Some people prefer their cats ‘au natural’ and some just can’t resist giving theirs a new ‘fur style’. While there are some valid justifications for shaving a cat, many strange cuts are chosen for purely aesthetic reasons. What is a Maine Coon lion cut and what are the pros and cons?
The Maine Coon lion cut is an extreme shave that leaves a Maine Coon resembling a lion. Clippers remove the long fur on the Maine Coon’s body but its neck ruff is left long to resemble a lion’s mane. The tail fur is cut away leaving just a pom-pom at the tip like a lion’s tail.
Further down you will see two photos that show how traumatic an experience giving a Maine Coon a lion cut can be.
The Maine Coon in question is wearing a surgical collar to stop it biting, and its claws have been taped over to stop it scratching. It is clearly being pinned down by one person whilst another uses the clippers. The truth is, giving a Maine Coon a lion cut is not a pleasant procedure.
Many people choose this cut for summer due to a misconception that Maine Coons like to be relieved of their long coat in hot weather. Others choose the Maine Coon lion cut because they like the way it makes their cat look.
I accept that sometimes it is medically necessary to shave areas of a cat’s body and I will explain our awful experience of this later on. However, it is never necessary to give a Maine Coon cat a lion cut.
This article explains why a lion cut is unnecessary for any Maine Coon with a healthy coat.
Above image: “Craig” by Brenna licensed under CC BY 2.0. This photo shows Craig the day before his lion cut.
The featured image: “Craig’s Lion Cut” by Brenna licensed under CC BY 2.0, shows Craig just after his lion cut.
What is a Maine Coon Lion Cut?
It’s simple really. A Maine Coon lion cut is a particular way of shaving a cat to make it look like a lion.
In the most extreme version, the body is close-shaved, the length of the tail is shaved except for a small pom-pom at the end, the legs are shaved and the face, head, and neck ruff are left untouched. The end result is a cat that looks embarrassed and confused.
Here is my beautiful red tabby Maine Coon, Harry, in all his glory.
Here is a lion in all his glory.
Should you shave a Maine Coon?
As a matter of fact, you should not give a Maine Coon a shaved lion cut hairstyle. I can see how owners might genuinely believe a Maine Coon lion cut is necessary in hot weather.
However, it doesn’t matter if you live somewhere with a warm climate as your Maine Coon’s long fur will actually help it to stay cooler as described further down.
Shaving can cause skin problems and psychological issues. Should you decide on a drastic shave such as a lion cut, it could take up to 6 months to grow out.
Variations Of The Maine Coon Lion Cut
All lion cuts leave the cat’s face, head and neck fur untouched. These are the common variations:
- Shaving the whole of each leg and the tops of the paws.
- Shaving just the top half of each leg, leaving a boot of fur on each paw.
- Leaving the fur on the tail untouched.
- Shaving most of the tail, leaving a small poodle-like pom-pom at the tip.
- Leaving the hair below the face to the tops of the front legs long so as to emphasize the size of the mane.
- Leaving a strip of fur along the spine a bit like a Mohican style and sometimes using a product to turn this into spikes like those of a Stegosaurus.
Why Maine Coons Need Their Fur Not a Lion Cut
A Maine Coon’s fur is highly functional. After reading the following you will realize just how important a cat’s fur is for its health and well being.
Hopefully, you will think twice before taking your cat for a lion cut (or will never do it again if it’s something you have had done in the past. Maine Coons are not a shaved lion!
A cat’s fur provides a means of protection from a multitude of things:
- From other cats – If ever your cat has an altercation with another cat, its fur provides a fair amount of protection from claws and teeth. Take that away and it will be far more likely to suffer a severe injury. Even indoor cats can suddenly attack each other, so that’s no excuse either.
- From the sun – Your cat’s fur provides protection from the sun. Cats can suffer from sunburn and develop skin cancer far more easily when they have been shaved.
- From biting insects – Without its fur, your cat will be far more prone to painful insect bites and stings
- From thorns and barbed wire – A cat that likes to spend time outside will be at risk from a variety of injuries from sharp objects such as thorny plants and barbed wire. Fur provides a natural buffer between many sharp objects and your cat’s skin.
- From stinging or thorny plants – Without its fur, your cat’s skin will be vulnerable to stings and irritation from a variety of plants and weeds.
