The Maine Coon is a fascinating cat. Many myths and legends surround this intriguing feline. A large, wild-looking kitty, the Maine Coon has a big personality. They are extremely popular house cats, regularly residing at the top of the favorite breed lists. Like the Persians, these long-haired beauties captivate people’s hearts.
These bushy felines have long lived alongside humans. From long ago days as mousers on ships to winning championship cat show titles, Maine Coons are a feline breed that we humans have admired and raised for generations. These big cats are the state cat of Maine and are native to New England.
These gentle giants make wonderful house cats and are fluffy, intelligent, and clever. New owners may be full of questions about this breed, everything from expected lifespan and grooming needs to what to feed them. This guide has all the information you need to get to know the Maine Coon.
Myths & Stories
Cat lovers everywhere have heard many tales of the origin of the Maine Coon. Some folklore versions trace these shaggy, sturdy kitties back to the Vikings. There is another tale that connects this giant breed to Marie Antoinette. The story says that the queen had ships laden with her belongings and her favorite felines in an attempt to escape her sad fate. Though the queen herself never made the voyage, it is said the cats did and found their way to Maine, the ancestors of today’s Maine Coon cat. This breed has many similarities to the Norwegian Forest Cat.
Some say the cats were companions for seafaring explorers. Legend says the name Coon comes from a ship’s captain who brought the breed to North America.
Yet another more far-fetched and wildly popular tale implies that this feline is a unique mix of wild raccoons and domestic house cats. This is due to the ringed appearance of this feline’s bushy tail. As intriguing as a crossbreed might be, that theory is completely impossible. Raccoons and cats are two completely different species and would never be able to meet or reproduce.
True History Of Maine Coons
The truth of the Maine Coon’s origin is that many different feline breeds made their way to the Americas from Europe. These cats were bred through natural selection, eventually developing into tough, rugged, heavy-coated cats that could survive the harsh New England winters. The breed is named after Maine and is native to New England.
In the history books, the earliest references to these cats dates to 1861. In 1895 a Maine Coon cat won the first-ever American Cat Show held at Madison Square Garden. They became popular exhibits at shows and were one of the earliest breeds registered in the cat fancier’s association when it formed in 1908. The breed lost some popularity when more exotic-looking breeds like the Siamese and Persian made their way to the US in the 1950s. Today, they are listed as the Cat Fanciers Association’s (CFA) second most popular domestic feline breed.
These big cats have several nicknames, commonly called the “gentle giant.” Maine Coon cats with shaggy tails can sometimes be called Maine Shags, or “shags.” The big kitties are also called “feline greeters of the world” due to their habit of patiently sitting by the door, ready to greet whoever walks in. They have also been called “dog of the cat world” due to their willingness to be trained, playful nature, and intelligence. They are the only longhaired feline breed thought to be native to the United States.
Personality & Temperament
Maine Coon cats are well-natured, friendly felines who can adapt to almost any situation. These big kitties are more than happy to just be around their humans. This feline does not mind dogs and adapts well even to a bustling, loud home.
The gentle giant is a feline that is typically friendly with children and has a good relationship with people of all ages. They are highly intelligent kitties who have remained remarkably effective mousers. Because of this, they love to play chase and will even play fetch. They are great climbers, but most prefer to stay closer to the ground.
These big cats retain their kitten-like mentality well into adulthood, so do not expect any calm down after kittenhood passes phase here. These big, playful sweethearts do not fully mature until they reach three or four years. Males tend to take longer to mature than females, but both love to play and take every opportunity to have some fun, long past their cute kitten days.
Despite their indisputable skill as mousers, these giant cats are not an aggressive breed. This gentle demeanor is what gives them the gentle giant nickname. This breed is very independent and can have a stubborn streak. This can make training a bit challenging. However, persistence is key. Once they get the hang of it, these cats are highly trainable. These cats are often intriguing to dog owners because of their high ability to be trained to play games.
One unique characteristic of gentle giant is that they are a very vocal feline breed. Unlike the traditional “meow” of most feline breeds, these big kitties are known to make a chirping sound. This breed of cats is also quite dexterous. They use their paws all the time to hold things, play with toys, and even dunk them deep into their water dishes. These playful kitties typically love to play and splash in the water. Their fur is water-resistant, and they even enjoy playing in a bathtub or kiddie pool full of water.
