Maine Coon Cat – A Guide To the Breed.

close up portrait of the face on a tabby maine coon cat outdoors

Maine Coons are plus-sized cats with equally large hearts. This sweet breed is often called the ‘dog of the cats’ due to its sweet and loving nature. A Maine Coon can be recognized by its large size, majestic neck ruff, fluffy legs, and bushy tail.

Also called the gentle giant, Maine Coons, Coon cats, Maine shag or American coon cats, they make perfect family pets as they are fluffy, intelligent, playful, affectionate, good-natured, and cuddly. Today, I will discuss everything you need to know about this lovable breed. So, if you are considering getting one, keep reading to learn more!

orange and white maine coon climbing tree branches outdoors

Characteristics

The basic characteristics of a Maine Coon cat are briefly described below –

Level of Affection

Once a Maine Coon trusts you, it will love being around you and spending lazy afternoons sleeping on your lap. Maine Coons love people in general, so they will get close with everyone in a household.

Reaction to Other Pets

Aside from people, Maine Coons have no problem forming friendships with dogs or other pets in the house, as long as the other pet is interested.

Intelligence

This breed is very intelligent, with superior problem-solving and thinking abilities. You can teach them to play puzzles meant for cats. Also, you can train them very easily. This is one reason why many people compare this breed to dogs.

Perhaps the added intelligence is because of the larger brains in their huge heads, but don’t quote me on that!

An important thing to note here is that Maine Coon cats need to be kept entertained because they are highly intelligent. They need frequent playtime as well as exercise. When you are not at home, you can buy puzzle-type toys to keep your Maine Coon occupied.

Playfulness

Going hand in hand with high intelligence, Maine Coon cats are very curious and playful. They stay and behave like a kitten throughout their entire lives, no matter how big their body gets. This is why a Maine Coon will be an endless entertainment source for your family, especially children.

close up portrait of the face of a tabby mane coon with huge whiskers

Social Needs

The social needs of a Maine Coon are moderate. While it does love people, you do not always have to be around the cat or continuously entertain it. It can spend several hours by itself easily, although it will certainly not be happy about that.

If you leave it alone for hours regularly, a Maine Coon may develop separation anxiety and get sad. So, it is best to get this cat if you have a large family and someone is always at home.

Grooming Requirement

You can already guess that Maine Coons require frequent grooming. Because of their long, fluffy coat and neck & leg tufts, Maine Coons require regular brushing, bathing, and grooming.

A Maine Coon should be brushed weekly. Regular visits to a pet groomer are also needed, as the cats need a bath monthly or even weekly. If you neglect this, mats can easily form on their long furs. So, do not neglect it because shaving a thick coat is discouraged.

If you are worried about having to deal with typical cat aggression during grooming, don’t. Maine Coons are tolerant cats who love getting attention from humans, so they will be a good sport during the process.

Are maine coon cats hypoallergenic – unfortunately not, but regular grooming can greatly reduce the chance of an allergic reaction to maine coon cats!

Prey Drive

Because one of their ancestors used to be a wild animal (read the history section for more on this), Maine Coons have a high prey drive. This makes them excellent for catching mice around a farm or a house. 

Reaction to Children

Maine Coons are known to be patient with children. This breed is very gentle and will tolerate children in most cases. They also do not mind being picked up or cuddled. Owing to their playfulness, Maine Coons are a great choice if you have kids in the house.

Vocality

This is a unique characteristic of this breed. Apart from the regular purrs and meows, Maine Coon cats make some very interesting noises to get someone’s attention. They can often be heard to chirp, cheep, and yowl.

close up portrait of a tabby maine coon with ruff and long whiskers
Tabby Maine Coon

History

Maine Coon cats are believed to be one of the oldest natural breeds in North America because they’ve been around for a long time. The first mention of this breed occurred in the year 1861 in a book. They have been around since colonial times or even earlier.

As you can guess, this breed is native to Maine, the American state. The latter half of its name, ‘Coon’, came from an old theory that Maine Coons are descendants of raccoons and cats. Another possible explanation for ‘Coon’ comes from a sailor, Charles Coon.

Breeding a cat with a raccoon is biologically not possible, so the former story is just lore.

There are several popular theories about this breed’s origin. The first is that they are descendants of the Turkish Angora cats of Marie Antoinette, the Queen of France. The queen had planned to flee to the United States during the French Revolution, which is why she sent her cats abroad on a ship.

Bobcats and domestic cats are another theorized mix for Maine Coons, owing to the tufts on their neck & legs.

Another theory states that New England sailors brought longhaired cats with them to Maine. A similar theory states that a thousand years ago, Vikings (and European sailors) came to America and brought along longhaired cats.

Maine Coons might be the crossbreed of these longhaired cats and domestic American cats. The Vikings theory seems the most plausible out of all theories, as the Norwegian forest cat looks a lot like Maine Coons.

Personality

Maine Coons are social and friendly cats, which is why they make amazing family pets. They are playful without requiring constant attention. These cats are welcoming to other pets and strangers, but it may require a bit of time before they trust you enough.

Once they decide to trust people, Coons make close relationships with everyone in the house. They will let you know they love you by rubbing their body against you or giving you a headbutt.

