Maine Coon, The Definitive Guide
I have always loved Maine Coons since I first met one when I was a little girl. Their size and beautiful, lynx-like appearance drew me to the breed, but I quickly learned that their temperament was as amazing as their appearance.
And really, that is what all owners should be prepared for…a large cat that will draw the attention of everyone who meets him. In addition, he will become the center of your world. The breed is known for being a gentle giant and while they often bond with one person, they are an excellent family pet.
In addition, they are a marvel to see with the largest cat in the world being a Maine Coon named Stewie, who was 48.5 inches in length full grown.
With that size, beauty and grace, it is no wonder that you want to know everything you can about the affectionate Maine Coon. So, sit back and let’s dive into this amazing breed.
Majestic and Mighty: The Striking Appearance of the Maine Coon
Males and Females: 10 to 16 inches (25.40 to 40.64cm)
Males and Females: 19 to 39 inches (48.26 to 99.06cm)
Males: 13.2 to 25 pounds (5.99 to 11.34kg)
Females: 11 to 15.4 pounds (4.99 to 6.99kg)
Although most people don’t think of eye color when they are looking at animals, cats often have a range of colors that can be quite striking. The Maine Coon is no exception and owners can expect to see the following eye colors:
- Greenish Gold
There are actually a large number of colors that the Maine Coon can be found in and all of them are approved with the breed standard. Expect a number of patterns and shades when you are looking at Maine Coon kittens. The approved colors are:
- Black: Solid black with a black nose and black pads on the feet.
- White: All white with pink pads on the feet and a pink nose.
- Blue: A grayish-blue color that is seen on the pads and nose as well.
- Red: Deep rich color of red that is the same throughout the coat. The nose and paw pads are usually a brick red in color.
- Cream: Should be a buff cream with a pink nose and pads on the feet.
When we are looking at the tabby patterns, there are actually three different patterns we can see in this pattern. These are:
- Classic Tabby: We want to find clearly defined markings that include vertical lines over the back of the head to the shoulder, a butterfly wing design on the shoulders, a back line down the spine with vertical stripes running down the cat’s side from the line. There should be rings down the tail and necklaces on the neck and upper chest. In addition, the legs should have bracelets of lines going up to them and the head should have an intricate letter “M” on the forehead and unbroken lines from the outer corners of each line.
- Ticked Tabby: Following the same line patterns on the classic tabby, the ticked tabby with has a line down it’s back, known as a dorsal patch that darkens as it runs down the body that is free of any stripes, spots or blotches. It will also have ticking on the body that consists of various shades of both the ground color and marking color. Face, legs and underside will have the classic markings seen in the classic tabby with or without ticking.
- Mackerel Tabby: The mackerel tabby has similar lines as the classic tabby with the bars on the legs, the necklaces on the chest and neck, lines on the sides of the body and the classic “M” on the forehead, the lines are not usually as thick as you would see in the classic tabby. In fact, it tends to have narrow pencillings for the lines. In addition, the lines down the back of the mackerel tabby often form a narrow saddle shape instead of a line.
Now that you know the patterns, there are a wide number of tabby colors that you can see in the Maine Coon. In the majority of tabbies, a white patch around the lips and chin are acceptable for the breed standard. Colors include:
- Silver Tabby: A very popular color, the silver tabby is a very pale grey, silver color. The markings are a dark black. With the silver tabby, breeders often desire a brick-red nose and black paw pads but they can be either color.
- Silver Patched Tabby: The same coloring on the ground color and the pads/nose as the silver tabby, however, the markings will be black with batches of either red or cream.
- Red Tabby: A beautiful reddish orange to dark red cat with red markings. The red tabby will have brick red paw pads and nose.
- Brown Tabby: This is a brilliant coppery-brown with dense black markings. The nose and paw pads can be either black or brown.
- Brown Patched Tabby: Similar in color to the brown tabby, the ground color is the same coppery brown, however, the markings are black with patches of red. Brick red, brown or black is often seen on the nose and pads of this color pattern.
- Blue Tabby: The ground color of this tabby is a light, pale bluish ivory coloring with deep blue markings and a patina of fawn over the entire cat. The nose and paw pads should be rose in color.
- Blue Patched Tabby: The same coloration as the blue tabby, however, the markings will be deep blue with cream patches.
- Blue Silver Tabby: The ground color should be a clear silver that you’d see in a classic silver tabby. The markings, however, should be a dark blue/gray. Nose and paw pads should be a pale rose color.
