Maine Coon Cat: Cat Breed Information, Characteristics and Facts
History of the Maine Coon Cat
Main Coon cats are an absolute vision and are the largest in size of all domestic cats. In fact, one infamous Maine Coon reached a whopping 4 feet in length and some large males can weigh over 18 pounds. That’s pretty paw-some, don’t you think? True to their name, the ‘Maine’ Coon originally hails from Maine, New England, and it is believed that they were ship-cats at the beginning of the 19th century. This probably had something to do with them being keen mousers and they would often be used on farms to curb any potential mice infestations.
The Maine Coon is an intriguing cat and there are many fascinating myths about how these larger than life cats came to be. Some believe that they are a product of an encounter between a racoon and a domestic cat, while others believe that the first Maine Coon was sent to the US by Queen Marie Antoinette herself while she plotted her escape during the French revolution. The most realistic theory however is that they were introduced by sailors who kept them on their ships as a form of pest control. If there is a mouse in the house (or ship), then a Maine Coon is certainly the animal for the job. In fact, the name ‘Coon’ is rumoured to have come from a British sailor named Charles Coon who sailed to New England. Is it said that the cats on-board were affectionately known as ‘Coon’s cats.’
Whatever historical tale you choose to believe, there is no doubt that Maine Coons are one of the most loved and celebrated domestic cats in the US and beyond. With their affectionate nature, gorgeous coats, loyal character, and chirpy purr’s they are an absolute delight. In fact, some people have even compared them to dogs because of their amazing companion-like qualities. These animals will bring great love and joy into anyone’s life and if you are able to financially care for them and invest enough time and energy into their wellbeing, they might just make the perfect pet for you. So let’s take a look at their history, some fun facts, and their basic health, care, and grooming needs.
Quick Facts About the Maine Coon Cat
Before we look into the characteristics, physical attributes, and health and grooming needs of these gorgeous creatures, let’s take a look at a number of fun facts about them.
- These gorgeous cats are known for their beautiful coats. They are often dubbed as ‘American Longhair’ cats and their amazing coats can sometimes be 40 cm’s in length. What’s more is that these gorgeous coats come in an array of over 70 different color combinations. Because of their long hair, they have very specific grooming needs and Maine Coon owners need to take this seriously to ensure their coats are kept in pristine condition.
- They make a different sound to normal domestic cats. While normal domestic cats will usually purr when happy and meow when they want to vocalize, the Main Coon makes a strange noise which can be considered to be a hybrid of the two, known as a ‘trill’. They will usually make this sound when they are excited, if they spot pray, or to express their content.
- Maine Coon’s love water! While most domestic cats hate being near water (unless they are drinking it from the faucet), Main Coon cats are actually keen swimmers and they even have water-resistant coats. Considering that they were once ship cats, this theory makes sense. Sailors after all, shouldn’t be adverse to some water!
- They might be cats, but they are often compared to dogs. While there is no mistake that Main Coons are part of the cat family, people often compare their affection and friendly nature to that of dogs. They usually get along well with all members of the family, including other pets and some Main Coons have even been known to go on walks, or play a game of fetch.
- They have really big paws and these are perfect for trekking through snow and navigating other tricky terrains.
Things You Should Know
Before opting for a pure breed pet, it’s important to thoroughly research the breed and decide whether they will fit into your life easily and whether you can care for all their health, lifestyle, and grooming needs. Like many pure-breeds, the Maine Coon needs some particular attention and care.
Maine Coon cats usually live for about 9-15 years. They are large in size (up to 18 pounds for males) and are characterized by their heavy bones and muscular appearance. Like many purebred animals they are prone to certain health conditions. Some of the pertinent conditions that can affect them include:
- Hip dysplasia
This is usually seen in large dogs, however since Main Coons are large in size, they can also be affected by this condition. Hip dysplasia is a skeletal condition can lead to arthritis and the deterioration of the hip joint over an extended period of time. Obesity can make the condition worse and thus your Main Coon needs to eat a controlled and highly nutritional diet to ensure optimum health.
- Polycystic kidney disease
Main Coons are also prone to this kidney disorder that can lead to deterioration of the kidneys and ultimately they can go into renal failure.
- Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
This condition is very serious and can be life threatening. It usually affects middle age to older cats. Thanks to science, they have been able to identify the gene that causes this condition. However, not every cat who has this gene will develop it in their lifetime.
- Spinal Muscular Atrophy
This condition is usually picked up when the Main Coon is a few months old. It is not life threatening but it can impact the development of muscles by making them weaker.
It’s imperative that you feed your Main Coon a vet-approved diet that will take care of all their nutritional needs. Since they are predisposed to certain disorders that might affect their kidneys, and are potentially susceptible to diabetes in later life, you will want to keep their weight in check and ensure that they are eating a diet that promotes optimal health and wellbeing.
Opt rather for a vet-approved diet, and also chat to your vet about some home-cooked options that can enhance their health and wellbeing. Good nutritional components to look for include essential fatty acids to enhance skin and coat health. Since Main Coons have such long and luscious hair, this is important. You will also want to opt for fatty acids, such as Omega 6 and Omega 3 that support joint health, since they can be affected by joint issues later in life.