Size & Appearance
Maine Coons are called giants for a reason. They are big and full of muscle. These cats can weigh anywhere between 9 and 25 pounds. They can reach 30 to 40 inches in length. They stand 10 to 16 inches tall. These big felines will not reach their full size or development until they are at least three years old, and some will grow up until they are five years old. This is the largest known domestic cat breed. Visit our Maine Coon size chart article to learn more.
Maine Coon cats have large, square heads. Their eyes are large, wide-set, and full of expression. Usually, this breed has green, copper, or gold eyes. Heterochromia often happens in this breed, having one blue eye and one other colored eye. They have wide, large, pointed ears. Tufted ears are another unique feature and a ruff of fur around their necks. This feature gives these gentle giants that wild look.
These cats have round paws and muscular legs. They also have tufts of fur on their legs and feet, nature’s way of keeping them warm and dry in cold, wet places. They have very long tails. An average cat’s tail is about 11 inches. A Maine Coon’s tail is, on average, 12 to 17 inches long. These extra-long tails are usually covered in thick, bushy hair.
Coat & Colors
Despite their shaggy appearance, their fur is soft and smooth. Hair is shorter on their heads and shoulder areas, then gets gradually longer on their stomachs and bodies. Tails are covered in long, glossy fur. Like a lion, many will have a thicker ruff of fur around their necks. They have a double undercoat and an outer coat.
The undercoat is thicker, with the outer coat smoother and shinier. Despite having so much hair, these cats rarely get mats. They are soft and fluffy to the touch, though colors can be coarser than others. These cats shed regularly and are not hypoallergenic. They do not shed as much as one might think. It is common for these cats to have markings along the tail.
The gentle giant’s luxurious coat can come in many colors due to generations of crossbreeding. They can be solid or multicolored as well as patterned.
- Colors: Brown, Black, White, Cream, Blue, Red, Silver, Golden Tortoiseshell, Bluecream, Grey, and many shades in between.
- Pattern: Solid, Bicolor, Tricolor, Calico, Tabby, Tortoiseshell, Shaded, Smoke
Caring for a gentle giant is a big commitment, which is true for raising any feline. They need attention every day, despite being independent kitties. Because of this breed’s generous size, they can get into a lot. These big guys love to play and get rambunctious if they do not have an outlet for their energy.
The gentle giant is big and can easily knock things over. Living with this breed means things might get messy. It is good to keep surfaces clear of things that can break or that may harm your cat. These cats are vocal and will also head bat their owners. Head-batting is common and not a sign of aggression. It is their way of showing affection.
Maine Coons like to play, and they love water. They will play around in it and can even climb willingly into full bathtubs and sinks. These big lovable cats need owners who do not mind them making a mess and have the time and room to let them play.
Because this breed has long hair, owners need to keep their litter boxes clean all the time. This is critical to the cat’s hygiene and the home’s cleanliness. Daily litter box cleaning is needed. There are several options for automatic litter boxes that are good for cats like the longhaired gentle giant.
A high-quality, well-balanced diet is essential to a feline’s lifelong health. The feline greeters of the world are a breed that tends to become overweight. They love to eat, and owners need to be ready to control the amount of food they get into carefully. Free feeding is not recommended. These cats should eat three or four small meals every day. Cat treats can be given occasionally.
Maine Coons need a diet that includes animal proteins. Felines are obligate carnivores and need to eat meat to stay healthy. They need protein, a few carbohydrates, fat, amino acids, and different vitamins and minerals. Owners need to avoid foods that use a lot of meat substitutes, as these will not provide your feline with the correct amount of healthy animal proteins.
Some owners may choose to feed their cats a raw diet. Should you want to feed your cat a raw diet, it is essential to consult with your veterinarian before doing so. Without being fed the proper nutrients and vitamins, a giant breed like these can quickly develop health problems.
Cooked chicken can be a nice treat for your gentle giant. Do not feed him chicken cooked with onion or garlic. These are toxic ingredients to felines and can be fatal in large doses. The gentle giant can also eat fish like salmon, tuna, and many different fruits and vegetables.
Age & Other Factors
Outdoor cats may need higher calorie diets than indoor cats. Age also plays a role in size, activity level, and overall health. Always consult with your veterinarian to ensure the food you are feeding your kitty meets all his dietary needs. Keep in mind that these needs will change as he ages. You can discuss any kind of supplements or additives to his diet, and it is wise to do so before introducing anything new into his nutritional balance.