- Blue Silver Patched Tabby: Again, the same as a blue silver, however, the markings will be dark blue with cream patches. On this tabby, the undercoat is often white and the paw pads and nose are rose or pink.
- Cream Silver Tabby: And off white color with a white undercoat for the ground color. Markings are a cream color with a pink nose and paw pads.
- Cream Tabby: A very light pale cream ground color with buff or darker cream colors. Like many other tabbies, the desired color for the nose and paw pads is pink.
- Cameo Tabby: The cameo tabby should have an off-white ground color with red markings. The nose and paw pads should be rose colored.
The bi-colored Maine Coon is a cat with a solid color and white. The white can be on the face; however, it is not always seen. However, the white should be on the belly, all four paws and the cat must have a white bib on his chest. Colors of the bi-color Maine Coon are:
- Black and White
- Cream and White
- Blue and White
- Red and White
- Tortoiseshell: This is a black cat with patches of red on the body. The red ranges in shades from light to dark.
- Calico: A white cat with patches of black and red. The belly and often the legs are usually white.
- Tortoiseshell and White: Identical in color as the tortoiseshell, the only difference is that the cat has white on his bib, belly and four paws. He may also have white on his face.
- Dilute Calico: A white cat with patches of blue and cream.
- Blue-Cream: A primarily blue cat with cream-colored patches over his body.
- Blue-Cream and White: Like other color and white, this Maine Coon should have white on his belly, bib and four paws. His coat color is the blue with cream-colored patches and he may have white on his face.
Shaded and Smoked:
This color class for Maine Coons is often a very striking color class. This is a shading to the coat color that gives it an almost smoky appearance. Colors in this color class are:
- Black Smoke: The black smoke is a beautiful coat that appears to be black, however, in motion, you should be able to see a white undercoat due to the coat being heavily tipped and banded with black. There is usually a light silver frill around the neck and silver ear tufts.
- Blue Smoke: Identical in markings as the black smoke, however, when the cat is resting, it should appear to be a blue cat. However, once in motion, the white undercoat with heavily tipped and banded blue markings is evident. Instead of a silver frill, the blue smoke will have a white frill and ear tufts.
- Chinchilla Silver: A pure white coat with black tipping on the hair that creates a sparkling appearance. In this coat color, the chin, stomach, chest and ear tufts should be pure white.
- Shaded Silver: A white undercoat that has a black tipping on the body of the cat. It is very similar to the chinchilla silver; however, it should be a darker cat. The tipping should be a mantle down the sides, face and tail with a dark ridge on the back.
- Shaded Blue Silver: Again, the same coloration as the shaded silver, however, instead of black tipping, it should be a deep blue.
- Chinchilla Blue Silver: A white undercoat with the same tipping seen in the chinchilla silver, however, it should be deep blue tipping instead of black. Again, chin, ear tufts, chest and stomach should be pure white.
- Shell Cameo: Also known as the red chinchilla, this is a white coat with the back, flanks, tail and head hair tipped with a deep red. Like all chinchillas, the ear tufts, stomach, chin and chest should be white.
- Shaded Cameo: Again, a white cat that has a mantle of tipping down the sides, on the face and over the tail like you’d see in a shaded silver or shaded blue silver. The shaded cameo should have red-tipped hairs instead of black.
- Cameo Smoke: Like the other smoke colors, the cameo smoke looks like a red cat when resting, however, the coat is actually white with heavy banding and tipping of red so the white appears when the cat is in motion.
- Shell Tortoiseshell: A shell tortoiseshell is a white cat that has black and red tipping on the end of the hairs on the back, tail and flanks. The tipping should be similar to the shading you’d see on a tortoiseshell.
- Shaded Tortoiseshell: Like all other shaded coat colors, this is a white cat with red and black shading on the back, sides, face and tail.
- Tortoiseshell Smoke: A white undercoat with a heavy banding of red and black patches. The cat will appear to be a tortoiseshell when resting but the white will appear with movement. There is also a frill of white and the ear tufts will be white.
- Shell Cream: Also known as a cream chinchilla, the markings are the same as other chinchillas but the coat should be white with a light cream tipping.
- Shaded Cream: Again, like all shaded, the cat should be white with a mantle of cream in the similar shading patterns of other shaded coat colors.
- Cream Smoke: A white undercoat that is heavily banded and tipped in cream.
- Shell Blue Cream: A white cat with blue and cream tipping on the hairs. Again, it should be limited to the back, flanks and tails, however, lighter shading can be found on the legs.
- Shaded Blue Cream: Like all other shaded colors, the undercoat should be white with a mantle of blue and cream shading on the sides, face and tail.
