Breeds

Are Maine Coon Cats Hypoallergenic?

If you'd like a Maine Coon but aren't sure if your allergies can take it, learn how to keep shedding as low as possible.

MJ Shaffer writer with Dog

Last Updated: July 20, 2022 | 8 min read

Woman sneezes in her handkerchief, runny nose while holding a cat Maine Coon

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The Maine Coon Cat

As his name suggests, the Maine Coon is Maine’s official state cat. The breed is considered America’s first indigenous cat, highly regarded for its mousing abilities. Legends abound about their origins, but there are a few we can put to rest. The Maine Coon’s size, tufted ears, and snowshoe paws encouraged the notion that the cats first brought to the New World by early settlers interbred with wild Bobcats to create the Maine Coon. Modern genetics shows us that this isn’t genetically possible, as the cross would be unlikely and any offspring sterile like the mule, a hybrid between mare and donkey.

Even more farfetched was the theory that the Maine Coon sprang from a cross of the domestic cat with wild raccoons in the area. While Maine Coons sometimes vocalize with a trill that sounds like a baby raccoon, and brown tabby Maine Coons may have resembled actual raccoons with their imposing body and ample tail, this cross is impossible. Cats and raccoons aren’t even in the same family.

The legends about the origin of the Maine Coon don’t all involve wildlife. One suggests that a scheme to shuttle Marie Antoinette to Maine for safety during the French Revolution went awry, and although she was captured, her cats were already on board the escape ship and made the trip without her and were part of the new breed. Other legends suggest Viking origin, but the most plausible is that long-haired cats came in with traders and travelers from overseas and interbred with the short-haired cats. The latter were already surviving with their families in Maine’s challenging climate. Survival of the fittest brought us this gentle giant. If you don’t require a hypoallergenic companion, you may enjoy owning a piece of American history in the form of a Maine Coon.

Maine Coon Appearance

A maine coon cat looking around
Their long silky coat has three recognized tabby patterns and can come in any non-pointed color.

Maine Coons may present an imposing figure when they enter the room, but they get along well with children and canine family members. While most Maine Coons weigh under fifteen pounds, individual males can weigh as much as twenty. Maine Coons don’t fully mature until age three or four.

Maine Coons are rugged, hardy-looking cats. Their shaggy coats protect them from Maine winters, and their tufted paws protect them and keep them from sinking in the snow despite their heft. Tufts of fur trim their large ears, and they can even curl their long, abundant tail around themselves for warmth. Their coats helped them survive and thrive where other cats may have suffered.

How Much Do Maine Coon Cats Shed?

Maine Coons have hair that is long but isn’t as dense as some other long-haired breeds. Silky and with an oily texture, their coats need much less grooming than breeds like the Persian. His hair is shorter on his body than on his stomach and britches. They shed this coat seasonally but lose some hairs year-round. How heavily they shed as the seasons change depends on several factors.

Because Maine Coons are large cats with long hair, they will leave more hair behind than smaller cats even though they shed their double coat no more than most cats. Because hair and dander are the most typical allergens, Maine Coons are not hypoallergenic cats. There are ways to mitigate and manage even heavy seasonal shedding.

Health Factors That Affect Shedding

Professional groomer brushing Maine Coon cat hair
Several health problems can make a cat shed unnaturally.

Consider external parasites first if you notice bald spots or red, irritated skin patches. If pests are not the problem, consult your veterinarian to check on the following.

External Parasites

If you see evidence of fleas on your cat, this may be causing his skin irritation, especially if he is allergic to them. Eliminate fleas, and you may solve his itchiness. If you see no fleas, but your cat is chewing on and scratching his skin, he could be allergic to microscopic mites you can’t see. Your vet can perform a skin scrape to check and eliminate the possibility of external parasites.

Allergies

Just like people can be allergic to cat hair, dander, and saliva, cats can have itchy, irritated skin that loses hair abnormally because of allergies. Food allergies are the third most common cause of allergies in cats, just behind flea bites and inhaled substances. Food allergies cause small, pale, fluid-filled lumps on your cat’s skin, and these cause him to scratch, further irritating sensitive skin. If you notice these around your cat’s head and neck, they’re probably from a food allergy.

If you suspect a food allergy, the next step is determining the ingredient(s) that bother him. Talk to your veterinarian about an elimination diet with a novel source of protein and carbohydrates. If your cat’s symptoms improve after ten weeks on this diet, you know food allergies are the problem. You may reintroduce each protein and carbohydrate one at a time to discern what triggers your cat’s hair loss. When you give him the one to which he’s sensitive, symptoms will come back in about a week.

Bacterial And Fungal Infection

Cats can develop bacterial infections from bites or irritation from allergic scratching. Cat bites or other injuries may abscess under the skin, and subsequent scratching opens the skin to secondary bacterial infection. Broken skin is also susceptible to fungal infection. Ringworm is one common skin fungus that’s easy to recognize (circular patches of hair loss with itchy, scaly skin). When your vet performs a skin scrape, they’ll be able to determine the cause of the hair loss and treat it accordingly with antibacterial or antifungal medication.

Other Factors That Affect Shedding

Season

Cats shed more as the calendar moves through Spring and Fall. Your Maine Coon sheds his summer coat, grows a thicker winter coat as the days get shorter and cooler, and sheds his winter coats for a lighter summer coat as the days get longer and warmer. Cats that spend more time outdoors in the elements will do most of their shedding during these two times of the year. A cat that stays indoors only will shed year-round.