This big breed is full of energy and needs to be able to have physical activity every day. They will sleep for several hours and have short bursts of energy throughout the day. Try to get at least two or three 20-minute play sessions every day. You can also take the gentle giant out for walks on leashes. They love to go on walks and can easily be trained to wear a harness. These guys love to escape, so keep a watchful eye on them when outside. Try not to let them off-leash anywhere but your own backyard.
Despite the amount of hair they have, they do not shed as much as one might think. These cats are incredibly skilled at maintaining the cleanliness of their coats through self-grooming. With an owner’s help, the shedding is quite manageable.
These longhaired kitties will have two times a year in which he will shed more. These times will coincide with the significant shifts in temperature from spring into summer and from fall into winter. Keeping a home at a moderately cool temperature can decrease the amount of shedding, as warmer temperatures cause cats to shed more.
Keeping up with your kitty’s regular grooming and brushing helps keep his shedding manageable. Anyone who brings one into their home can expect that there will be shedding. Investing in a high-quality vacuum is always a good idea for feline owners, especially for this breed of kitty. Lint rollers and furniture covers are also tools that can help keep the spread of cat hair from furniture to clothes manageable. Again, all cats shed, and Maine Coons are some of the hairiest cats around.
Maine Coon cats should be brushed two to three times a week. While they are fantastic self-groomers, they will need help. Grooming a kitty regularly can make a lifelong difference in the health of his coat. Weekly brushing can keep your cat’s coat free of dead skin, excess hair, and bugs like fleas or ticks and help prevent mats and tangles.
When brushing a kitty, it is crucial to take the time to work the brush or comb through the fur. Be very gentle, and never pull on or yank a mat or tangle out. Their skin is very sensitive. Always take the time to work through a mat carefully. Slicker brushes, combs, de-shedding tools, and feline detanglers can be extremely helpful in keeping a feline’s coat in tip-top shape.
Consistency is key when it comes to grooming this feline. Because of their long hair, these kitties can easily pick up debris and bugs. These can cause skin irritation, as well as infection and other discomforts. Even indoor cats, without proper grooming, can have their coats turn into a real messy situation. If necessary, their coats can be clipped to a more manageable length.
Part of grooming your cat is regular dental care and nail clipping. These are two often overlooked areas. Dental health, in particular, is quite important, and older cats can run into serious dental disease if their teeth are never cared for.
When fed the proper nutrition and given regular veterinary care, these sweet kitties can live long, healthy lives. There are a few health conditions that the Maine Coon cat breed is prone to. We recommend researching pet insurance for your Maine Coon cat to help offset expensive medical bills. One harmless genetic trait that can happen with this breed is polydactylism, which is the growth of an extra toe. Not all of these kitties will have an extra toe. However, if yours does have an extra digit, know that no health concern comes with this trait.
- Hip dysplasia can be painful and can cause lameness if not treated. This deformation of the hip joint is genetic, often found in large purebreds.
- Spinal muscular atrophy is a rare genetic disorder affecting the Maine Coon. It involves the spinal cord, causing muscle weakness.
- Polycystic kidney disease is genetic. It is a condition that affects the kidneys. This disease can cause immense discomfort and requires long-term treatment. There is no cure.
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the most diagnosed cardiac disease in felines. It is believed to be genetic in some breeds.
- Feline asthma is also a condition that can affect many felines, though this is not always thought to be genetic. Asthma is not curable. It needs to be managed.
- Kitties, just like humans, can suffer from allergies. These allergies can be food, fragrances, plants, and other environmental factors.
These big guys can live a long time, with an average lifespan of 12 to 15 years. Keep in mind that this is a guideline and reference point, not a prediction of how long every kitty will live. Many factors, including nutrition, health, genetics, care, and more, determine how long a feline’s lifespan will be. It is common for this breed to live 12 to 15 years, and it is not unusual for them to live longer. The oldest living Maine Coon on record was named Rubble and lived to the ripe old age of 31.
Because the Maine Coon is such a common and popular breed of a housecat, there are many mixes out there. A mixed breed will have some of the traits of their parent breeds. These mixes can be unpredictable and, in some cases, can behave and look exactly like one parent breed comma or be a mixture of the two. Looking for specific characteristics like the long tail, generous size, heavy coats, coloring, patterns, fluffy tails, and tufted ears and feet indicates that a kitty may be a Maine Coon mix. Unless you know the parent breeds or can spring for expensive genetic testing, it may be impossible to tell for sure.
