Maine Coon Breed Information
Country of origin -
Breed standards - AACE, CFA, ACFA, TICA, CCA, ACF, GCCF, FIFe
The Maine Coon is one of the largest breeds of domestic cat, known for its intelligence and playfulness as well as its distinctive physical appearance. The breed is one of the oldest natural breeds in North America and originated from New England, making it America's first indigenous show cat. The Maine Coon Cat is known as "the gentle giant."
In the 17th and 18th centuries, domestic cats brought over from Europe faced very severe winters in New England, where only the strongest and most adaptable cats survived. Through natural selection (as opposed to selective breeding), the Maine Coon developed into a large, rugged cat with a water-resistant, thick coat and a hardy constitution.
The origin of the breed (and its name) has several, often fantastic, stories surrounding it. One tale comes from a story that a domestic cat released in the wilds of Maine interbred with a raccoon, resulting in offspring with the Maine Coon's characteristics. Though biologically impossible, this false story, bolstered by the bushy tail and the most common coloring (a raccoon-like brown tabby) could have led to the adoption of the name "Maine Coon." Another story is that the cat was named after a ship's captain named Coon who was responsible for the cat reaching Maine shores, or that the breed sprang from the six pet cats that Marie Antoinette sent to Wiscasset, Maine when she was planning to escape from France during the French Revolution.
Nevertheless, most breeders today believe that the breed originated in matings between pre-existing shorthaired domestic cats and overseas longhairs, perhaps Angora types introduced by New England seamen, or longhairs brought to America by the Vikings. Maine Coons are similar in appearance to both the Norwegian Forest Cat and to the Siberian, however this may be attributed to convergent evolution the shaping of unrelated species by similar environments, selecting for similar characteristics, resulting in similar animals.
2. Physical characteristics
Maine Coons are very large and energetic cats, sometimes weighing up to around 11-12 kilograms (25 pounds); the average weight is 6 to 9 kilograms (13-20 pounds) for adult males and less (7-11 pounds) for females. Male Maine Coons may grow to a length in excess of 1 meter (40 inches); as of 2006, the longest cat on record is a Maine Coon 122cm (48 inches) in length.  Growth to full size often takes longer than for most cats, with Maine Coons usually reaching full size at age four or five.
The most common color/pattern in the breed is brown with tabby markings. Maine Coons are recognized in all colors, including tortoiseshell, except for chocolate, lavender, ticked tabby, and the point-restricted ("Siamese") pattern. Eye color also varies widely. All patterns may have green, green-gold, or gold. Blue eyes, or one blue eye with one gold eye, are possible in white coat cats. They share similar facial markings, for example, a distinct "M" shape on the forehead.
Maine Coons have medium-long, dense fur, with longer hair, or a ruff, on their chests similar to the mane of a lion (which is why the breed is sometimes humorously called the "Mane Coon"). Their fur consists of two layers - an undercoat and an additional layer of longer guard hairs, which gives the breed their key physical feature. The fur is generally very soft. Maine Coons have long hair on the backs of their legs (called pantaloons or britches) and between their toes which helps to keep warm in the cold. They also have bushy plumed tails and broad, angular heads, squared-off muzzles and wide-set ears topped with tufts of fur (known as 'Lynx-tips'). Their tails can be so bushy that the Maine Coon has earned the nickname the 'tail with a cat attached to it'.
Most Maine Coons keep their fur in good order without the need for additional human grooming. While the Coon may be polydactyl, having one or more extra toes on their paws, this trait is generally bred out.
Maine Coons have large ears, which can be tipped at the end with fur. This is a common trait of a Maine Coon, giving them their Lynx-like appearance.
3. Behavioral characteristics
Maine Coons are a breed distinguished by intelligence, dexterity, and playfulness. They have a tendency to use their front paws extensively (often curling the paw round to pick objects up) and as a consequence will easily learn to open cabinet doors, turn on water faucets, flush toilets, or pick up small objects. Some Maine Coons will eat, or even drink, from their paws, rather than from the bowl itself.
Due to their above-average intelligence, Maine Coons are known to be one of the easiest cat breeds to train. Maine Coons are noted for their ability to trill their meows, which sounds like a combination of a purr and a meow, and they tend to make this sound when happy or startled. They are noted for rarely eating alone, preferring to eat in the company of other cats or humans. Maine Coons are usually not "lap" cats (possibly because of their large size), and thus are generally not comfortable sitting on a person's lap or chest, though this may depend on the personality of the individual cat.
Some Maine Coons enjoy playing with, but not usually in, water. They may dip toys in their water bowls before playing with them, or just tip the water bowl over. They may also skim their paws across the surface of their water bowl. Maine Coons occasionally engage in mischievous behavior when bored, such as deliberately pushing things off tables and the tops of refrigerators with their paws.
Maine Coons can be very dog-like in their behavior. Playing fetch is a favorite game. As with dogs, they will bring their ball, drop it at the feet of their intended playmate and wait for the ball to be thrown. They will often accompany their owner on chores like getting the mail, walking the dog, and may also come when beckoned, even if outside.
4. Health considerations
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle where the muscle of the left ventricle thickens and becomes stiffer than normal. In cats, it can cause heart failure, aortic thromboembolism, and sudden death. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy can be detected by cardiac ultrasound (echocardiography) between 1 and 7 years of age in Maine Coon cats.
A mutation in the gene that codes for cardiac myosin binding protein C has been shown to cause hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in certain genetic lines of the Maine Coon cat population. Approximately one third of Maine Coon cats tested for the mutation have tested positive, although this population sampling is most likely biased. It appears that another mutation responsible for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is also present in the breed. Responsible Maine Coon cat breeders, in an effort to reduce the occurrence of HCM, now screen their animals both for the disease long-term (via echocardiography) and for the mutation and make this information available to potential pet buyers.
Until 1988, taurine deficiency was a common cause of dilated cardiomyopathy in all cats, including Maine Coons. Since the pet food industry started adding more taurine to cat food in the late 1980s, this kind of cardiomyopathy is rare. Taurine-related cardiomyopathy can be cured with the addition of the nutrient to the diet, but genetic hypertrophic cardiomyopathy causes a permanent thickening of the left ventricle and is not curable.
Other potential health problems include hip dysplasia and polycystic kidney disease. Gum disease is also more common in Maine Coons than in other breeds. However, Coons are very hardy, healthy, and resilient animals who can live to be over 20 years old.
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