What is a Maine Coon cat? How can you tell if a cat is a Maine Coon? What are their key distinctive features, and how did they get these? In this post, we’re going to break it all down – giving you the (brief!) history of Maine Coon cats, how they came about and how they’ve grown (LITERALLY!) into the beautiful breed that they are today. So let’s get stuck in shall, we? Starting from the top…
What Is a Maine Coon Cat?
A Maine Coon Cat is – in a nutshell – a type of cat. It’s a cat breed.
Now, globally, there are 40-70 different breeds of cats – though that number depends on who you ask…
The CFA (Cat Fanciers Association) recognizes 42 pedigree breeds of cats, while TICA, the International Cat Association, recognizes 71 cat breeds.
Maine Coon’s are a pedigree cat (in fact, they’re the third most popular pedigree cat breed in the world!) so whichever source you go with, a Maine Coon cat fits within that, as a recognised cat breed.
What Is The Difference Between a Maine Coon and a “Regular Cat?”
Now every cat breed is unique and has its key differentiating factors. But the biggest difference between a Maine Coon and a “regular cat” is its size. See, Maine coon cats are one of the largest domesticated breed of cats, in the world!
In fact let me correct myself – Maine Coons are considered to be THE largest breed of domesticated cat you can find. (When comparing true domestic breeds that are not wild cat hybrids!)
They can reach up to 40 inches in length, from the end of their nose to the tip of their tale. That’s a mighty meter long! They can also weigh over 11kg (although, 8kg is more common.) Regardless – they’re BIG cats…
But BIG, affectionate, loyal, bundles of fur (which we’ll touch on in more detail shortly!)
Where Did Maine Coon Cats Come From?
Maine Coon cats were the original American wild cat, living mainly on farms, held in high esteem by farmers for their vermin catching abilities…
See, they are the ultimate hunter, having large ears and eyes, essential for detecting prey, and a large powerful body for catching them so were perfect for the job.
So they were first discovered on farmlands! (As a farmers best friend, essentially!)
Maine Coon’s are considered as native to the state of Maine, hence the name Maine Coon. There are however, a few different myths and theories on how they came about and what the breed evolved from. See…
What Breeds Make a Maine Coon Cat?
One idea is that Maine Coon’s originate from the shorthair cats who lived in the area, then mated with the longhair cats (possibly Norwegian Forest Cat) that had been brought to America by either the Vikings or by later European settlers.
Another fascinating theory believes that they came from Queen Marie Antoinette, who in 1792 tried to escape the French Revolution on a ship bound for Maine and took her six long haired Angora or Persian cats with her.
(These cats were very popular among the Parisian upper classes at the time)…
Although she didn’t actually make it herself (she got arrested and eventually beheaded for treason!), the cats stayed on the ship and reached Maine soon after.
Some say that they then bred with local cats to become the modern day Maine Coon of today. Pretty interesting huh?
Ultimately, it’s unclear which theory (or if either at all), are true.
Whatever it is, what we do know however, that Maine Coon’s really are one of the oldest breeds in North America and despite a few hiccups as you’ll soon see, they’ve become very popular pets…
How Did Maine Coons Become Pets?
Well, let’s start with a bit of backstory…
See, as mentioned, Maine Coon’s soon become a “Farmer’s Best Friend” in Maine, and come the 1860s.
Some farmers even began exhibiting their prized “coon cats” at the Skowhegan Fair, which is the nation’s oldest agricultural fair, dating back to 1818.
Here, the predecessors to today’s modern Maine Coon breed competed for the title of Maine State Champion Coon Cat.
On 8th May 1895, a female brown tabby Maine Coon named Cosey won the Madison Square Garden cat show which is regarded as the first ever official American cat shows!
The Cat Fanciers’ Association’s first stud book and breed registry from 1908 then listed the Maine Coon as a foundation breed (listed as “Maine Cats”). The breed was also recognized by the International Cat Association.
What Happened Next?!
Later, during the early 1900s, other long haired breeds such as the Persian were introduced and the Maine Coon’s popularity began to decline…
Its last recorded in a national cat show was in 1911 and it actually became so rare as a breed, it was declared as extinct by the Cat Fanciers Association. (Crazy huh?!)
Now, luckily, this was not actually true.
There were a few breeders, namely a lady called Ethelyn Whittlemore, amongst others, who had continued to work tirelessly to keep the breed alive and kept records of their cats and offspring. PHEW!
Along with this, there were many other Maine Coon lovers who also continued to breed these cats, although this was done in a haphazard way, keeping them as pets around their farms and homes. So they weren’t widespread pets at this point.
When Did Maine Coon’s Become Popular As Pets?
In 1953, two ladies called Ruby Dyer and Alta Smith who lived in Skowhegan, Maine, founded the Central Maine Coon Cat Club. They wanted to bring attention to the breed and increase its popularity.
And… It worked!
Although at this point, they were still amateurs, they held their first show on 21st June 1953, in a small barn outside Skowhegan. There were just forty cats entered and just over two hundred visitors.
They invented their own kitten registering system. This was pioneering at the time and it’s records allowed later generations to trace their ancestors.
They then went on to hold many more shows (interestingly, Mrs Whittlemore’s cats were often prominent winners!) as well as holding photographic exhibitions and ‘spreading the word’.
