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Why do some Maine Coons have an M on their forehead?

Many Maine Coons have an M on their forehead and this can only signify one thing: they are tabbies! Tabby is the most popular cat pattern and the forehead M is a dominant tabby trait.

Tabby cats can be purebred or mixed breeds and their forehead Ms can be prominent or barely visible and really vary in appearance.

Do all Maine Coons have an M on their forehead?

Not all Maine Coon cats have an “M” shape on their forehead because it’s a characteristic only associated with tabby cats. This means non-tabby Maine Coons do not exhibit this marking.

The “M” shape is formed from darker hairs in the middle of a tabby cat’s forehead, just above its eyes, and is more prominent in some cats than others.

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

What is the most distinguishing feature of Maine Coon cats?

Whilst a forehead M is a common feature of tabby Maine Coons, the most distinguishing Maine Coon feature is probably its large size.

Apart from this, Maine Coons tend to have long rectangular muzzles, large almond eyes, prominent ears, a long uneven coat and a flowing tail. And don’t forget those large, tufty paws.

Mackerel tabby Maine Coon with tongue out

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!

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

A red tabby cat with a feint forehead M.

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.

Which cat breeds have an M on their forehead?

The fact is that any cat breed that has a tabby-coated variation can have a forehead M. These include Persian, American Shorthair, Bengal, Abyssinian, British Shorthair and American Curl.

Why do tabby cats have an M on their forehead?

The forehead M is a distinctive feature that has intrigued cat lovers for generations. While its exact origin remains a subject for debate, there are several reasons why some cats have this marking:


The “M” marking is inherited genetically and is more commonly seen in tabby coat patterns. It is caused by the distribution of pigment-producing cells in the fur, resulting in darker hairs forming the shape of an “M” on the forehead.


One theory suggests that the “M” marking may have evolved to provide camouflage and protection for wild cats in their natural habitats. The darker pigmentation on the forehead could have helped break up the outline of the cat’s head, making it less visible to predators or prey.

Functional Purpose

Some researchers speculate that the “M” marking may serve a functional purpose related to a cat’s vision or sensory perception. It has been suggested that the darker pigment on the forehead could help reduce glare or enhance visual contrast in bright light conditions.

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

Cat forehead M legends and folklore

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?

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

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.

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

Why do 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 above or maybe you have your own idea!

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