Maine Coon Cat: Cat Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Brother and sister Maine Coons
photo © Getty / Nina Pearman

The Maine coon cat is a natural breed and one of the largest of domesticated cats. Its body is medium to large, muscular, and broad-chested, with a well-balanced rectangular appearance. The Maine coon's coat is heavy and shaggy, but shorter on the shoulders and longer on the britches and stomach. It sports a handsome front ruff, ear tufts, foot tufts, and a long flowing tail. Equally at home with children, dogs, or older persons, the Maine coon cat is an ideal pet, handily earning its status as the third most popular breed in America, and the nickname "gentle giant."

Breed Overview

Weight: 9 to 17 pounds

Length: 3 feet, head to tail

Coat: Long, double coat

Coat Color: More than 75 color combinations

Eye Color: Green, gold, green-cold, or copper

Life Expectancy: 9 to 15 years

Characteristics of the Maine Coon Cat

Affection Level Medium
Friendliness Medium
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly High
Exercise Needs High
Playfulness High
Energy Level High
Intelligence High
Tendency to Vocalize Medium
Amount of Shedding High

History of the Maine Coon

Contrary to popular folklore, the Maine coon cat is not the result of a cat breeding with a raccoon. They resemble Norwegian forest cats and it is not hard to imagine some brought over by Vikings. More likely is the story of a cross between an American domestic cat and a long-haired cat (possibly an Angora), brought by ship from Europe with settlers or traders.

With lynx-like ear tufts and foot tufts, these strikingly beautiful but robust cats are a perfect fit for Maine's extreme climatic conditions. Maine coon cats served as barn cats and mousers throughout New England.

The first show featuring Maine coon cats was held in the late 1860s in Maine. In 1895, a Maine ​coon cat won Best in Show at the first North American cat show, which was held in New York City. The brown tabby named Cosey was owned by Mrs. Fred Brown. However, the breed almost disappeared as other longhaired breeds such as the Persian took over the show ring. It was revived by the Central Maine Cat Club and, after repeated denials, was accepted by the Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) in 1976. The Maine coon cat was declared the official state cat of Maine in 1985.

The typical Maine coon cat is often a brown tabby, but the breed comes in a rainbow of colors. The CFA standard allows most colors and patterns, including tortoise and particolors, with the exception of pointed patterns (like the Siamese or Himalayan) or the colors chocolate or lavender.

Notable Maine coon cats have been recognized by the "Guinness Book of World Records" as the longest cat in the world, including one that measured 48 1/2 inches from the tip of the nose to end of the tail.

Maine Coon Care

A full-grown Maine coon can be an armful. On average, it takes three to four years for the coon to reach its full size. While they are easy-going, loyal, and affectionate, they are not prone to being clingy lap cats. They show independence but the ability to charm you as well. They will climb into your lap on their own terms when they are ready.

Their glorious coat actually requires only a standard amount of grooming. Combing your cat weekly will help remove the dead hairs that can lead to hairballs. You should trim your cat's nails every couple of weeks and provide a scratching post. Help your cat with dental hygiene by brushing its teeth regularly and getting regular cleanings at the veterinarian.

Your Maine coon cat will want to observe everything you are up to, even if he is not demanding your attention. Keep this smart cat occupied with interactive toys. You can train this cat to play fetch and chase a laser pointer. They are a little less likely to be climbers.

Maine coon cats are sociable with other cats and cat-friendly dogs but can be reserved around strangers. They retain their skills as mousers, so they are not a good match if you have pet rodents. These cats will do well in a family with children as long as the kids are old enough to treat the cat with respect. They are known to put up with playing dress-up if they are treated right.

Maine coon cats do well in cold weather, but it is good to keep any cat as an indoor-only cat. This protects them from diseases, fights, attacks by predators, and motor vehicle accidents.

Common Health Problems

A Maine coon cat should receive the usual vaccinations and preventative veterinary treatments as any domestic cat. There are a few conditions that they are more prone to:

  • Feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, an inherited condition of an enlarged heart that may lead to heart failure and blood clots
  • Spinal muscular atrophy, an inherited condition leading to muscle atrophy and weakness
  • Hip dysplasia, a deterioration of the hip joints

In addition, Maine coon cats were known in New England for having extra toes. This condition called polydactylism is considered a defect for show cats but it has no effect on the cat's health.

Diet and Nutrition

Maine coon cats do not need any special diet beyond that which is healthy for all cats. Most experts say choosing either dry food or wet food is a matter of preference, but feeding some of both kinds might strike the right balance. Maine coon cats take longer to reach maturity, so they should stay on kitten food until they are 9 months old. Be sure to note whether your cat is getting overweight as obesity will shorten your pet's lifespan. Discuss any nutritional needs with your veterinarian to get recommendations.

Pros

  • Maine coons usually get along well with other cats, dogs, children, and older people

  • Great temperament: easy-going, loyal, and affectionate

  • Not too clingy or needy

Cons

  • Not suited for households with pet rodents

  • At higher risk of diseases that affect the muscles, heart, and hips

Where to Adopt or Buy a Maine Coon Cat

You may be able to find a pure-breed Maine coon cat through a breeder in your area, but if you would rather adopt from a rescue organization, check out:

More Cat Breeds and Further Research

Whether you intend to show or breed your Maine coon or just want a pet for your family, your main objective will be to select a healthy, friendly cat with no harmful genetic defects. Be sure to talk to other Maine coon cat owners, responsible breeders, and rescue organizations.

If you are interested in large cat breeds, look into these to compare pros and cons:

There are many cat breeds out there. With a little research, you can find the right one to bring home.