common as FHC. It’s a result of a dietary deficiency — the cat may develop it if it’s not getting enough taurine, an amino acid. Luckily, most high-quality cat food brands today add taurine to their food.
FHC is widespread in older male cats, but it’s not uncommon for younger felines to develop it too. Symptoms include difficulty or rapid breathing, lethargy, fainting, coughing, and anorexia.
Leg paralysis is also common; blood clots form in the heart and then travel to the major arteries and get lodged, rendering the tail and the rear legs useless. Still, some cats may not display any symptoms at all.
Many people believe that most white cats are more or less deaf, but that’s not true for all breeds. In the case of Maine Coons, however, deafness is a genetic predisposition.
In particular, we’re talking about white Maine Coons with blue eyes, as it has been shown that cats of this color happen to be more prone to deafness. Usually, the cause is a genetic defect that they’re born with.
This type of congenital deafness is connected to their pigment, or more precisely, their melanin-producing cells, which are often found to be abnormal or absent. Alternatively, the deafness may be caused by an ear infection or ear polyps, which are actually treatable.
Nutrition and Exercise
As mentioned, obesity is a problem with Maine Coons, so proper nutrition is key to keeping the cat healthy and thriving. Since the breed needs meat in its diet to survive, it’s evident that it will mainly consist of protein.
Still, the breed isn’t so demanding when it comes to its food. As long as you keep it on a diet high in protein, carbs, fats and fatty acids, and vitamins, it should live a long and happy life.
The cat should get enough carbs through its food to be able to exercise daily and indulge in its playfulness. At the same time, it should have access to vitamins A, B, K, and Niacin in order to grow into a large, healthy cat.
Since the breed loves water, it ought to get a constant supply of fresh water — a cat fountain may be a great solution. As for its meals, it’s best to feed it two to four smaller dry food meals a day. It should get wet food twice a week at most.
And as it’s prone to obesity, you must make sure your Maine Coon gets enough exercise every day. Taking it out for a walk is a great idea, though keep in mind that its furry paws may get too dirty outside.
If you’re not comfortable with taking it outside, you could invest in a large cat tower and get lots of toys. Maine Coons can actually learn how to play fetch, so they won’t mind running around the house!
Grooming and Dental Care
At first glance, the Maine Coon seems like it would require a lot of grooming. However, this cat breed isn’t only a fantastic pet — it also has a coat that’s rather easy to take care of (in comparison to some high-maintenance breeds, like the Himalayan).
Of course, the silky texture of the fur is definitely going to mat if you don’t make brushing a routine. But you only have to brush the kitty about twice a week to ensure all the dead hair is removed.
By brushing the cat regularly (and you can even do it daily if you want!), you’ll distribute the skin oils all over the fur, thus ensuring its silkiness. Just remember not to be too tough when going over the coat, especially when brushing the stomach and the tail.
The two main tools you’ll need are a stainless steel comb and a grooming rake. The former will let you get rid of any tangles you may come across, while the latter should remove the dead undercoat. Keep your brushing gentle, though, as the cat, albeit patient by nature, won’t appreciate hair pulling.
When it comes to bath time, it’s all up to you. It’s best not to bathe the cat more than once a month, with most owners bathing their Maine Coons only when their fur becomes visibly dirty and feels greasy to touch. Trust us — you’ll know when that happens; the hair will feel a bit stringy!
Maine Coons and Periodontal Disease
But grooming doesn’t end with bathing your cat — you also need to pay close attention to its dental hygiene. Since the cat will surely need your help to keep its teeth in pristine condition, we suggest daily brushing if it’s possible at all. In case the cat doesn’t love that, make sure you brush its teeth on a weekly basis, at least.
Maine Coons have a genetic predisposition to gingivitis, the inflammation of the gums, which occurs due to plaque or bacteria buildup. In case the condition is rather mild, a bit of mouth rinse should resolve it fast. However, if it’s left unattended, it could lead to more severe problems, like stomatitis or periodontal disease.
Worst of all, gingivitis may be a sign of an underlying health condition, such as feline leukemia virus, immunodeficiency virus, diabetes, kidney disease, calicivirus, and autoimmune disease. Because of that, it’s best to let the vet examine the cat’s mouth and determine the underlying cause of the inflammation. In the meantime, keep up with the brushing schedule!
Though it’s certain that Maine Coons come with their own set of worrisome genetic predispositions, no one can argue against them being absolutely fantastic family cats. They’re friendly and able to get along with both humans of all ages and other pets, and they are also not as needy as some other high-maintenance cats.
Of course, there’s a lot to be said about their playfulness, which is often juvenile, even when the cat gets older. But hey, this is a feline that will keep you on your toes and will remain young at heart for years. The gentle giant may keep growing, but its demeanor will stay kitten-like and hilarious well into its adulthood!