Some cats can be aggressive but what about Maine Coons? With 30 years of experience as Maine Coon owners, and currently owning four beauties, we can give you an honest answer to this common question about the breed. Are they the gentle giants that many people claim they are or not always?
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Are Maine Coons Aggressive?
The Maine Coon is not a naturally aggressive cat. However, any cat of any breed can behave aggressively in particular situations. Aggression might be the result of poor socialization, mistreatment, or illness.
Many owners (including us) have never seen their Maine Coons behave aggressively toward people. In this article, we look at situations that can make a placid Maine Coon aggressive.
If you buy your Maine Coon from a trusted breeder, treat it well and look after its health, it shouldn’t behave aggressively unless severely provoked.
Signs a Maine Coon May Become Aggressive
A cat’s body language forwarns of aggression. Here are 9 signs a Maine Coon may become aggressive:
- Crouching low and looking tense and fearful
- Ears flattened and rotated backward.
- Pupils dilated, eyes wide and staring.
- Making unblinking eye contact.
- Hissing and growling.
- Mouth wide and teeth bared.
- Tail tip twitching leading to whole tail thrashing.
- Tail held erect with fur standing out
- Hackles raised.
- Back arched.
10 Recognized Causes of Maine Coon Aggression
If you are a loving Maine Coon owner who is nothing but gentle and kind to their cat, it is upsetting if it suddenly acts uncharacteristically aggressively towards you or any member of your family.
You should never just ignore sudden aggression in a Maine Coon as the earlier you intervene the more chance you will have of getting to the root cause and putting a stop to it.
There are various things that can be responsible for sudden changes in a cat’s temperament. Here are 10 known causes of Maine Coon cat behavior problems:
A Maine Coon can’t tell you when it feels ill. Quite often a poorly cat will hunch up or try to hide. If you approach a cat and it hisses or growls it could be really suffering and not want your attention.
The trouble is it may well need your intervention and a trip to the vets. Trying to handle a cat in this frame of mind might result in it biting or scratching. Try to understand that it is not deliberately aiming to hurt you. This the only way your cat knows to ward off unwelcome attention.
The four main illnesses that Maine Coons are prone to are:
- Feline Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)
- Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA)
- Hip Dysplasia (HD)
- Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD)
Like all cats, Maine Coons can also suffer from bouts Urinary Tract Disease (UTD) and periodontal disease. Any health condition that causes inflammation or pain can incite a usually docile cat to lash out or bite.
Take your Maine Coon straight to the vets if it becomes inexplicably vicious and hopefully you will get a diagnosis and some treatment to set it on the road to recovery. Always schedule an annual health check and dental check when you take your cat for annual boosters.
Be extremely careful when approaching a cat who is warning you off vocally as it may lash out or bite. If you need to retrain an angry cat to take it to the vets, use a thick bath towel to wrap it in – be gentle and still watch out for those teeth or escaping paws full of claws.
Pain from an injury can be another cause of change in a Maine Coon’s demeanor. Common injuries
- Infected bites from another animal
- Bone fractures
- Ligament damage
- Strained muscle
- Cut paw pads
- Torn claws
- Fractured tooth or
- Infected insect bite
- Ingested foreign object
If your cat is not its usual loving self, don’t imagine that it has suddenly undergone a personality change. It is far more likely to be in discomfort and in need of some medical attention.
Over-petting and Over-grooming
Occasionally, Maine Coons can suddenly become aggressive when being stroked and fussed over. It may be because it feels overstimulated and is attempting to put a stop to it.
There is usually a hint when this is about to happen such as a slight tip of the end of the tail, dilated pupils and flattened ear. Get to know these signs and leave your cat alone for a while to calm down.
Warn any visitors to watch for these signs too if petting your cat so that they don’t get a nasty surprise.
Bathing, grooming, and nail trimming can also give rise to this type of aggression. Look out for the signs as mentioned above to avoid injury.
A Maine Coon who feels neglected may exhibit behavioral changes in order to get your attention. So if it is suddenly left alone more or you are busier at home and not devoting the usual amount of time to it, your Maine Coon may resort to ‘violence’ to attract your attention. You can cure this in a couple of ways:
- Always try to have a pair of cats to prevent loneliness
- Give your cat plenty of quality attention every day
When we decided to get a Maine Coon kitten we did our research and realized we would have to get two because kittens get lonely and they adore playmates.
Getting a pair of kittens from the same litter is ideal as they are already bonded and will be happy living under the same roof. Even kittens from different litters will bond well if adopted at the same time.
Adult cats also have social needs despite the fact that it is believed that they are creatures who prefer to be alone. It can be more difficult to find a match for an existing cat in a house because territorial instincts will be in force.
A Maine Coon can suffer from boredom. If a cat is subjected to long bouts of loneliness and has nothing to entertain it, it can develop deep psychological issues.
