The Complete Maine Coon Guide


This complete Maine Coon guide has been compiled by Maine Coon owners with 25 years of hands-on experience. We take an in-depth look at every aspect of Maine Coon care and ownership, including the commitment required and what to expect as an owner. We cover absolutely everything you need to know and guide you through every step of owning a Maine Coon Cat.

Maine Coon Guide: Tabby Maine Coon

The Maine Coon is now one of the most popular domestic cat breeds in the world today. Let us guide you through all of the details that make these cats so appealing.

We have owned Maine Coons for 25 years, and share our experiences along with interesting facts about the breed’s origin to health issues and the essentials of day-to-day care. Our two current Maine Coons are happy and healthy 14-year-olds. We hope this guide helps you to raise your Maine Coon as a happy and healthy cat too.

Breed Facts at a Glance

We believe the first thing a useful Maine Coon guide should do is provide all the important breed facts summarised in one place. So, here you go!

PedigreeUnknown
SizeMedium to large
WeightTypically 8 to 18 lbs
Body typeLarge, strong-boned, well-muscled
Coat colorsVarious solid, tabby, smoke, bi-colors or shaded
Coat lengthLong, uneven lengths, shaggy in places
Coat textureSoft and silky
TailCan be as long as body. Full with flowing fur
EyesLarge, slightly oblique
EarsLarge, pointed and well tufted
PawsLarge, well tufted
TemperamentAffectionate, friendly and sociable
With strangersWary but nor vicious
With childrenPatient and playful
With other catsBest when reared together
With other dogsBest when introduced as a kitten
With other petsNot to be trusted with animals small enough to prey on
ExerciseEnergetic, require plenty of room and stimulants
HealthProne to hereditary conditions.
LifespanTypically 9 to 13 years

The Maine Coon Cat

The Maine Coon is one of the largest domestic cats in the world.  It is nicknamed the ‘gentle giant’ and people are fascinated by its size and bewitched by its beauty. It is a favorite family pet because of its friendly and sociable nature.

Mystery surrounds its origins and no official documentation is available, only hearsay and rumor. Whatever the truth may be, one thing is certain – the Maine Coon is simply a stunning cat. Here are a few examples:

Maine Coon – The Origin of the Name

Now officially known as the Maine Coon, this breed has had a variety of names throughout the years: Coon Cat, Maine Cat, Maine Shag, Snowshoe Cat, American Longhair, American Coon Cat and American Forest Cat are the most well known.

The ‘Maine’ part of the name was adopted from the State where this cat originated but it wasn’t until 1985 that it was declared as the official state cat of Maine. 

The stories really kick in when it comes to determining where the ‘Coon’ part of the name originated from. Some are more fanciful than others. Which you prefer or choose to believe is entirely up to you.

Cat and Raccoon Cross?

Maine Coon guide: A Raccoon

The most popular early Maine Coons had ringed tails that resembled the tail of a raccoon. It could be that people decided to add the word Coon to the name simply for this reason.

Suggestions that these cats resulted from the cross-breeding of cats and raccoons are wide of the mark – this is simply a genetic impossibility. So, no, Maine Coons are not related to raccoons.

Captain Charles Coon’s Cats?

In the 19th Century, there may have been a sailor called Captain Charles Coon who kept long-haired cats aboard his ship to control rats. Some people believe his cats disembarked with him in Maine and bred with the native cats living in the area.

The results were long-haired kittens that became referred to as the offspring of Coon’s cats, leading to the name Maine Coon. This sounds like a perfectly feasible possibility. But there is no way to prove it is true.

Maine Coon – The Origin of the Breed

Viking Cats

Maine Coon guide: Norwegian forest cat
Norwegian Forest Cat

It is perfectly feasible that Viking explorers brought Norwegian Forest cats with them to North America in the 11th Century. There are many physical similarities between these cats and Maine Coons. We have written a whole article comparing these giant beauties: Maine Coon vs Norwegian Forest Cat

Marie Antoinette’s Turkish Angora Cats

Maine Coon Guide: White Turkish Angora cat

It is rumored that during the 19th Century French Revolution, Marie Antionette’s white Turkish Angora cats were loaded onto a boat in Le Havre that was bound for Maine.

