There are approximately 70 different cat breeds, and most of us would struggle to name more than a dozen. Many cats have similar appearances and it takes a trained eye to distinguish some from others. You’ve no doubt heard of the Maine Coon – but what actually is it?
What is a Maine Coon cat? A Maine Coon cat is a native American breed that originated in the state of Maine, to which it owes its name. It is probably best known for being larger than most breeds. It has a distinctive uneven, long coat, tufty ears and toes, and a square muzzle. This cat’s confident and sociable personality makes it a perfect family pet.
The Maine Coon is one of the oldest of the native American breeds. It originated in Maine in the north and after inhabiting that region for more than 100 years, it was declared the official state cat in 1985. These cats are extremely popular and can be found in households throughout the world.
The Maine Coon Appearance
Maine Coons look like mini lions, especially red ones as above. They are fairly large, muscular cats with long silky coats and long fluffy tails.
The reason I mentioned lions is because many of them develop a lion-like neck ruff. Other features that set them apart from other long-haired cats are the lynx tips of their ears and tufts of fur between their toes.
Maine Coon Coat Colors
Maine Coons can have many color coats. One of the most commonly occurring colors is a brown tabby pattern. They can also have coats that are all one color, referred to as a solid color.
These include black, white, blue (gray), red (orange) and cream. These colors can also be smoke where the roots are lighter than the tips.
Maine Coon coat patterns include tortoiseshell, classic tabby, mackerel tabby, silver patterned and bi-colors.
The Story Behind The Maine Coon Name
So the first part of this large, loveable cat’s name is Maine, after the state where it originated. But what about the second part? There are various stories surrounding this but no one knows for sure. My favorite two are:
- Many early Maine Coons were brown tabbies with black and brown ringed tails that resembled the tails of raccoons. So an amalgamation of words Maine and raccoon resulted in the name Maine Coon.
- Captain Charles Coon used to regularly dock in the area and his ship’s cats used to disembark with him to fraternize with local moggies. The resultant kittens became known as the offspring of Coon’s cats and eventually, this title was morphed into Maine Coon.
Maine Coon Eye Colors
Maine Coons have large eyes set at a slightly oblique angle. The colors can be various shades of green, orange, amber, gold and copper. Solid white Maine Coons can have blue or odd-eyes as can bi-colored cats where one of their coat colors is white.
What Do Maine Coons Sound Like?
You may hear it said that Maine Coons are not that vocal. My two make plenty of noise and other owners I know say theirs do too.
As well as the usual meowing, they also trill, chirrup, and make a variety of variations of the meow sound including “a”, “eh”, “mow”, “awow” and all sorts of other random noises.
If you hear a Maine Coon vocalizing you can be sure it is you it is talking to. The only noise our two make to each other is the trilling noise which sounds a bit like a high pitched, throaty “mrrrr”.
Did you know adult cats don’t communicate with each other by meowing – this sound is only used to attract the attention of humans.
How big does a Maine Coon get?
This is a tricky question to answer as Maine Coons vary wildly in size. It’s worth bearing in mind that they mature at a slower rate than most cats and may not stop growing until the age of 3 or 4 years.
My two are 14-year-old brothers and one weighs 11 lbs and one weighs 13 lbs.
Maine Coons weighing 30 lbs plus have hit the headlines in the past, though it is rare for a Maine Coon of that weight to be in a healthy weight range. Adult females are often smaller than males and can weigh as little as 9 lbs.
What is important is that a Maine Coon is given the correct amount of food and is not fed to the point of obesity because of a misguided opinion that all Maine Coons should be whopping great cats.
There are ways to tell if a Maine Coon is overweight as opposed to just large and care must be taken to ensure one doesn’t become obese.
The Maine Coon isn’t usually cheap
Purebred Maine Coons are expensive if bought from a reputable breeder, one can cost well over $1000.
The price reflects the cost of proper care of the breeding cats, health screening, and initial vaccinations. Of course, it is possible to find Maine Coons or very similar cats in shelters desperate for good homes.