- Blue Cream Smoke: Finally, the blue cream smoke is a cat that looks like a blue with patches of cream. The undercoat is white and you can see the white when the cat is in motion. There should be a white frill and ear tufts on the blue cream smoke.
Color with White:
All of the colors listed in the Maine Coon can have white on them. Some may have white on the face but if there is white in this case, it should be in the following ways:
- A white bib on the chest
- White belly
- White on all four paws
As you can see, there are a large number of colors you can find in the Maine Coon and each one is as unique as the last. But now that we know the colors, let’s look at the actual appearance of the breed.
The Maine Coon is one of the largest breeds in the domestic cat world. They are known for being muscular and broad in appearance. The breed should have a long body with a long, broad tail that tapers; however, the tail should be thick and bushy, even with tapering.
The legs should be well proportioned and there should be a muscular thickness to the legs. The front legs are set wide apart giving the appearance of a wide chest on the cat. They should have a rugged appearance with a very solid build.
Feet on a Maine Coon should be large and round, with a snowshoe appearance. The head of the breed should be broad with a square muzzle that has a blunt look to it.
The cheekbones of the Maine Coon are set high and often give the breed a human-like appearance. Ears should be large and should taper to a point. Eyes should be oval-shaped, large and set wide apart on the front of the cat’s face.
While the overall cat is long, the coat of the Maine Coon is as important as the size. The ears should have a very distinctive furnishing and should have long tufts of hair that are similar to the tufts found on lynxes.
The coat itself should be thick and be weather and water-resistant. The texture should be soft to the touch and it should be shorter on the head and shoulders while there is a thick ruff or frill around the neck and chest.
The tail should be plumed and there should be feathering on the back of the legs. The paws should be covered in thick fur that helps protect the paws from snow and cold water.
It should be noted that the Maine Coon is a very slow-growing breed and often don’t reach their full size until they are 3 to 5 years of age.
The Gentle Giant of the Cat World
So, we know that the Maine Coon is a giant but did you know that they are also known for being a gentle breed that fits into most, if not all, families. The breed is known for having dog-like qualities — they are both loyal and often bond with one person in the family. However, even with that bond, they tend to be very gentle with everyone they meet.
Although they are a large breed, don’t expect them to be lazy. In fact, they have a great amount of energy and will happily learn how to fetch and walk on the leash. They love climbing and will go through bouts of playfulness and sleeping throughout the day.
Another activity that the Maine Coon loves, which brings out those dog-like qualities, is water. Most Maine Coons can be trained to accept water and they often love to swim and splash in the water.
The breed loves human connections and they will often seek out the companionship of their owners. They also have the tendency to talk and argue with their owners often trilling and making various noises to get their owners to answer back.
Overall, the breed is known for being very intelligent and will learn commands quite easily; however, they may not always follow them unless given a reason to.
An Excellent Family Companion
When we think of breeds that are perfect for families, many people don’t think of the Maine Coon due to its size and wild appearance…however, they are completely wrong. In fact, the Maine Coon is a wonderful breed for families and do well with children of all ages.
They are affectionate and patient with children and don’t mind being the center of attention, even if it means being dressed up. They have a dog-like personality and will often bond with one family member more than another, but they will be friendly and loving with everyone in their home.
With other pets, the Maine Coon does very well. They often do well in multi-cat homes and they can do exceptionally well with dogs of all sizes. Since they are excellent mousers, they aren’t really recommended for homes with small pets or birds.
An American Breed with an American History
The Maine Coon is considered to be one of the oldest breeds developed in the USA and much of its origins is actually not well known. In fact, there is a lot of myths around the actual origins of the breed, much of this due to the wild appearance that they have.
However, while some people speculate that the Maine Coon may be a cross breeding of an imported European cat and either a bobcat or a lynx, much of those beliefs have been debunked over the years.
What we do know is that the Maine Coon cat was developed in the state of Maine and is believed to have been very common in the state of Maine during the 1800s. As mentioned, there are several myths about the breed’s origins, including:
- They were brought by Vikings to North America.
- They arrived on ships and bred with native local cats.
- They are a cross between a raccoon and a long-haired cat.
- They were developed out of the angora, long-haired cats that Marie Antoinette may have sent to the new world where she’d planned to escape to.
However, the most likely story is that they are simply cats that arrived with settlers to the area and were bred with the various long and short-haired cats that came to the new world with their families.
Still, even with the mystery around their history, the Maine Coon was a popular breed throughout the 19th century and was prized as both a farm cat and a mouse. The breed can trace its heritage to a Maine Coon by the name of Captain Jenks of the Horse Marines.