She was beheaded before she could join them and the ship sailed on with its feline cargo. Her cats took up residence in Maine and mixed with the local cat population.

Could this be how the Maine Coon evolved? There is certainly a similarity between Turkish Angoras and Maine Coons. But we will never really know.

Becoming a Recognized Breed

During the 1860s farmers boasted about the hunting skills of their Coon cats and the Maine State Champion Coon Cat contest came about.

Maine Coon Guide: Original Maine Coon Cosey

In 1895 the first North American Cat Show was hosted in New York’s Madison Square Garden. The winner of the silver collar and Best in Show category was a brown tabby Maine Coon named Cosey (pictured above).

She was presented with a silver collar which is today housed at the Central Office of the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) in the Jean Baker Rose Memorial Library.

Maine Coons declined in popularity in the early 20th Century and were declared extinct in the 1950s. This was proven to be a premature assumption.

The Central Maine Cat Club (CMCC) was formed and the popularity of the Maine Coon began to increase. The club is accredited for creating the first written breed standards for Maine Coon cats.

The Maine Coon was provisionally accepted as a breed by the CFA in 1975 and approved in 1976. From then on its popularity increased and in 1985 the state of Maine declared that the breed was to be named as the Official State Cat.

Maine Coon Guide: Tabby Maine Coon

Maine Coons are Large Cats

This native American long-haired cat is one of the largest domestic cats in the world. People have long been fascinated by its sheer size and breeders have used techniques to produce larger specimens, such as mating larger males and females. 

It is not good practice to attempt to increase the size of your Maine Coon with diet. This will lead to an overweight cat. Look down at a standing Maine Coon from above to determine if it is a healthy size or overweight.

You should be able to see a slight indent between its ribs and its hips if it is a healthy weight. If this indent is too prominent, this is a sign of it being underweight and if it is unnoticeable or wider than the rib cage your cat is overweight.

Maine Coon guide: Large red tabby Maine Coon

How big can they grow?

Maine coons can grow to quite a size. There are three different measurements to take when determining the size of a Maine Coon: weight, length, and height. Remember Maine Coons can keep growing until they are about 4 years old.

How Much Does a Maine Coon Cat Weigh?

If you are good at math, weigh yourself, then weigh yourself again with your Maine Coon in your arms. Deduct the second weight from the first and you will be left with the weight of your cat. When fully grown a Maine Coon typically weighs between 8 and 18 lbs. Females are often lighter than males. If you prefer a more accurate weight measurement you can invest in a platform scale. Here’s one we recommend.

How long is a Maine Coon?

Take a tape measure and measure your cat from the tip of its nose to the base of its tail. Then take a second measurement from the base of its tail to the bony tip. Add these two measurements to find the overall length.

A typical adult is about 40 inches long and the tail can be almost half of this amount.

How tall is a Maine Coon?

As a Maine Coon has erect ears, to find its overall height you can measure from the ground to the tips of its ears.

But the height measurement should really be taken from its shoulder to the ground when it is standing up on all four legs, not sitting. An adult Maine Coon’s height can vary greatly so expect anything from 10 to 16 inches.

Maine Coon guide: Large tabby Maine Coon

The Longest Maine Coons on record

A grey tabby Maine Coon from the USA, known as Stewie, was crowned the world’s longest domestic cat on August 28th 2010.  He measured 48.5 inches. Sadly he passed away in 2013.

The record is currently held by Ludo from England.  On October 6th 2015, he was measured by the Guinness World Records as being 46.5 inches long.

What are the Physical Characteristics Of a Maine Coon Cat?

