Maine coons are tall, muscular cats with long, fluffy tails resembling a plume. Males average 13 to 18 pounds, while females weigh in at 9 to 12 pounds. They have heavy, glossy coats thought to be essential for enduring a harsh winter climate, and big, round paws. Their eyes and ears are large, and the ears have tips on them resembling a lynx.
They come in a multitude of colors and have rings of color throughout their fur. The markings resemble those of a raccoon, although they were never bred with raccoons as some have rumored!
The origin of the Maine coon is shrouded in mystery. Several theories remain about how this unique and beautiful cat came to exist in North America. One theory tells a tale of the cats being brought over with the belongings of a French queen who did not make the follow-up trip. The cats were freed and proved to be avid hunters.
Another theory involves an English sea captain. Captain Coon commanded a ship used for trading purposes and would allow his cats to leave the boat at various ports he visited. The cats were rumored to have mated with local cats in many areas along the New England coastline.
Even more theories exist to explain the cat’s existence. Some describe how they came to North America with European settlers, and others describe the cat as a native American cat from Maine. There does not seem to be one theory or source regarded as true, and so the origin of this breed remains debatable.
The Maine coon is noted for being chosen as Best Cat at the first cat show in the United States.
Maine coons are extremely friendly cats that get along with adults, children, other cats and even dogs. They are intelligent pets with funny personalities and curious natures that do best when kept indoors.
They also prefer companionship, and it is not unusual for a Maine coon to need to know where you are at all times.
Watch this video for an example of the Maine coon personality:
Maine coons do not have any special exercise needs. They can be trained to walk on a harness when taken outdoors, if desired. Their physical activity should be similar to most cats (sleeping long hours, playing, running and jumping). Contact your veterinarian if you notice a decrease in activity or mobility; this could be a sign of a health issue.
The Maine coon’s glossy, heavy coat is two layers and can easily mat if neglected. Brushing should be done on a regular basis, as well as trimming the cat’s nails. Some people also brush their cat’s teeth and give them baths, and Maine coons are said to be able to tolerate baths.
If mats become too difficult to remove, there is a popular lion cut groomers perform on these cats. It involves shaving the body but leaving fur at the head, tail and paws to resemble a lion.
Common Health Problems
Maine coons are fairly healthy cats but remain susceptible to issues that affect other cats and can be passed down in breeding.
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is the most common disease affecting the heart by thickening the heart walls and restricting blood flow. Symptoms are rare but might include weight changes, difficulty breathing or an irregular heartbeat.
- Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) appears in kittens as rear-end lameness and is genetically inherited. This condition may limit cats’ activity, but they can still lead normal, healthy lives. Testing can be done to avoid breeding cats with this genetic marker.
- Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) occurs when cysts appear on the kidneys. The rate of growth of the cysts can vary and usually result in kidney failure. Treatment is available. Consult your veterinarian if you notice increased fluid intake, excessive urination, decreased activity, weight changes or vomiting.
- Hip dysplasia occurs when the hip joint does not fit correctly. This leads to pain and arthritis and can increase as the cat grows and gains weight. Look for limping or decreased activity as a sign of hip dysplasia. Testing can be done to determine if the parents are experiencing this condition or are carriers that will pass it on to their offspring.
Is the Maine Coon the Right Cat for You?
Maine coons are large cats that prefer companionship. As with any animal, each will have its own personality.
A Maine coon I had years ago craved so much attention that she would not let me sleep, by either pawing my face or meowing all night long from outside the bedroom door if it was closed. A friend of mine also had a Maine coon that was less needy and fit more of the description provided in this profile. They are affectionate and great with kids and other pets, and they are still regarded as one of the best cat breeds to own.
Adopt, Don’t Buy
If you consider getting a Maine coon for your next pet, please check adoption resources — even purebred animals end up in shelters. Try our adoption page (select the “Cats” tab).