He was a black and white cat that was documented in 1861. From there, the breed gained a lot of popularity in cat shows and a female Maine Coon, known as Cosey, was named Best in Show during a cat show in Madison Square Gardens in 1895.
Although being the fifth cat breed registered in the Cat Fanciers Association when it was formed in 1908, the breed soon fell out of favor with the arrival of the Persian and Siamese breeds in America. In fact, the breed became so rare that it was declared extinct in 1959 by the association.
However, throughout the ’50s to ’70s, efforts were made to continue the breed and to resurrect it.
In fact, by 1975, the breed was once again accepted by the Cat Fanciers Association and the breed began to expand in popularity both in the United States and abroad with the first Maine Coon heading to England in 1983.
Today, the Maine Coon is gaining more popularity and usually ranks in the top 5 most popular cats in America for the last few decades.
The Health and Lifespan of the Maine Coon
Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years
Maine Coons are a fairly healthy breed of cat, however, since they are a giant breed, they can have some health issues that are not commonly seen in other cat breeds. In addition, being a larger breed, they can have a shorter life span than some other breeds.
It is very important for anyone purchasing a Maine Coon to choose a kitten from a registered breeder that does appropriate health testing. In addition, be aware that many long-haired kittens are being marketed as a Maine Coons when they are not so always be sure to see the parents and the registration papers.
With that being said, health problems that are seen in the Maine Coon are:
- Hip Dysplasia
- Spinal Muscular Atrophy
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
- Patellar Luxation
- Polycystic Kidney Disease
- Gum Disease
- Tooth Decay
Although not a health problem, many Maine Coons suffer from hairballs due to the length and thickness of their coats. Mats are also very common in the breed, which can lead to skin problems if they are not properly removed or prevented.
Like many cat breeds, the Maine Coon can be prone to obesity so it is important to monitor how much food your Maine Coon is getting. While they are a giant breed, don’t focus on the scale so that your cat stays at a healthy weight for his build.
Finally, make sure that you purchase a kitten from a cattery that tests their cats for feline leukemia virus and can prove that their cattery is FeLV free. While a lot has been done to combat the disease, purchasing from a FeLV free cattery will ensure that your kitten is as healthy as possible.
A Day Full of Adventure: Life with a Maine Coon
When it comes to caring, the Maine Coon is not your average cat. While they do spend a lot of their time sleeping, the breed also has times when they are energetic and engaging.
They love to be with their owners and will happily have long conversations with them. If you are looking for a quieter cat, then the Maine Coon is probably not the cat for you.
However, even if you are, you may want to check out this breed. Although they are talkative, they will happily answer their owners and I have found that the breed will often talk back or even ask for things with a trill.
They can be exercised easily with a game of fetch or even with a walk on the leash, which the Maine Coon will learn easily. It is important to get your Maine Coon to exercise as they can become quite obese if they are allowed to.
Which brings us to food. My own Maine Coon constantly acts like he is starving and would eat constantly if he is allowed to. However, a Maine Coon should eat between 24 to 35 calories per pound per day. In addition, it is important to feed a mixture of dry and wet cat food and to constantly offer water every day. Another factor with feeding is that Maine Coons can have heart conditions and it is recommended to offer them beef or chicken hearts every few weeks for that added animal protein.
With grooming, Maine Coons will need to be brushed on a regular basis. It is recommended to brush your Maine Coon two or three times a week and to remove any tangles. The long coat is prone to matting so grooming is a must.
In addition to brushing, bathe your Maine Coon once or twice a month or as needed. Cats are fairly clean but a bath can help keep the oils distributed evenly through their coat and will remove any debris from the hair.
While clipping is not necessary for the breed, you may need to scissor the area around the anus to prevent poop from catching in the coat. Another area is around the pads of their toes to help keep their feet clean.
Daily teeth brushing is a must with this breed since they are prone to periodontal disease. Nails should be trimmed once or twice a week or as needed and you should wipe their ears and eyes on a weekly basis, or as needed, to keep them clean.
At home, the breed does exceptionally well in any type of setting. They are famed mousers and are as happy on a farm as they are relaxing in a condo. The breed loves being with people and can become destructive if left on their own too often. It is important to spend every day bonding with your Maine Coon.
Overall, the Maine Coon is a majestically beautiful and gentle companion. They are known for their giant size and their giant hearts, and they happily fill their owner’s lives with trills and affection. So, if you are looking for a large, family pet, look no further than the Maine Coon.