- From wet weather – Its fur keeps a cat’s skin dry. Without it, your cat will get soaked if it rains and can very quickly become hypothermic.
A cat’s fur protects it in hot and cold weather as follows:
- From heat – A cat’s fur actually keeps its body cooler. It absorbs the heat and prevents its body from overheating. Remove its fur and your cat will get hotter quicker. If a cat is shaved in hot weather there is always a chance that the weather will deteriorate and then your cat will really feel the cold.
- From cold – Fur slows down the escape of heat from a cat’s body on a cold day. Cold days can suddenly occur even in summer and then your cat will be left shivering.
It’s not just a cat’s whiskers that assist it in knowing where it can fit. Every inch of your cat’s fur is highly sensitive. The slightest touch is felt and warns a cat that it is near to objects.
For example, if a cat passes under a barbed wire fence it knows how low to crouch because its fur brushes the tips of the barb. Without its fur to warn it, its paper-thin skin can get snagged and cut.
A cat uses its fur to deter enemies. If you shave a cat’s body and tail, it can’t put its hackles up or puff its tail out like a brush to make itself look bigger and stronger in the face of an enemy.
Therefore, if you give your Maine Coon a lion you disable this fundamental method of communication.
The Maine Coon Lion Cut: Pros and Cons
The Pros – Good excuses for giving a Maine Coon lion cut
In my mind – and many vets and professional groomers agree – there are three acceptable reasons for giving a Maine Coon a shave. None of these necessitate a full lion cut.
- When a cat’s fur is really matted – As knots increase in size to form large felt-like mats, they tug painfully at a cat’s skin. It is impossible to groom these areas and removing them with clippers is often the only solution. Even then, it is possible to lift the knot-free fur and clip out the knotted areas. A cat might not win any shows after this but it gets to keep as much fur as possible.
- In preparation for an operation – Obviously for hygiene reasons, operation sites must be shaved.
- To treat severe skin conditions – Sometimes cats can develop serious skin complaints and a vet might shave the affected areas to allow proper treatment.
The Cons – Poor excuses for giving a Maine Coon lion cut and problems that can arise
There are many excuses made for subjecting a Maine Coon to a lion cut. These are some I have heard along with reasons why they are not valid. There are also many problems that can arise during and after a shave.
- My outdoor cat is overheating – Maine Coons do not overheat in the same way that we do. In fact, their coat is the very thing that helps them stay cool. Their fur is a thermal regulator and slows down the process of heat absorption: remove it and your cat heats up more quickly than with it. Therefore by giving them a Maine Coon Lion Cut you actually interfere with its inbuilt temperature regulation so are doing it more harm than good. An outdoor cat will seek out the coolest, shadiest spot to stay cool. If you have a heatwave and are concerned, keep your cat indoors.
- My indoor cat is overheating – indoor cats do not need shaving. A home is very unlikely to reach the sort of temperature in which a cat will overheat. Just ensure it has plenty of water and that the house is ventilated in some way.
- My cat can’t groom itself properly – No longhaired cat can keep its coat in good condition by licking alone. You must give it a helping hand with regular grooming sessions. If you don’t, it will develop painful knots and mats. If you gently and sympathetically groom a Maine Coon regularly from a young age it will be far more amenable to the process.
- My cat will not allow me to groom it – I absolutely sympathize with this scenario as I have two Maine Coons like this. They were badly groomed by an overzealous breeder and simply detest the act. They become little wildcats and if we were to persist, we would stress them out and get bitten and scratched. In this situation, I recommend a sedated grooming session under the supervision of a vet. Some mats may have to be clipped out but a full shave is never necessary.
- It looks cool – This is a totally selfish reason for giving a Maine coon a lion cut. Your cat’s wellbeing should be your foremost concern not satisfying your own perception of what looks cute or trying getting a few ahs or chuckles from friends and family. And as for posting the result on social media to see how many likes you get, and claiming the cat loves it well, that’s about as low as you can get. It’s not something a genuine, caring, animal lover would ever do.
- Ingrowing hairs – A close shave can leave guard hair embedded in a cat’s skin. This can then give rise to ingrowing hairs which can cause your cat to scratch like crazy and develop skin infections.
- Skin cuts – A cat’s skin is thin, wrinkled, full of crevices and bumps. It is very easy to snag and cut it during the shaving process.