These can manifest as all sorts of antisocial behavior, biting and scratching included. So ensure you give
Indoor climbing trees are a fantastic way to provide indoor cats with a taste of the outside world and fend off boredom (here are a few examples – opens in a new tab).
There are many things we can blame on hormones and one of them is aggression in cats. Unless you are going to breed from a Maine Coon, it is recommended to have it spayed or neutered.
The ideal time to have a kitten sterilized is before it reaches puberty which can occur anywhere between 6 and 12 months.
Spaying a female kitten before she reaches puberty is believed to significantly reduce her chance of developing mammary cancer so to be safe I would suggest you have the operation at around 16 weeks. By this time she will have settled into your home, have had all her vaccinations, and will be strong enough to withstand the anesthetic.
Neutering a male kitten before puberty will prevent the development of male aggression, stop him from developing strong-smelling urine and deter him from spraying around the house. Again around 16 weeks is an ideal age.
Though Maine Coons are exceptionally tolerant they do have a point at which they will lose patience. My two do not like being groomed and if we persist, particularly in knotted areas, both can change from gentle to assassins (as my 11-year-old puts it).
We know these limits and don’t push them. My advice is, recognize when a Maine Coon is not liking something and stop doing it. That way you will not provoke it to behave aggressively.
Young children can be quite annoying to cats, which is why it is important to supervise them around Maine Coons and teach them to be gentle towards them at all times.
A cat is not a toy. A child should not be allowed to pull a Maine Coon around and should definitely not attempt to pick a one up as they often do this incorrectly.
A Maine Coon is more likely to try to avoid being bothered than it is to retaliate but if a little person persists in annoying it (albeit unintentionally) for a prolonged period it may eventually lash out or bite.
Maine Coons are sensitive creatures and can have adverse reactions to changes in their environment, especially if they are indoor cats.
Some cats can have adverse reactions to the fragrances of air-fresheners, polishes,
Rearranging your furniture can really put a Maine Coon out, especially if you are one of those people who like to do this all the time. If you notice a change in your cat’s behavior after you’ve had a reorganization session it could be the cause of it. Stop doing it, for
Moving house can really unbalance a Maine Coon for a while. We moved and they did get used to the new house eventually but we had a few weeks of odd behavior, though no aggression thankfully.
But if your cat does seem off with you in a new home, try a Feliway Diffuser or Spray. This is a chemical copy of the pheromone that a cat’s face produces when it rubs against things and most cats find it reassuring.
If you’ve owned a Maine Coon for some time and suddenly add a new pet into the mix a Maine Coon might just kick up a fuss. After all your home is its territory and it won’t appreciate you introducing a stranger into it.
If you want to introduce another cat into your home you will have to do this slowly. Partition your home into an area for each cat and make a gradual introduction.
Most Maine Coons will eventually accept another cat. Just be patient and be careful that you don’t get caught in the crossfire if things get a little heated between the two.
A Strange Cat Passing By Out of Reach
Nothing drives a Maine coon quite as crazy as seeing a strange cat in its garden as it watches from a window.
If your cat is making those awful caterwauling noises at it through the glass and getting more and more wound up there is a possibility of it redirecting its aggression at you. It is safer for you to shoo the strange cat away than it is for you to try to remove your cat from the window ledge.
Are Maine Coon Cats Aggressive-Natured?
Maine Coons are extremely gentle cats which is why they are popular family pets. It is rare for a Maine Coon to act aggressively just for the sake of it. If one becomes hostile it is generally for one of three reasons:
- It was not socialized properly as a kitten
- Someone has provoked it
- It is in pain because of an illness or injury
The First Weeks of a Maine Coon Kitten’s Life
When Maine Coon kittens are born, their mother is very protective of them. If she trusts her owner (a sign they are kind and caring) she will allow that person to handle her kittens almost immediately.
As early as 10 days old, Maine Coon kittens should be gently stroked and held on a daily basis. A kittens capacity for learning is at its greatest during weeks 4 to 14 of its life so these weeks are the most crucial.
Whatever a cat learns during this short window will shape its whole life, so it is essential for it to have lots of positive experiences with as many people and children (and other animals) as possible to ensure that it grows into a sociable, confident, well-adjusted adult.
A lack of human interaction during these early weeks can result in an adult cat who is shy of people or one that reacts badly when approached.
Choosing a Kitten
Before you visit a breeder, where it is all too easy to be distracted once you lay eyes on kittens, prepare a list of questions.
If the breeder is responsible and caring they will completely understand why you are asking and it will show them that you will be a responsible owner. They will be more than happy to supply you with answers and also references from previous purchasers.
Here’s what to ask:
- How long have you been breeding Maine Coons?
- Who are the kittens’ parents? Are they champions? What is their pedigree?
- Do you own the father? Can you guarantee he has always had good health? Have you bred from him before?
- Can you guarantee the mother’s health?
- Has there been any hereditary illness in the ancestral lines of either parent e.g. HCM, SMA, HD, PKD? (more about these later)
- Have any recent kittens suffered from any illnesses?