Apart from their size and long-hair, there are many characteristics that set  Maine Coons apart from other domestic cats.

Facial features

Their ears are large and triangular. These are taller than they are wide and have little tufts at the tips, also known as lynx-tips, as well as fur sprouting on the inner surfaces, known as ear furnishings.

Maine Coon guide: Red classic tabby Maine Coon

They have high, well- defined cheekbones set in a fairly square-shaped face. Their wide-set, almond-shaped eyes can be shades of green or amber. These are set either side of a long, wide nose.

Body

Maine Coons are sturdy, muscular cats with large bones, broad chests and rectangular bodies. They have long legs and large tufty paws which are perfect for spreading their weight when walking on snow.

Coat and Tail

A Maine Coon’s coat is long and silky. It has a waterproof property which means that snow or rain settle on its surface without penetrating through to the skin.

The length of a Maine Coon’s fur varies in different areas of its body. The face, top of  head, front legs and shoulders have shorter fur. It grows longer along the back and down the sides.

The collar area can be quite a lot longer and thicker, giving the impression of a lion-like mane. From the rear view, the long fluff of the hind legs is reminiscent of a pair of old-fashioned britches. The belly fur is shaggy and often looks (dare I say) a little scruffy.

Maine Coon guide: Fluffy cat tail

A Maine Coon’s tail is generally about as long as its body. It is wide at the base and tapers to a narrow tip. The fur along the top of the tail is long and silky whereas the underneath surface is just as long but fluffier in appearance, giving the tail a luxurious, bushy appearance.

Coat Colors

No Maine Coon guide would be complete without a section on the beautiful colors of this breed’s fur. There are at least 75 different coats.

Solid Colors

  • Black
  • White
  • Red (also referred to as ginger or orange)
  • Blue (also referred to as grey)
  • Cream

Smoke Colors

  • Black smoke
  • Blue smoke
  • Red smoke
  • Cream smoke
  • Tortie smoke
  • Blue Tortie smoke

Classic Tabby Colors

  • Black Classic Tabby (Brown)
  • Blue Classic Tabby
  • Red Classic Tabby
  • Cream Classic Tabby
  • Tortie Classic Tabby
  • Blue Tortie Classic Tabby

Mackerel Tabby Colors

  • Black Mac Tabby (Brown)
  • Blue Mac Tabby
  • Red Mac Tabby
  • Cream Mac Tabby
  • Tortie Mac Tabby
  • Blue Tortie Mac Tabby

Silver Classic Tabby Colors

  • Black Silver Classic Tabby
  • Blue Silver Classic Tabby
  • Red Silver Classic Tabby
  • Cream Silver Classic Tabby
  • Tortie Silver Classic Tabby
  • Blue Tortie Silver Classic Tabby

Silver Mackerel Tabby Colors

  • Black Silver Mac Tabby
  • Blue Silver Mac Tabby
  • Red Silver Mac Tabby
  • Cream Silver Mac Tabby
  • Tortie Silver Mac Tabby
  • Blue Tortie Silver Mac Tabby

Silver Shaded Tabby Colors

  • Black Silver Shaded Tabby
  • Blue Silver Shaded Tabby
  • Red Silver Shaded Tabby
  • Cream Silver Shaded Tabby
  • Tortie Silver Shaded Tabby

Bi-colors

  • Black and white
  • Blue and white
  • Red and white
  • Cream and white

The Maine Coon Personality

Family Friendly

Despite their size, Maine Coons have extremely gentle natures which makes them extremely popular as family cats. They are sociable and love company, preferring to be wherever their owners are.

They love to play, even as adults, so it’s important to provide them with plenty of toys and also to make time to play with them. This is really important to keep their minds and bodies healthy.

Some Maine Coons exhibit almost dog-like behavior in the way that they excitedly greet their owners when they arrive home and play fetch with small toys.

