Nicknamed the "gentle giant" of the cat world, the Maine Coon cat is big in personality and size. These pets are among America's best-loved felines, and one reason for that is their loving nature. They enjoy interacting with their owners and have been described as having some dog-like characteristics – one of which is their playfulness. Maine Coons typically love to play long past kittenhood, so you will be able to have a lot of fun together with some well-chosen cat toys. An ideal choice is a sisal cat tree combining a play area with a scratching post so that your Maine Coon can keep those long claws in trim.
History of Maine Coon Cats
In past centuries, it was believed that the Maine Coon was a cross between a cat and a raccoon – and, although this is impossible, it's easy to see where the rumor started. The cat's magnificent bushy tail does look a little like that of a raccoon, and some Maine Coons even have rings around their tail. The breed's original brown tabby coloring adds to the impression that the far-fetched relationship might exist. One rumor is that the cats were brought over by the Vikings, or by an English sailor called Captain Charles Coon. Another legend surrounding the breed is that the doomed French queen Marie Antoinette managed to save her Angora and Persian cats from sharing her fate in the French Revolution, and persuaded sailor Captain Nathaniel. Cloud to take them with him to America. The Royal pets are said to have interbred with the native cats in Maine, or, according to some versions of the tale, with Bobcats – with the Maine Coon being the result. Whatever the truth of this romantic story, it's certainly the case that the Maine Coon is one of the oldest US breeds and a part of American history. As suggested by their tufted ears, they were originally wildcats but became working cats on farms and then pets. A Maine Coon was chosen as the best in the show at the first-ever major cat show held in the US, in New York City in 1895.
Maine Coons were very fashionable in the early 20th century but then were overtaken in popularity by imported breeds, such as Persians, and by the 1950s there were even fears that the cats faced extinction. Luckily this proved not to be the case and the long-haired beauty made a swift comeback so that today it is one of the most popular pedigree breeds and stars of many cat shows.
The most striking thing about Maine Coon cats is their sheer size. They are among the largest domestic cat breeds, with some males even reaching weights of 25 lb, although the average weight is lower and females are rather smaller. Their spectacular tails are as long as their bodies and can be wrapped around the body for warmth in a cold New England winter. The long fur and sturdy legs, with large tufted feet, also evolved to help keep these cats warm in the wild.
Maine Coon cats were originally tabby, and tabby patterns are still among the most popular varieties, but there are also many other colors, ranging from solid black or cream to shaded coats such as red smoke and shaded silver, or a mix of a tabby or shaded pattern and white. Some breed standards will not accept Siamese-type coloring. Maine Coons typically live to around 12 or 15 if in good health and have around four kittens.
Maine Coons' Character and Temperament
Maine Coons are known to have masses of personality and for their playful temperament. These cats are not fully-grown until about four, but the playfulness goes on even past that age. One of their most unusual characteristics is that they love having fun or cooling down in the water, and some owners say they have even seen their cats sleeping in their water dishes!
These cats are sociable and love being together with their owners, and some can even be trained to go for walks with a harness and lead, like dogs. However, they are not known as lap cats and do have an independent streak. They do not climb as much as some other cat breeds, but they are great hunters, stemming from their history as farm cats, and enjoy chasing toys on the floor.
Care of Maine Coon Cat
When buying a new kitten, it is important to make sure that it is in good health and check on the breeder's record, as there can be some hereditary health problems, such as bone and joint or heart problems, with these normally hardy cats.
As long-haired cats, Maine Coons need regular grooming with a wide comb or brush to avoid their fur becoming matted, although this isn't nearly as demanding as some other breeds, such as Persians. They also need good quality food to suit their larger size, space to play and have fun, and a plentiful supply of water. Taking on one of these giants isn't a decision to take lightly, but it is very rewarding to become a Maine Coon parent.