The Maine Coon is not only one of the largest breeds of domestic cat, but it is one of the oldest breeds in North America and a native of the state of Maine, from where it gets its name. Due to its large size, beautiful appearance and charming disposition it has become one of the most popular breeds of cat in the world. There are many myths and legends surrounding the origins of this cat but it is renowned as the original American Wild Cat as, before its domestication, it lived mainly around farms surviving on its ability to catch vermin.
Because of its appearance it has been dubbed 'the tail with the cat on the end'! One of the largest domestic cat breeds, it has a large bone structure with a distinctly rectangular body shape. Solid and muscular, with a broad chest they can stand as tall as 16 inches high and some have measured as long as 40 inches long, including their tail. So as you can see they really are giants of cats. Males can weigh anything between 15 - 25 pounds although 18lbs is probably around average, with females weighing less at between 10 - 15 pounds. Unlike other cats who reach maturity after about a year, Maine Coons can take anything between 3 and 5 years to reach their full size. They are characterised by a long flowing coat, however it is their tale which marks them out and gives rise to the saying above. Measuring up to 14 inches, the tail is long, tapering and very heavily furred, almost like a raccoon. In fact this is perhaps where their name (Coon) originated from. It was thought that somehow it was a cross between a cat and a raccoon, although this has since been proven to be impossible. They can be either long or medium haired and their coat is soft and silky although the texture may vary. They are not soft and fluffy like Persian cats. Their fur is shorter on the head and shoulders, growing longer on the stomach and flanks. Some have an almost lion like ruff around their necks. Their coats undergo seasonal variations, being thicker in winter and thinner in summer.
All this fur is to help them survive in extreme conditions; it's dense and water resistant. Longer and shaggier underneath, it gives extra protection when sitting on snow or ice or in wet weather. This 'shagginess' helps to trap air close to their bodies and acts as a layer of insulation. Their extra long and bushy tail also comes into its own during the winter as they often wrap it around their face for extra protection from the elements. A Maine Coon's paws are also adapted to cope with extremes of nature. Being naturally large cats, they have larger claws than the average cat but also, they have developed long tufts of fur between their toes, not only to keep them warm but also to act almost like snow shoes, providing additional structure without any extra weight. They also have very furry ears, with tufts of hair inside and around the edges. Again a natural evolvement to cope with any severe winter conditions they may encounter.Despite all this hair they actually require minimal grooming compared to other long haired cats, for example the Persian, as they are generally self maintaining due to their light density undercoat.
Ok that may be a slight exaggeration, but there have been up to 64 different colourways noted. The most common of these are brown tabbies and tortoiseshells although they can come in colours such as chocolate and lavender.
The Maine Coon is characterised not only by its size but by its intelligence and its amiable personality. They are gentle giants, affectionate, loyal, easy to train. Although they love their owners, tending to favour one particular person, they are generally a little cautious around strangers. They are extremely independent, and although by no means a lap cat, they do tend to adore being petted and loved. They fit in well to a family environment as they are very relaxed around children, dogs and other cats.
Both males and females tend to remain playful throughout their lives. The male in particular loves to play, while the female tends to remain a little more dignified. They also have a very unusual fascination with water and a dripping tap can amuse a Maine Coon for hours and hours!
However one of their most unusual characteristics is that rather than meow like most cats, they tend to make a 'chirping' sound. Although this is rather difficult to describe, it is said that once heard, this sound is never forgotten. Maine Coons have a range of different ways of vocalising, from yowling, to chattering, to chirping and talking. They will literally talk back to their owners. You can almost imagine that you are Doctor Doolittle talking to the animals!
There are a lot of plus points to consider when deciding whether this gentle giant is for you. Firstly they are highly affectionate cats, but not over demanding. They are relatively easy to groom and look after. They will be a constant source of joy and amusement. They fit into family life easily and most certainly they will be a talking point amongst your neighbours and friends!
Well apparently, one is never enough! Once you have owned a Maine Coon you will want another and another and another!