You may not know for certain if a cat obtained in this way is a purebred Maine Coon but this shouldn’t matter at all. What does matter is that you will be giving a cat a chance of having a very happy life.
We’ve written a whole article on Maine Coon costs which covers more than just the purchase price. It’s a good idea to be aware of these things before you commit to owning one.
Caring for a Maine Coon
Maine Coons are just as easy to look after as any long-haired cat. The most time-consuming aspect of Maine Coon care is grooming their coat.
It’s important to get into the habit o grooming a Maine Coon when it is still a kitten so that it gets used to it.
I appreciate some people adopt older cats and they may have more problems with grooming depending on how much the cat has been groomed prior to this.
The more you groom a Maine Coon, the less likely it is to get a knotted, matted coat.
You may notice your cat licking its coat – please don’t think of this as grooming itself as it is only touching the surface of that lovely thick coat.
We use a self-cleaning slicker brush as it is perfect for keeping those underlayers knot-free. It is also very easy to clean.
It is also a good idea to brush a Maine Coons teeth every day. This might sound tricky to accomplish, and I’m not going to pretend it’s a straight forward task. I am, however, going to tell you why it is important.
Maine Coons do tend to suffer more than their fair share of dental problems and no one really knows why.
What we do know is if you prevent the build-up of plaque which leads to gum disease and tooth loss your cat will have a happier life.
So invest in a cat toothbrush and paste and start brushing twice a day as young as possible. Caring for a Maine Coon’s teeth is an essential part of their care.
Maine Coons Are Gentle
Maine Coons are a notoriously gentle breed which must be why they are one of the most popular family pets. They are great with children because they are so playful and remain this way even as adult cats.
I strongly advise that young children are supervised when playing with cats to ensure they don’t get too boisterous and learn to recognize when a cat has had enough.
Also, please be aware that when a Maine Coon plays enthusiastically, its sharp claws are often out.
It has very quick reactions and as you try to retrieve a toy from it to continue a game it can try to grab it back and you may receive a sharp scratch.
Remember the cat is after its toy, not your hand. This can be painful and frightening to a child.
The Maine Coon has an interesting personality
Maine Coons are sociable, friendly cats who love human company and attention. They like to be in the same room as you either on your lap or nearby. Sometimes a Maine Coon will follow you around the house seeking a fuss.
They don’t like to be left alone and often appear from wherever they have been hanging out as soon as you come through the door. If you can, always have two Maine Coons so they can keep each other company and amuse each other.
They have plenty of energy and should be given the opportunity to expend this. If you don’t allow a Maine Coon outside then you should make sure it has plenty of space to move about inside.
Indoor climbing trees are a great idea as they provide somewhere to climb, lounge, sleep, scratch, and play. I love this tree.
What does a Maine Coon like to eat?
Ideally, you should feed a Maine Coon good quality cat food. It’s easier to buy prepared food as it has the proper balance of protein, nutrients, and minerals for a healthy balanced diet.
My two have always had mainly wet food with a small bowl of dry food each day.
If you choose to feed a Maine Coon on a purely fry food diet be very careful as it is very easy to give your cat more calories than it needs each day as dry food is very calorie-dense.
Also, Maine Coons tend to not drink enough so providing them with a wet food diet helps to ensure they get some moisture.
Don’t give Maine Coons milk because as soon as they are weaned they become lactose intolerant and undigested milk will ferment in their stomachs causing them pain, sickness, and diarrhea.
Maine Coons do like to drink from a moving water source. Here’s Charlie at my kitchen sink:
A good solution is to buy a drinking fountain. Here are three fountains I highly recommend.
Conclusion – what is a Maine Coon cat?
Hopefully, you now know and understand why many people are totally smitten with them,
If you’re tempted to buy one, there are plenty of articles on this site where you can learn so much more about these cats. A great next read is A Complete Guide To Maine Coon Cats.