Indeed, the Central Maine Coon Cat Club CMCC is actually noted for creating the first written breed standard for the Maine Coon. Finally, in 1985, the Maine Coon became the designated state cat of Maine.
Since then it’s popularity has grown and grown and has thankfully never looked back.
How Common are Maine Coon Cats as Pets?
Maine Coon Cats are very popular cats, and unsurprisingly so. They are the third most popular cat breed in America and the fourth most popular cat breed in the UK.
How Can You Tell If a Cat Is a Maine Coon?
So how can you tell if a cat is a Maine Coon? Well, aside from their recognisably large size, they’ll also have some key distinctive features. These include:
> Large ears with tufts of fur around the edges: This is one of the easiest ways to identify a Maine Coon cat, as their tufty, furry ears are one of their biggest, signature features!
> Long-haired coat with silky, fine hair. Purebred Maine Coon cats do not have short hair. Mixed Maine Coons might, since they are genetically different to purebreds, being a combination of two different cat breeds. But if you want to know if your cat is a PURE Maine Coon, notice their fur length. Similarly…
> An especially long, furry “mane” or chest. Just like their name, Maine Coon cats are known for having a bit of a mane! Essentially, a mane is a slightly longer fur around the neck and chest of Maine Coon cats. It starts to grow when the kitten is about nine months old, and it will become more distinctive in the winter months when your cat relies on it to keep herself warm. This may not develop fully until they’re a little older (so you can’t tell as easily as a kitten) but you can however – look at their parents for this, if you’re buying from a breeder. As this can be a key giveaway too.
> Long, rectangular body, with a long fluffy tail! Need we say more?!
Why Are Maine Coons So Big?
So, why are Maine Coon’s so big anyway?!
Well, it’s not known exactly but it is likely to be due to genetics and natural selection.
As stated above, it is thought that Maine coons come from Norwegian or Siberian forest cats and these cats obviously had to be able to survive the harshest of winters…
It is probable that natural selection favoured the biggest cats with the thickest fur. Bigger cats would also be more formidable and successful than smaller cats which, when food gets scarce, is essential.
Additionally, Maine Coons also have a double layered water repellent coat for insulation and a bushy tail that they can wrap around their bodies at night.
They also have large, tufted paws that act as snowshoes. And their coat is longer on the stomach, flanks and mane for when walking or sitting on snow or ice (but it is shorter on the shoulders to prevent from being snagged on bushes.)
So in essence – the way that they’ve been designed and have adapted for nature (and all that fur that comes with it) also adds to their size gained from genetics… Which is pretty cool, right?
How Much Is a Maine Coon Cat?
I think it’s fair to say, we’ve established that Maine Coon cats are a pretty mighty cat breed!
So how much does a Maine Coon cat cost? Well, if you are thinking of getting a kitten in the USA, it can cost up to $2000. In the UK, Maine Coon’s cost between £750 – £2,500.
Just bear in mind – this is just the initial purchase price. Maine Coon’s also then cost more with all the larger things you need to buy them (e.g. bigger cat bed, bigger Maine Coon cat carrier, etc.)
They also cost more if you want to feed a Maine Coon properly to keep them fit and healthy… And they eat more due to their size too. But this is just one of the pros and cons of Maine Coons. (And trust me – they’re well worth it!)
Top Tips When Buying a Maine Coon Cat
When looking for a Maine Coon cat – always buy from a respected, registered breeder.
Meet the breeder beforehand so you can see the kittens with their mother, in their surroundings. Check that you are happy with the animals environment and make sure to ask lots of questions…
- Ask to see the kittens with their mother (do not purchase otherwise.)
- Find out how long have they been breeding Maine Coons.
- Ask how many litters the Queen has each year (the answer should just be 1)
- See proof of linage, as all good breeders will have this and offer it openly.
- They should also be able to show you that their parents are clear of any genetically inherited conditions.
- And you can ask to see proof that the kitten has had his / her first vet examination. (They’re likely to have had their first dose of vaccines too… Or should have anyway!)
It is also good to check to see the kitten has bright clear eyes with no sign of discharge, and its ears and fur are clean.
The kitten should also be happy being picked up and held. And always, always, always ask how the kitten has been socialised. (As this makes a major difference in their behaviour from there…)
See, there’s lots you can check before bringing a kitten home… And it’s important too, as you should only support genuine breeders who look after their Maine Coon’s properly. (Of course!)
What Makes a Maine Coon the ‘Totally Purrfect” Pet?
Without being biased, Maine Coon’s really are the “totally purrfect” pet!
Despite their size, they’re known for being friendly, highly intelligent and a “dog like cat breed” that’s incredibly loyal, loving and playful too! (I can’t tell you how much our Cody makes us laugh!)
Maine Coon’s are full of character, great companions and highly trainable too. This means you can even get them used to a harness, so that you can – literally – take them on walks if you want to!
The list of things we love about Maine Coon’s, could just go on and on, but in a nutshell – they really are a truly wonderful cat breed and one well worth considering…
Want to see it for yourself? Then watch our Maine Coon Cody on our Youtube Channel, to see exactly what Maine Coon cats are like! (WARNING: It will definitely make you want one!)
That’s All For This One
So there we have it. I hope this has answered your question of “What is a Maine Coon cat?” with a full insight into how to recognise them, what they’re like, and how they came about.
I hope you’ve found this valuable. Be sure to browse our articles for more!