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Why some cats have an M on their forehead

Some cats have single-colored coats and some have patterns. By far the most common patterned cat is the tabby.

You can be certain that a cat with an M on its forehead has a tabby pattern because this marking is a dominant trait with that type of coat. Tabby cats with an M can be purebred or mixed-breeds.

You’ve probably noticed many Maine Coon cats have a distinct M marking on their foreheads. But do all Maine Coons feature this mark and does M stand for Maine Coon?

Not all Maine Coon foreheads have an M because it is a marking that only features in a tabby pattern. Some tabby Maine Coons have more obvious Ms on their foreheads than others. It’s worth noting that the M is not exclusive to Maine Coons: tabby cats of any breed can have one.

Does the M stand for Maine Coon?

Contrary to the popular myth, the M on a Maine Coon’s forehead does not stand for Maine Coon. However, we do reveal other suggestions as to what the Maine Coon M could represent.

Do all tabby cats have an M on their forehead?

All tabby cats have distinct markings on their foreheads which often form the shape of the letter M. However, not all are an obvious M as you can see on Harry below.

He’s a classic red tabby Maine Coon who gets a bit fed up with his mum using him as a model. Just look at those tufty toes!

A red tabby cat with a feint forehead M.

There is not just one tabby Maine Coon pattern – there are three and they are quite easy to distinguish between.

Mackerel (Striped) Tabby

The Mackerel tabby is the most common tabby Maine Coon pattern. It has narrow stripes that begin at a stripe along the cat’s spine and fall vertically towards its belly.

As the lines are parallel to each other and evenly spaced, they look like a fish skeleton hence the name mackerel.

Classic Tabby

The classic tabby is often referred to as a blotched tabby. It has well-defined swirls on the sides of the body and butterfly patterns over its shoulders. 

Ticked (Agouti) tabby

A ticked tabby Maine Coon has several bands of different colors on every hair on its body and head. This pattern is often referred to as the Agouti tabby pattern.

A seated tabby cat with a clear M on its forehead.

Why do tabby cats have an M on their forehead?

Having an M on its forehead is believed to be the marking of a true tabby cat. There are many legends surrounding how tabby cats, including Maine Coons, came to have an M on their foreheads.

Which one will you believe?

The Mark of the Moon

Ancient Egyptians believed a cat’s eyes literally absorbed moonlight to shine like bright pieces of the moon.

Therefore, they held the belief that Khonsu the God of the moon adorned cats with an M on their foreheads.

The Mark of Mafdet

Egyptians worshipped cats and trusted them to protect them from the many snakes, rats, and scorpions that made their homes unsafe.

Many Egyptians believed cats were put on Earth by the Goddess, Mafdet, who sometimes took a feline form and was worshipped as the protector of the home.

Did she put an M on the foreheads of tabby cats?

The Mark of Mary

Another legend has it that a tabby cat snuggled up with the baby Jesus in his manger to keep him warm.

To show her gratitude, Mary used her finger to draw an M on the cat’s head and from then on, all tabby cats bore the M for Mary on their foreheads.

Muhammed and his cat, Muezza

Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, held cats in high esteem. Legend has it that his favorite cat, Muezza (whose name meant cherished), saved Muhammad from a deadly snake bite and in return was marked on the forehead with an M.

What else could the M on a tabby cat’s head signify?

Drawing on 15 years of experience owning a tabby Maine Coon, here are our thoughts on what that M on a tabby cat’s forehead could also represent.

Master or Mistress of the house

Yes, that M could definitely stand for Master or Mistress of the house. Our red tabby Maine Coon definitely acted this way. We never forgot that he owned us – we were definitely his staff!

Closeup of a grey tabby cat with an M on its forehead.

Mischievous

Mischievous is a word we often applied to Harry. He often got up to no good even at age 15.

He got up to the most mischief by stripping the Christmas tree of decorations as soon as we’d finished putting them on.

A red tabby Maine Coon lying on his side next to Christmas presents.

Majestic

Tabby cats such as Maine Coons are majestic and Harry knew exactly how to pull off this look when he needed to. He was the king of cats, especially with that tail.

A red tabby Maine Coon with an M on his forehead and huge fluffy tail.

Mouse Catcher

Many Maine Coons are good hunters. Only this morning, Harry awoke us with a strange meowing.

Other owners will know the exact sound I mean – one that is emitted whilst carrying a mouse in your jaws. That was the end of our Saturday lie-in.

This morning the mouse was sadly no more but on other occasions Harry has released a live mouse for us to chase around recapture to release back in to the wild.

There has been many an occasion when Harry has freed the mouse to run around our bedroom at about 3 am – never a dull moment with a cat.

Meow Cat

Could this be the true meaning of that tabby M on a cat’s forehead? A cat with a wide vocabulary of meows.

Harry has about 99 different meow pitches and lengths. We know what they all mean, of course.

Mysterious

M could also stand for mysterious behavior. Examples are zooming around the house in the small hours, urgently needing to be let out of the bathroom the moment you step under the shower and teleporting.

A red tabby Maine Coon curled up in a basin showing his forehead M.

OK, I ought to explain that last claim in more detail. We all swore that Harry was often sitting in one position and we would literally blink and then he’d be somewhere else.

We don’t know how he did this – we probably never will.

Messy

Harry could not eat without spilling his food. That’s it, in a nutshell. Whenever we moved the dish, there was always a clear spot surrounded by food.

Mucky

That M could stand for mucky. Harry often had stuff stuck in his fur – leaves, grass, sticky seeds.

He refused to let us groom him so we had to randomly pluck things from his fur as we stroked him.

Meddlesome

M is for Meddlesome Maine Coon. Harry meddled around in my makeup basket, looking for hairbands to steal.

He brought them to me for a game of fetch. I could never find one when I needed it.

Why some cats have an M On their forehead? Conclusion

Not all cats have an M on their forehead – only the tabby variety! The M can be quite pronounced or not so obvious.

What does it stand for?

It’s not exclusively M for Maine Coon. You can pick your favorite legend from the selection we mention. Or just for fun, invent your own meaning.

Maine Coon Whiskers
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