You will also need to think about dry food vs wet food. If you opt for a dry kibble, choose a brand that is grain-free and not filled with preservatives. Dry food can support their dental health as it can also scrape away plaque and exercise their jaw muscles. However, wet foods are often tastier and can have a lot of added nutrition. Consult your vet about a mix and remember to keep things interesting. You want to give your beloved pet an exciting variety of flavors and textures to keep mealtime exciting. It is also super important that they always have lots of clean, fresh water around.
NB: Avoid ingredients like gluten, grain-based foods that often contain artificial flavors and colorants, and larger fish, which might contain harmful chemicals like mercury.
Main Coon cats need specific care. While grooming is one of the essential components of being a great owner, and especially a fabulous Main Coon owner, we’ll discuss this in greater detail below. Some other important forms of care include:
- Brushing their teeth
This will prevent the build up of plaque and the possibility of your Main Coon developing periodontal disease. Teeth problems can result in more serious health problems and infection can even get into the blood stream. It is thus important to clean your cat’s teeth every few days. You might also need to schedule in a specialized dental clean with their vet if needed.
- Trimming their nails
Keep their nails trimmed and do this every few weeks to ensure that they don’t get too long and hinder the way that they walk. If you are worried about trimming them yourself, take your Main Coon to a professional groomer who can do it properly without causing them any harm or discomfort.
- Cleaning Ears
You should also check their ears every week or so to ensure that they are clean, free of ear mites, and not harboring any unpleasant infections. Use a cotton wool ball, mixed with some Luke warm water to clear their ears, or purchase a specialized cat-friendly ear cleaning solution from your local vet. Always opt for a cotton ball over a ear bud as you don’t want to hurt their ears and damage their sensitive ear canals.
- Wiping their eyes
Wipe their eyes with a cotton wool wipe and some Luke warm water if they are weeping, or excreting discharge. Use a new, clean wipe for each eye in case of an infection. If there seems to be an infection consult your vet, as they might need eye drops.
- Cleaning their litter-tray regularly
This is a care tip for all cat owners. It is imperative to keep their litter box super clean and pristine at all times. Cats can be fussy about their bathroom and hygiene in general and if you want them to be happy and comfortable you will have to make sure their litter tray is squeaky clean at all times and filled with sand, or crystals that they enjoy. You might also want to put their litter tray in a private place to give them more privacy and enhance their overall comfort and wellbeing.
- Ensure they get lots of playtime and exercise
Main Coons should also be given enough time and space to exercise. If you live in a small apartment, or a home without an outside area, you might opt to take them on a daily walk to ensure that they are getting enough exercise. This is important to ensure that they don’t put on any excess weight (which can lead to health problems such as diabetes and joint disorders later in life) and to ensure that their bodies develop healthily. Playtime is also essential for their health and development and will keep them happy. Get them some toys and keep some scratch posts around your home for them so that they can always be entertained.
Main Coons are known primarily for their huge size, and their absolutely gorgeous coats. Some cats will have hair that grows as long as 40 cm’s and thus it is imperative that their coats are properly looked after and groomed regularly. While some owners choose to groom them all on their own, others opt for a professional grooming service when it comes to cutting them and washing them. Whether you groom them yourself, or visit a professional, it is important that you keep brushing them between grooming sessions.
Brushing your Main Coon is super important to ensure that their coats remain glossy and smooth all year round. Since their hair is so long, it’s easy for it to become matted and knotted quickly and this can hurt you cat and pull on their skin. In severe cases of neglect, groomers might have to shave off all the animal’s hair and this can impact them in the cold winter months, since their coats are primarily there to keep them cosy and warm.
However, since they have such heavy fur, they might struggle in the summer months and if you live in an area that is prone to high temperatures, you might want to visit your local groomer to give them a summer cut.
It’s also important to bathe your Main Coon and this should be done roughly once a month. This will ensure that their coats are kept clean and will help to control any shedding of hair. Again, if you are worried about doing this alone, consult a local groomer who can help you out and show you all the tricks. A local groomer can also demonstrate the best way to brush them and to remove any knots if needed. Make brushing your cat a treasured activity and snuggle up to them on the couch while you watch your favorite movie and give them a lovely hair brush. If they are enjoying the love and attention (which we are sure they will!) they might make their famous trill sound to showcase their delight.
As noted earlier, Maine Coons are often thought of as more dog like than cat like, and this speaks to their amazingly affectionate personalities. They are perfect companion animals that will get along well with children, family members, and other pets. They are loving and loyal and will be an all-round fabulous family pet. Some people even opt to take their Main Coon’s on walks, or play games with them like fetch. They adore attention and love and as long as everyone in the family is gentle and loving towards them, they will make a brilliant family pet. Since they love people, they are the perfect companion for those cold winter evenings and are bound to keep you toasty and warm when they snuggle up next to you.
Main Coons make absolutely delightful pets and will fill your life with an abundance of love, laughter, happiness, and fun. However, they need to be cared for brilliantly to ensure that their unique health and wellness needs are met. Feeding them the correct diet and taking care of all their health and grooming needs will go a long way in ensuring that they maintain optimum health. Pet owners should also take their animals for yearly check-ups at their local vet and should always consult their vet if their animal is showcasing any abnormal symptoms. Since Main Coons have such an impressive coat, their grooming needs are of the upmost importance and should be taken seriously. While caring for them might take time and energy, and certainly a chunk of your budget, they will bring a lot of joy to your life and make for a wonderful family pet.