- Have the kittens been socialized and will they be comfortable with children or other animals?
- At what age can I take a kitten home? (If the answer is less than 12 weeks this should cause you some concern)
- Will you have a vet check a kitten’s health before a sale? Will you cover the cost of health problems for any period after the sale or can a kitten be returned if it becomes ill?
- How often has the mother given birth? (If this is too often kittens can be weak or sickly)
- Can I see the living conditions of the mother and father? (A good sign is if they are in the breeders home in a clean, comfortable, warm environment with food, water, a clean litter box,
- Do you litter train your kittens?
- Can I have a close look at the kittens? (check for weeping eyes as this is a sign of poor health)
- Can I see a copy of your breeder’s contract? (Read this through carefully)
Once you are satisfied that you trust the breeder and know you want to purchase a kitten from them, ask if you can visit regularly until your chosen kitten is 12 weeks old and ready to go home with you.
Preventing Aggression in a Maine Coon K
Once your kitten is living in your home you are responsible for the way its personality develops. If it is 12 weeks old you have another 2 weeks of the learning window to take advantage of so use it wisely.
If you have children you should make sure they understand that they must treat the kitten kindly and gently. If your children are too young to understand, then supervise them with the kitten at all times and teach them how to take care of it.
A Maine Coon kitten has needle-like teeth and claws. It will not always retract its claws when it plays, so you may get scratched. It may also chew at your hands.
This is not your kitten being aggressive, this is your kitten behaving like a kitten. Discourage chewing and scratching in a gentle manner and avoid play that causes your kitten to scratch or
Make sure you don’t raise your voice at your kitten or punish it physically at all. You will only frighten it and teach it a form of aggression. Always use positive discipline methods.
If it bites you, put it down and use a toy to play with it where it can’t reach you. If it scratches you, place it on a scratch pad and use praise to encourage it to scratch there.
Remember to give your kitten plenty of attention every day and keep socializing it. When playing with a kitten never encourage it to attack your fingers as this will teach it bad habits. Here’s an ideal starter pack of kitten toys.
Try not to leave a kitten alone. Remember it has been removed from the security of its mother and the company of its siblings to a new strange environment. Always get two kittens at the same time if at all possible as they will be a comfort to each other and will also amuse each other for hours.
When Your Kitten Becomes an Adult
It can take 4 to 5 years for a Maine Coon to mature and reach its full size. It will still happily play like a kitten and so you should still make time to interact with it every day (for 15 to 20 minutes at least).
There may be occasions when you get an accidental scratch, particularly if you try to pick up a toy your cat is hunting or holding close. As long as you are always kind to a Maine Coon, it should always be kind and gentle towards you.
If a cat bites you and punctures your skin, you should immediately thoroughly clean and disinfect the wound.
A bite can easily become infected, the reason being a cat’s teeth are long and needle-like and can leave a fairly deep puncture wound where bacteria can easily thrive. If you are concerned about the condition of a cat bite, seek medical advice
A cat bite usually really hurts and can invoke an urge to retaliate. Of course, you should resist this urge at all costs. Punishing a cat will only make things worse. The cat won’t understand and by acting aggressively, you will scare it and possibly drive it to act even more aggressively.
Maine Coons vs Much Smaller Pets
From time to time videos pop up on my Facebook page with titles such as “Ahhhh … look at this gentle cat looking after this budgie”. Please don’t try introducing your beloved budgie to your Maine Coon. As a general rule of thumb, CATS KILL BIRDS. Show your Maine Coon a bird and it will show you how aggressively it can kill it.
Pet mice will be irresistible to a Maine Coon. Don’t keep one where your cat can terrorize it. If you’ve ever seen a cat capture and then play with a mouse you will understand. It will show no mercy.
Rabbits and guinea pigs will also be in grave danger from a Maine Coon so ensure they are in well-secured, hutches and covered runs.
Fish in tanks will be fished out of tanks if you don’t put a lid over them.
To summarize …
If you are thinking of buying a Maine Coon, I highly recommend you don’t buy one – buy two instead.
Weeks 4 to 14 are the critical window in which to nurture Maine Coon kittens and shape their personalities for life.
Spaying or neutering can help to keep Maine Coons calm.
Maine Coons are not aggressive if they are raised in a loving an gentle way with plenty of socialization.
A bored, lonely Maine Coon might become neurotic and resort to strange behavior, which may include aggression.
If you are able to establish what causes aggression in
Never punish an aggressive cat as this will only serve to make matters worse.
Are Maine Coons Aggressive? – Conclusion
Maine Coons make perfect family pets. They are rarely aggressive and you can take steps to minimize the chances of ever experiencing any hostility.
We successfully raised two Maine Coon boys from the same litter at the same time as having our baby. The cats have just turned 14, our baby is now a gorgeous 12-year-old boy who adores our cats and has learned through living with them to be kind to all animals.