This cat loves all sorts of activities, so you can take it out on walks, teach it to play fetch, and keep it as a mouser. As a true family cat, a Maine shag will join all family activities, be it watching people talk over dinner or sharing a couch with you as you surf through channels.

Unlike many cats, Maine Coons do not have a big need for personal space. They will enjoy following you around the house and spending time with the family.

A unique aspect of the Maine Coon breed is its affinity toward water. Unlike most cats, Maine Coons love to be around water. This might be due to the theory that they used to be ship cats to catch mice.

You will find your furry friend dashing towards the washroom when you turn on the shower. They can scoop water with their paw, which is fun to watch. You can also keep the cat entertained by giving it a bowl of water to splash.

Woman holding a huge red maine coon cat length ways in her arms
Orange Tabby Maine Coon

Size

As stated many times already, Maine Coons are big cats. In fact, the current Guinness Book record holder for the longest cat is a Maine Coon! The record holder before this one was also a Maine Coon.

When fully grown, a typical male Maine Coon weighs between 12 to 18 pounds and is 10 – 16 inches tall. However, they can grow larger and be as much as 35 pounds, but that is not a healthy weight.

A female Maine Coon typically weighs between 8 to 12 pounds.

The length range for coon cats is 30 to 40 inches.

Colors

When you think of Maine Coon, the Grey and Black mixture or the Orange color comes to mind. Typically, this is the color family Maine Coons tend to stick to. You can find them in the following shades –

  • Black & White
  • Tan & Chocolate
  • Ebony & Red
  • Grey & Cream
  • Brown
  • Orange & Blue
  • Blue-cream
  • Gray, Blue, and White
  • Silver
  • Sable

Their coat comes in many different patterns as well, such as –

  • Tabby
  • Calico
  • Tri-color
  • Bi-color
  • Tortoiseshell
  • Colorpoint
  • Shaded
  • Smoke

You can also find Maine Coons in just one color with no discernable patterns.

Man holding a large tabby maine coon in the crook of his arm

Health Issues

As is the case with any breed, Maine Coon cats have the potential to develop some hereditary health issues. When you adopt a Maine Coon, you should talk to a vet to get a DNA test and health screenings.

They will help you find out if your furry friend has any of the genetic mutations that cause certain hereditary diseases. This way, if a certain mutation is found, you can take precautions and foster habits that will ensure your cat stays healthy.

The most common hereditary issues a Maine Coon is susceptible to are –

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)

This is a type of heart disease inherited in this breed through specific gene mutations (A3P1). HCM occurs when the thyroid gland becomes overactive and, in turn, thickens heart muscles. To know if your kitty has the gene mutation that causes this, get a screening done.

Also, you should be on the lookout for the signs of HCM, as catching the disease early provides you with a better chance of treatment. The signs are lethargy, rapid breathing, and loss of appetite. 

You may come across breeders who claim to have HCM-free breeds. In most cases, these breeders are lying as you can never confirm if a certain cat will develop HCM. So, steer clear of such breeders.

Hip Dysplasia

Because Maine Coon cats get pretty large, they often face bone or joint issues. Hip dysplasia is one such issue. It is a hereditary defect of the cat’s hip socket caused by malformation. If left unchecked, the cat may even develop arthritis from this.

Usually, you will not see many symptoms as the cat will continue behaving like normal even if it is experiencing pain. The common symptoms are slowing down gradually and behaving like a senior kitty, but it goes unnoticed almost always. An affected cat will also avoid jumping.

You may get routine pelvic x-rays done at the vet to catch hip dysplasia in the early stages. Treatments include weight loss, surgery, or medication. Large male Maine Coon cats are more likely to get hip dysplasia than female cats.

Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA)

This is another genetic disorder that may occur in Maine Coon cats — it impacts the skeletal muscles of the cat’s trunk and limbs. The affected muscles start to get weaker and degenerate. It is important to note that the disease does not cause any pain to the cat, it just makes the muscles unusable.

An affected cat will avoid jumping, walk funny, and not use its muscles well. DNA tests to identify the genetic carriers of SMA are available.

Polycystic Kidney Disease

This disease causes renal failure, making the kidneys unable to perform properly. An affected Maine Coon will no longer be able to clean the waste from its blood. Regular hydration in its body will be impacted. It is a progressive disease that gets worse over time if left unchecked.

You should get screening for kidney diseases in a kitten early on and then regularly as per your vet’s suggestion. If the disease is found, there are special medications and diets that will aid the cat to live a happy life. Don’t neglect the screenings, as severe renal failure can be fatal.

Price

So how much do maine coon cats cost? In the United States, the price of a Maine Coon cat can vary from $800-$2000. This price varies by a few factors, such as –

  • Availability: The higher the demand, the higher the price.
  • Quality of the Bloodline: Some breeders will have special cats, such as extra large cats. 
  • Health: You cannot guarantee that a cat will not have any hereditary issues, but some catteries will have a history of low-to-none diseases. They inevitably cost more.
  • Quality of the Kitten: The better looking the kitten is, the pricier it is.

Final Words

In my opinion, a Maine Coon is the perfect cat to have if you can afford it. They are playful, gentle, loving, and oh-so-cuddly. What more could you ask for? 

Remember to brush it regularly, keep its weight in check, and get regular vet visits. This way, you will have a loving furry companion for the next 12-15 years!