They have oodles of tolerance and patience but if extremely provoked, like any cat, they may scratch or even bite. It is important for adults and children to bear this in mind. Always supervise young children around Maine Coons and teach them to treat them kindly and considerately. 

Where babies are concerned, there is no recorded evidence of a Maine Coon ever harming one but it is highly recommended to keep any cat out of a room where a baby is asleep unless you can supervise at all times. Cats are heat-loving creatures and babies are warm little beings – there could be an attraction.

Do Maine Coon like laps?

Maine Coons should not be classified as categorically not being lap cats. Some are and some aren’t. You should not force a cat to stay on your lap if it doesn’t want to as you will cause it to feel stressed and will deter it from ever trusting you enough to come up for a cuddle.

With patience and gentle encouragement, such as sitting close by and offering treats, you may eventually find a Maine Coon will sit on your lap. Sometimes the older they get, the more cuddly they become. Find out more about Lap Cats by clicking here (opens in a new window)

Other Pets

It is perfectly possible to have a Maine Coon at the same time as other pets. If you purchase two Maine Coons from the same litter and raise them together they will be good companions for each other.

Buying a Maine Coon kitten and a different breed of kitten at the same time will also work. Introducing a kitten to a dog depends on the nature of the dog.

Sometimes it can be difficult to get a mature Maine Coon to accept a new dog or cat into a household. It may take this as an invasion of its territory. It may well be fearful of a dog, particularly an energetic one. Proceed with caution and patience.

If you own small pets such as mice, rats, birds, guinea pigs or fish you should ensure these are well secured, out of reach of a Maine Coon.

Maine Coon Vocals

Maine Coons are capable of meowing just like any cats, but they also have a wide repertoire of other sounds. Most of their sounds are surprisingly high-pitched for cats of their size. These intelligent creatures soon learn how to get their owners fulfilling their every need via a variety of meows.

The classic meow is the way adult cats communicate with people, not each other. It is often used to request food or entry through a closed door. It is also a means of attracting your attention away from another task or of announcing its arrival in a room.

Maine Coons also produce tuneful high-pitched chirps and trills. These signify happiness and, sometimes, that you should come to see something. Maine Coons may trill at each other too.

Scratching

Maine Coons do like to scratch things, like most cats. It is a natural activity necessary for claw health, flexing muscles, and tendons and for marking their territory. They find carpets, furniture, and curtains irresistible. You will need to supply plenty of scratching posts and train your Maine Coon to use them in order to preserve your furniture.

Please also see this helpful article: How to stop your Maine Coon scratching your furniture.

Exercise

Maine Coons are energetic cats and require lots of room to exercise in. If you keep a Maine Coon as an indoor cat you should provide it with plenty of space to move around in and give it plenty of toys for entertainment. A sturdy scratching post or tree is essential for climbing, sharpening claws and flexing muscles (Here are three we recommend.) If you introduce these things when they are kittens you will have a better chance of preserving your furniture. Scratching is a perfectly normal and healthy activity for a Maine Coon, therefore, you should never punish one for scratching at your things.

Maine Coons and Water

Many people find their Maine Coons like water and find they are happy to be bathed. Some appear to like swimming too. This may not be the case for all Maine Coons so you should test the water, so to speak, before assuming yours will be happy to be submerged.

Don’t feel you have to bath a Maine Coon as this is not the case. They are equipped with the tools to clean themselves adequately enough. Or two have never had regular baths and this has had no detrimental effect on their health.

Grooming a Maine Coon

It is essential to groom a Maine Coon at least weekly. To ensure your cat will allow you to groom it, it’s advisable to groom it gently from a kitten. Regular grooming will minimize shedding, prevent your cat from swallowing fur and suffering from fur balls and also stop large mats from forming.

If your Maine Coon’s fur becomes matted, be careful as these are difficult to remove with a brush or comb. You may be able to tease mats out with your fingers but if they are too close to the skin they become painful to remove.