- Irregular growth – A new hair cannot begin to grow until the shaved guard hair stubble falls out. This gives rise to a very uneven regrowth.
- A cat feels and behaves differently after being shaved – A cat is very aware of its missing fur after a shave. It instinctively knows how vital its coat is for survival and feels threatened by the sudden lack of fur. The process is extremely stressful. Many vets, veterinary nurses and certified groomers report that cats do not enjoy being shaved.
Why You Should Never Shave a Maine Coons Face, Limbs or Paws
A Lion Cut always avoids the face because of the sensitive whiskers. But you should also never shave a cat’s limbs or paws because of the sensitivity and vulnerable tendons in these areas.
Regular Grooming is Key
Avoid a Maine Coon lion cut at all costs. Keep your cat’s coat in tip-top condition with regular grooming sessions. Start gently when it is a kitten and it should be amenable to this.
Never rush or stress over-grooming as your cat will sense this and stop tolerating it. I highly recommend this grooming brush for adult Maine Coons (it’s the one we use).
The Maine Coon Lion Cut is not as Common as You Might Think
I had great difficulty sourcing photos for this article. My usual stock photograph suppliers didn’t have any good examples. Why might this be? Obviously, and thankfully, the lion cut is not that common in Maine Coons after all. Let’s try to eradicate it altogether.
How Much is a Maine Coon Lion Cut and How Long Does it Last?
A lion cut can cost anything from $80. It takes a long time to fully grow out, at least 4 to 6 months.
Who Should Give a Maine Coon a Lion Cut?
I would only recommend a highly experienced certified groomer be let loose on a Maine Coon.
If your cat needs sedation to tolerate the process, then I would never let anyone except a vet administer one for health and safety reasons.
The dose has to be very exact according to the cat’s weight and age and there is always a risk involved, like with any medical procedure.
Can You Perform a Maine Coon Lion Cut Yourself?
No! Absolutely not. Don’t try to give your cat a lion cut yourself. There are so many things that could go wrong. The clippers can get very hot and burn your cat’s skin; you have to constantly apply a cooling spray and this is not easy if you are a novice.
It is very easy to nick your cat’s skin and cause a severe bleed, not to mention how much this will hurt and scare your cat. You will very likely end up with a very uneven and poor quality finish.
Charlie’s Unexpected Lion Cut
The Grooming Session
Our beautiful white Maine Coon Charlie is a very nervous cat. We are his second owners and don’t really know why he is like he is. He hates being groomed as much as I detest lion cuts.
Twice a year our vet lightly sedates Charlie and clips out a few mats and knots. We always sign a waiver to say we accept he might have a few shaved areas.
A year ago I dropped him off in the morning, as usual, and collected him a few hours later. I nearly died when I saw him! A new team of nurses had completely shaved his body and tail into a full lion cut.
His fur was so short, you could clearly see his pink body through it. They claimed it was all they could do, but this wasn’t true as he had not had that many knots – I believe they did it for speed.
The Effect on Charlie
Charlie was very subdued when we got him home. His bottom area had been shaved so short that he couldn’t sit down comfortably. He sat down, immediately stood, turned in circles, sat again, stood again. He kept this up all evening.
He looked miserable and depressed. It broke our hearts. He paced about all the next day and didn’t seem to be able to lay down on any surface. Having seen this effect, I will never understand how anyone could choose to inflict this on their cat for no reason other than that they think it looks good.
This is Charlie 6 weeks after his unsolicited shave – you can see how slowly the fur grows back. He just wanted to prove that Maine Coons love to lay on a cluttered table!
I firmly believe a Maine Coon lion cut is of no benefit to any cat with a healthy coat. Some owners genuinely think its the right thing to do in hot weather and I hope they can be persuaded that it is not actually necessary.
Then there are those who think it looks cool and I hope these people can see after reading this article that it is totally unfair and quite risky to inflict a lion cut on a cat just because they like the look of it.
Everything you need to know about Maine Coons in one place
As you love Maine Coons, we’ve created a book just for you. As you no-doubt love this breed, included within it is information you won’t get elsewhere – do check it out if you want to know the stuff that most people don’t!
The book is crammed full of answers to common Maine Coon questions – knowledge we’ve accumulated over 25 years of living with these beautiful cats. We’re 100% certain you’ll find it invaluable.
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