Tuesday 22 April 2008

Maine Coon Cat Facts

Here are the most important facts as I see it: 

Size - Perhaps the first thing that comes to mind when you think about this cat breed is her size. This is a major factor in this cat's popularity. By my reckoning (at that of most others) the Maine Coon is the biggest domestic cat breed. But it is not quite as straightforward as that. This is because if you work out the largest cat breed by cat association you are bound to include the Savannah under TICA, for example. And the Savannah rivals the Maine Coon for size. If you bring into the equation the first-generation Savannahs as I think you must for the Savannah as people like first generation wildcat/domestic cat hybrids, then the Savannah is the biggest cat breed under TICA. See more analysis on this page on the sizes of the breeds. 

Huge Maine Coon silver tabby with black feet
Huge Maine Coon silver tabby with black feet. Image in the public domain.

History - Another important element in the makeup of this cat is her history, particularly for Americans. The Maine Coon is a natural cat. That's a stand out plus factor in the modern world of the cat fancy when there seems to be an increase in the number of hybrid cats born out of a desire in the cat fancy to create another cat. It is possible that the beginnings of this cat in the USA originate in the importation of the Norwegian Forest Cat from Norway with the Vikings. 

That is the classic story anyway and it makes some sense as they are very similar cats. Indeed, they may have been identical but cat breeders would have had to separate them if they were to be two distinct breeds. Any difference may be to do with selective breeding rather than natural evolution. If I am wrong, please tell me by commenting. 

 There are though a gazillion stories about how the Maine Coon came about. Some outrageous some more based on common sense, which are preferable. She is basically a hardy barn cat developed into a purebred stunner. I honestly think sometimes though that we have screwed up with the breeding.

Health - The wonderful pluses about this truly handsome cat (probably the best domestic cat breed if one was honest) is spoiled at least a bit by the health issues. It seems that purebred cats have more health issues than mixed breed cats. That may be because we talk about them more but it is probably true as the inbreeding and line breeding required to produce fine looking cats with the right attributes for that breed carries a downside, the manifestation of and breeding in of defects (sometimes). A lot of cat breeds including moggies, I am told, suffer from heart disease. 

Humans suffer from it too, but to what degree? And I have never seen or heard first hand of a mixed breed cat having a predisposition to heart disease but that is the case with a number of purebred cats (but not all purebred cats) including the Maine Coon. If it is a number of purebred cats that are predisposed to this disorder then it must be due to breeding. 

Other purebreds that can contract HCM (a heart disease in which the heart muscle of the left ventricle thickens lessening the efficiency of the heart and causing illness) are the British Shorthair (another great and popular cat) and the Bengal cat (once again a very popular cat). Is this condition linked to popularity in some way? Other health issues are a hip disorder causing lameness. This is more prevalent apparently than the heart disease. Gum disease is also mentioned but this affects many cats. 

But it may affect Maine Coons more than others. It can be hard sometimes to get good information because (and this is completely understandable) cat breeders have a tendency to not be completely candid about defects in the breed with which they are concerned for commercial reason. 

Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) and patellar luxation also afflict this breed.

Character - Common sense tells us that all domestic cats and even wildcats are going to have similar characters. Their main characteristics are hard wired. There are differences from individual cat to individual cat which can mask any differences between breeds, which tend to be talked up by breeders to distinguish one breed from another. A well socialized Maine Coon will have a nicely balanced character. I don't think you'll have a problem provided your behavior towards your cat is appropriate. 

A couple of points are worth raising. She may be smarter than average (a legacy of her semi-feral heritage?). She likes water (or some do) as well. This also seems to be a legacy of cats used to fending for themselves (e.g., wildcat hybrids). Read more here. When you watch judges handle the best cats at the shows and see how tolerant the cats are it confirms how fine the character is of a well brought up.

Appearance - What can you say but compliment the beautiful coat that this cat has. Very touchable. Very strokable. There is a huge range of allowable colors and patterns. Are there any restrictions? - there seems not, but the CFA lists out the colors so I guess it is not a completely open situation. You very commonly see this cat in a tabby coat, but a very well-defined coat and special version of this much loved and practical coat type. 

Great tail and great ears too (love the tufts at the top of the ear and the "ear furnishings"). Oh, and the hair growing between the toes, love that too (see above). 

Popularity - As at the date of this post (2008 and this could change a bit over time). The Maine Coon is the second most popular cat, just fractionally behind the Abyssinian (another balanced all round cat of natural origins). As at 2022 the MC is third most popular by one major poll. The breed maintains its standing.

Go to the home page and vote to see the rankings (when you vote you are taken to the rankings for all the cat breeds). You can also go to the breeds categorization page to vote and see the top 10 most popular breeds. Maine Coon Cat Facts to Maine Coon Cats

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