Environment

If your cat lives outdoors, his shedding will be more pronounced as his body reacts to the environmental changes around him. Indoor cats experience less temperature and daylight fluctuation than cats who live outdoors and experience more natural changes, so they shed more steadily. A stable temperature can lessen shedding, but it won’t stop it altogether. Extending the day through artificial lighting can trigger early shedding or keep animals from putting on a heavy winter coat.

Nutrition

Healthy skin sheds appropriately, but unhealthy skin sheds hair and skin cells more than they should. Your cat could have bald patches and dry, scaly skin from nutritional deficiencies. If he has a thin hair coat, slow hair regrowth, scaly spots, and faded color, you might need to check what you’re feeding him. Be sure your food conforms to AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) standards for nutritional adequacy. It will need enough protein, fat, essential fatty acids, and minerals to meet your cat’s needs.

Genetics

Certain breeds of cats have alopecia (hair loss) because it is a genetic trait. An example would be thinning hair on the rear flaps of certain breeds’ ears and the preauricular region (the top of the cat’s head in front of his ears) of aging cats of all breeds. While Maine Coons are a relaxed, even-tempered breed, some individuals may develop psychogenic alopecia or hair loss from stress. If nothing else explains your Maine Coon’s hair loss and you’ve had a recent significant change, that could be the cause.

How Do I Groom My Maine Coon?

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A Maine Coon must be de-matted several times weekly to minimize shedding. Daily grooming is best, but the goal is to ensure that tangles don’t form in your Maine Coon’s fur. The knots can pull his skin and make it very tender, and removing tangles can become particularly painful. Check his armpits and on the backs of his hind legs daily to make sure no mats are starting.

A Maine Coon can be bathed as needed. Maine Coons generally like water more than many other breeds. Gently introduce your new kitten to the idea of a bath, so it’s pleasant for all when he’s grown. When adopting a mature Maine Coon, you may need to exercise patience as you introduce him to the water. De-mat and brush out his coat before using a gentle shampoo, conditioner, and grooming spritz after his bath. Bathing is an excellent way to remove dead hair and dander that can trigger allergies.

A Maine Coon might tire of grooming sessions longer than 20 to 30 minutes. Maine Coons are friendly and even-tempered, but even the most relaxed cat can run out of patience when asked to be still for long periods. Quickly inspect your cat’s skin for cuts, rashes, or other lumps and bumps. If you find a knot, work it loose with your fingers first. After you’ve loosened it, gently comb through it with a metal comb or pin brush small enough to maneuver tight areas like his armpits.

A Maine Coon loves attention, so that grooming sessions can be a great bonding time. Be efficient when you de-mat and brush loose hairs from your Maine Coon. Be gentle when removing knots, and always brush in the direction his hair grows.

Managing Shedding

In addition to keeping your Maine Coon in optimal health and grooming his coat regularly, there are a few other ways to reduce the allergen load in your home. Vacuuming and air purification can help reduce the hair and dander on surfaces and in the air in your home.

Vacuuming

While vacuuming is nothing fun, it is one more tool in the arsenal against pet hair. If your air purifier eliminates the airborne particulates that trigger your allergies, a mechanical vacuum can take care of anything that lands on surfaces in your home or car. The best vacuum is lightweight, so you’ll use it frequently and versatile enough to tackle multiple surfaces in your home and elsewhere.

While it is a traditional handheld stick vacuum, the Bissell Featherweight Cordless XRT also includes specialized pet tools. It converts to a handheld vacuum with a crevice tool and upholstery brush to get pet hair wherever it settles. This lightweight vacuum handles hard surfaces and area rugs but may not have the power for a home with wall-to-wall carpets. Carpet is a significant factor in how much hair and dander stay trapped in a room. You may consider the more powerful Bissell ICONPet Edge for fully carpeted homes.

Air Purification

You can minimize how much your Maine Coon sheds with good nutrition and frequent grooming, but you can’t stop him from shedding. Adding air purification to your home has benefits beyond tackling cat hair, but it’s one more way to reduce the amount of hair in your home and the allergens in the air. The most significant allergen cats introduce is Fel d 1, which can spread via dander, the dead skin cells constantly sloughing and falling along with shed hairs.

Cat dander is roughly five to ten microns, although it can be smaller. An air purifier that effectively eliminates airborne particulates smaller than this can significantly reduce the amount of pet dander available to trigger allergic symptoms. The Filtrete Air PurifierFAP-C03BA-G2 claims to capture 99.97% of airborne particles (as small as 0.3 microns), including dust, lint, dust mite debris, and mold spores, pollen, pet dander, smoke, smog, bacteria, viruses, exhaust particles, and ultrafine particles.

Final Thoughts

Maine Coons shed, and they are not hypoallergenic. Their long, silky coats shed more than many cat breeds. With attention to his health and nutrition and regular grooming, you can minimize how much hair and dander stay in your house. If you absolutely can’t be around cat hair or dander, a Maine Coon may not work for your situation.

If your heart is set on a Maine Coon, and you can manage his shedding, remember he’s one of the largest cats. He’s literally a whole lot of love. Robust and healthy, this friendly feline will keep you entertained with his antics, warm your lap with his luxuriant coat, and even keep the mice at bay.

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