The price of a Maine Coon can vary. Depending on age, bloodline, and health, they can range from $400 to over $1,500. Some very high-pedigree purebreds can cost over $2,500. Kitties intended for breeding purposes will be much more expensive than those meant to be show cats. Family pets can be found for $1,000 or less. Time of year, location, and other factors will impact the price. On average, $1,500 is about what one should expect to pay for purebred kittens.
Along with the initial cost of the kitten, owners will need to stock up on supplies. Some will be more significant investments than others, like a house or crate. Cats will also need beds, blankets, food and water bowls, toys, treats, and collars. Some kitties will use harnesses or leashes as well. Regular veterinary care and vaccinations will add to the cost, especially during the first year. Many municipalities will require the registration and licensing of cats, which will also cost anywhere from $25 to $100 per year.
These big, shaggy kitties may pop up in shelters and rescue groups all over the country. Because they are such a popular and common breed, finding them in these places is not unusual. Many dedicated rescue groups are out there looking to help and rehome kitties in need. Kitties adopted from shelters or rescue groups often cost far less than those purchased from breeders. Rescues or shelters are an excellent place to start for people looking to adopt a gentle giant that does not mind older animals. Always consult with your veterinarian about reputable breeders and shelters in your local area.
As Family Pets
Gentle giants make lovely family pets. Because of their larger size, they need a family with a lot of room and a lot of tolerance for their clumsy ways. These felines love humans, get along very well with children, and have no problems living in homes with other pets and dogs. They are highly intelligent and love to play, making them great for homes with kids. While these kitties are affectionate and love attention, they are not known to be clingy.
Because of their gentle temperament, this breed has earned the nickname of the gentle giant. This is a true reflection of their temperament. This gentleness and their high intelligence make them exceedingly popular family pets. However, these kitties have a lot of hair and will need regular grooming, which is a time commitment. Additionally, they are not a smart choice for people looking for a hypoallergenic or Low shedding breed. Always discuss bringing a new pet into your home with your family members and your veterinarian if you have existing pets. There are many questions to ask, and the gentle giant requires an attentive owner and tuned in to his needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Maine Coon Cats Aggressive?
Typically, these gentle giants are not an aggressive breed. Though they are highly skilled as hunters and mousers, they are not known to be aggressive towards other animals or humans. They are a breed that is well known for getting along with people, dogs, and other household pets. These kitties can sometimes ask for attention by head batting, which may be misinterpreted as aggression.
Can Maine Coon Cats Go Outside?
Maine Coons can absolutely go outside. These felines are quite versatile and were bred to be hunters. They love to explore the outdoors and will find many things to keep them occupied. Some live on farms and ranches and serve as barn kitties. It is perfectly fine to allow your gentle giant to go outside. Just make sure to clean him off and make sure he does not bring in any treats or surprises from outside.
Do Maine Coon Cats Shed A Lot?
Yes, these large kitties do shed. They have a lot of hair, more than many other breeds, and therefore will shed more hair. However, they do not shed at a higher volume or frequency than other breeds. These breeds will experience a very large shed about two times a year. They will need regular grooming and upkeep to manage to shed.
Are Maine Coon Cats Hypoallergenic?
No, Maine Coon cats are not hypoallergenic. People who are allergic to cats are not allergic to feline hair. They are allergic to dander and saliva. Kitties that have long hair can spread more of these allergens. These big kitties are not a desirable choice for anyone suffering from feline allergies.
The Maine Coon is a large, lovable, popular feline breed that adores people. Though their exact origin may be murky, these big kitties have long been treasured as human companions. Native to New England, they are longhaired felines full of personality. This breed of kitty is extremely popular among cat-lovers due to their wild-looking appearance, generous size, and gentle nature. Earning the nickname of the gentle giant, these big guys want nothing more than an owner to play with and a lovely place to curl up.
A gentle giant like this feline breed can be an excellent choice for a family pet. Taking care of one of these exquisite creatures is both a privilege and a great responsibility. Remember, it is essential to ensure a kitty is getting proper nutrition, care, and medical attention. Our guide has provided guidelines and information to help feline lovers get to know this fascinating breed of kitty known as the Maine Coon, the gentle giant, and the feline greeter of the world.