In extreme cases, your vet may have to sedate your cat and remove mats. It’s best to prevent them from forming in the first place. For many more grooming tips please see Do Maine Coons Need To Be Groomed?

Maine Coon Health

Maine Coons are generally a healthy breed but are prone to certain genetic conditions. A reputable breeder will ensure they only breed from cats who have tested negative for these conditions and it is something you should ask for proof of.

Maine Coons should be vaccinated as kittens, and then have annual boosters, to prevent them from catching common cat diseases.

Core vaccinations

These vaccinations are recommended for all cats:

  • Herpes (Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis) 
  • Calici 
  • Panleukopenia (Feline Distemper) 
  • Feline Leukemia – FeLV
  • Rabies

The diseases the above vaccinations prevent are highly infectious, found worldwide and are dangerous to all cats. The vaccines are considered highly protective with minimal risk of side effects.

Genetic Illnesses

We all hate to think about our cats becoming ill but to make you aware of signs to watch for, we have included a full description of four genetically transmitted conditions that can affect the breed in this Maine Coon guide. These are as follows:

Feline Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)

HCM is the most common heart disease in all breeds of cats. Maine Coons can suffer from a breed-specific genetic mutation that causes HCM, a disease that leads to a thickening of the walls and enlargement of the heart.

Genetic screening can determine if a cat is a carrier of the faulty gene. In an attempt to eliminate this genetic fault, carriers should not be used for breeding. It is also possible for Maine Coons without the faulty gene to develop HCM.

Symptoms of HCM are labored or rapid breathing, open-mouth breathing, and lethargy. In worse case scenarios, it can lead to sudden death by the age of 4. It can be diagnosed using an ultrasound scan of the heart.

A breeder with good ethical standards will only breed from cats who have been genetically screened as negative for the specific gene mutation.

As cats without the faulty gene can develop the disease it is wise to have regular scans of breeding cats and genetic screening of any kittens that are to be used for breeding.

There is no cure for HCM but it can be managed to an extent with drugs that relieve the symptoms. 

Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA)

SMA is a genetic disease-specific to Maine Coon cats. The symptoms are instability, unsteady gait and abnormal posture due to the loss of nerves in the lower spinal cord and a weakening of the muscles in the back legs. Cats with this disease can lead fairly normal lives indoors.

DNA testing can determine if a cat is affected or is a carrier. A breeder should not breed from affected cats or from a pair of cats who both carry the faulty gene. Ask to see certificates for SMA testing results of both parents of kittens you are planning to purchase.

Hip Dysplasia (HD)

Hip dysplasia is a genetically inherited malformation of the hip joint which is prevalent in Maine Coons. Symptoms are progressive signs of lameness from limping to an unwillingness to move. The hip joint will be painful if touched. 

To prevent the continual spread of this condition, affected cats should not be bred from. 

Any cats suffering from this condition can be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs, and surgery is an option in advanced cases. 

Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD)

PKD is an inherited disease where fluid-filled cysts form in the kidneys. They are present from birth in affected cats. Though at first, they are very small, the cysts increase in size until they affect the kidney tissue to the extent that they cause kidney failure.

Genetic testing is widely available to determine if cats are carriers of this disease. The only way to eradicate it is to refrain from breeding affected cats.

Sadly, if the cysts are present there is no treatment to prevent them from growing. The disease is progressive and there is no way to determine how quickly this will occur or how severe the symptoms will be.

Conclusion

We hope our complete Maine Coon guide has shown there is so much to know about this breed and we hope you’ve found it helpful.

Jane

I'm Jane Pettitt, co-owner of Pets Knowledge Base with my husband, Matt. I have a grand total of 50 years’ experience as a pet owner. It all started with a guinea pig called Percy when I was 5 years old and since then I’ve lived with two more guinea pigs, a hamster, mice, a rabbit, a tortoise, a dog and 11 cats. I’ve learned so much about pet care during this time and many of my articles are based on my personal experiences and those of my family and friends .

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