About Maine Coon
One of the oldest natural breeds in North America, the Maine
Coon is generally regarded as a native of the state of Maine (in fact, the Maine
Coon is the official Maine State Cat). A number of attractive legends surround
its origin. A wide-spread (though biologically impossible) belief is that it
originated from matings between semi-wild, domestic cats and raccoons. This myth,
bolstered by the bushy tail and the most common coloring (a raccoon-like brown
tabby) led to the adoption of the name 'Maine Coon.' (Originally, only brown
tabbies were called 'Maine Coon Cats;' cats of other colors were referred to as
'Maine Shags.') Another popular theory is that the Maine sprang from the six pet
cats which Marie Antoinette sent to Wiscasset, Maine when she was planning to
escape from France during the French Revolution. 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).
First recorded in cat literature in 1861 with a mention of a
black and white cat named 'Captain Jenks of the Horse Marines,' Maine Coons were
popular competitors at early cat shows in Boston and New York. A brown tabby
female named 'Cosie' won Best Cat at the 1895 Madison Square Garden Show.
Unfortunately, their popularity as show
cats declined with the arrival in 1900 of the more flamboyant Persians. Although
the Maine Coon remained a favorite cat in New England, the breed did not begin
to regain its former widespread popularity until the 1950's when more and more
cat fanciers began to take notice of them, show them, and record their pedigrees.
In 1968, six breeders formed the Maine Coon Breeders and Fanciers Association (MCBFA)
to preserve and protect the breed. Today, MCBFA membership numbers over 1000
fanciers and 200 breeders. By 1980, all registries had recognized the Maine Coon,
and it was well on its way to regaining its former glory.
Maine Coons were well established more than a century ago as
a hardy, handsome breed of domestic cat, well equipped to survive the hostile
New England winters. Nature is not soft-hearted. It selects the biggest, the
brightest, the best fighters, and the best hunters to breed successive
generations. Planned breedings of Maine Coons are relatively recent. Since
planned breeding began, Maine Coon breeders have sought to preserve the Maine
Coon's "natural," rugged qualities. The ideal Maine Coon is a strong, healthy
Interestingly, the breed closest to the Maine Coon is the
Norwegian Forest Cat which, although geographically distant, evolved in much the
same climate, and lends credence to the theory that some of the cats responsible
for developing the Maine Coon were brought over by the Vikings.
Everything about the Maine Coon points to its adaptation to a
harsh climate. Its glossy coat, heavy and water-resistant, is like that of no
other breed, and must be felt to be appreciated. It is longer on the ruff,
stomach and britches to protect against wet and snow, and shorter on the back
and neck to guard against tangling in the underbrush. The coat falls smoothly,
and is almost maintenance-free: a weekly combing is all that is usually required
to keep it in top condition. The long, bushy tail which the cat wraps around
himself when he curls up to sleep can protect him from cold winters. His ears
are more heavily furred (both inside and on the tips) than many breeds for
protection from the cold, and have a large range of movement. Big, round, tufted
feet serve as 'snow shoes.' Their large eyes and ears are also survival traits,
serving as they do increase sight and hearing. The relatively long, square
muzzle facilitates grasping prey and lapping water from streams and puddles.
Although the Yankee myth of 30-pound cats is just that, a
myth (unless the cat is grossly overweight!), these are indeed tall, muscular,
big-boned cats; males commonly reach 13 to 18 pounds, with females normally
weighing about 9 to 12 pounds. Add to that two or three inches of winter coat,
and people will swear that they're looking at one big cat.
Maine Coons develop slowly, and don't achieve their full size
until they are three to five years old. Their dispositions remain kittenish
throughout their lives; they are big, gentle, good-natured goofs. Even their
voices set them apart from other cats; they have a distinctive, chirping trill
which they use for everything from courting to cajoling their people into
playing with them. (Maine Coons love to play, and many will joyfully retrieve
small items.) They rarely meow, and when they do, that soft, tiny voice doesn't
fit their size!
Color: The classic Maine Coon is
a brown tabby or brown tabby with white, but the breed is available in virtually
every hue, with the exception of chocolate and lavender colors, or pointed or
ticked tabby patterns. Their eyes are golden to green, though white Maine Coons
can be blue or odd-eyed.
Grooming: That long coat is deceptively easy to
care for. A good combing twice a week eliminates matting and reduces shedding
and hairballs. Most will endure and many actually enjoy an occasional bath when
introduced to the ritual as a kitten.
Best Home: Maine Coons take it
all in stride. They do well in both active and quiet households