Maine Coons have been popular in their native USA for many years, but were unknown in the UK until the 1980s. However, since then they have become increasingly popular, and now most people have heard of them, even if they are not that familiar with many pedigree breeds. At cat shows, the number of Maine Coons keeps on growing every year, as more and more people fall under their spell. But how much do you actually know about these lovely cats? Here are some interesting facts about Maine Coons.
Maine Coons are the largest domestic cat breed. Males usually weigh from six to eight kilos, but cats weighing up to twelve kilos are not uncommon. The females are usually a little smaller, but not much. Maine Coons are also very long cats, often over a metre in length. And they have incredibly long, bushy tails; indeed, the GCCF breed standard states that the tail must reach at least to the cat's shoulder when stretched backwards over the cat's back. So they are often known as the 'gentle giants' of the cat world.
Maine Coons have been said to be the result of a cross between a raccoon and a domestic cat, a bobcat/domestic cat mating, or descended from Marie Antoinette's Persian cats. They have also been thought to be descended from Viking cats. The truth is unknown, but it is most likely that ships' cats from Europe mated with the local cats originally, and then selection by owners and breeders produced the modern day Maine Coon.
Whatever their origins, Maine Coons are cats designed for the great outdoors. Their shaggy fur is almost waterproof, and their large tufted paws enable them to walk easily through snow. Some Maine Coons even shake water off their coats in the manner of dogs. Indeed, these cats can cope well with the winters of their native Maine, and almost any other harsh climates too.
Maine Coons are often thought to only occur in their commonest colour, the brown tabby. But they come in a huge variety of other colours too – all shades of tabby, tortie, and all solid colours. For show purposes, the GCCF allows any colours except Siamese patterning.
Maine Coons don't just miaow like most cats. Many of them have a wide vocabulary – they chirrup, trill, yell, and make a number of other sounds with no names. Many owners of Maine Coons feel as though their cats are constantly carrying on a conversation with them, though they don't always understand what the cat is trying to say!
Many Maine Coons enjoy playing with water and even getting into water. Maine Coon owners learn to keep bathroom doors shut, and more or less expect their cats to play with their drinking water, often spraying it everywhere. Some Maine Coons even enjoy having a bath before a show, but not all; some think this is going too far.
Polydactyl cats are those which have more than the usual number of toes on each paw, often six and sometimes even more. Polydactylism can occur in any breed or type of cat, though it is relatively rare. But it seems to be quite common in Maine Coons, and according to some sources, around 40% of early Maine Coons were polydactyl. Some authorities say that this may have helped the cats walk on snow. However, the condition is viewed as undesirable by show registries, and so the number of polydactyl Maine Coons has declined. Nevertheless, I know of at least one breeder who will supply polydactyl Maine Coons for those who want them.
The Guinness World Record for the longest cat was held for a long time by Maine Coon cat Stewie, who measured 48.5 inches in length. He was then overtaken by another Maine Coon, Ludo, who just beat him, measuring 46 inches.
Pebbles, the cat in the Harry Potter films, was played by three cats, and one of them was a female Maine Coon called Pebbles. Apparently the other two cats were also Maine Coons, but less seems to be known about them.
Perhaps the strangest Maine Coon fact is that a Maine Coon called Little Nicky was the first pet to be cloned commercially. When he died at the age of seventeen in 2004, his owner paid $50,000 to a controversial company claiming to do cat and dog cloning, so that his tissue could be saved in a gene bank. Little Nicky's DNA was then transplanted into an egg cell, and a surrogate mother cat gave birth to a kitten who did indeed look very like Little Nicky and had a similar personality. The owner was reportedly happy with the results. However, the company ceased trading in 20065, reportedly for financial reasons, so this practice looks unlikely to become a trend.
If you are currently looking to buy a Maine Coon, it is a good idea to contact a reputable breeder, and both the Maine Coon Cat Club and Maine Coon Breed Society have up to date lists, and you can also check out our own Pets4Homes Maine Coon for Sale section. Perhaps you also ought to visit a few cat shows first and find out what Maine Coons should look like, for some people think all semi longhaired large cats are Maine Coons, and not all examples of the breed being sold are actually purebred Maine Coons. But once you own a genuine cat of this beautiful breed, you will never regret it...and you will probably find that one Maine Coon is never enough.