Maine Coon cats are truly an magnificent creatures. They are the 2nd most popular cat breed in the United States (1st is the Persian) and they have the honor of being the official state cat of Maine. The Guinness World Records for longest cat whiskers (7.5 in/19 cm) and longest domestic cat ( 48.5 in/123 cm) both belong to Maine Coon cats. Maine Coon cats are no stranger to the silver screen either; Mrs. Norris from the Harry Potter series was a Maine Coon.
Making an Appearance
There are 4 main physical traits that make the appearance of the Maine Coon cats distinct from other breeds:
- Large size.
The Maine Coon is one of the largest domestic cat breeds. On average, females are 9 – 12 lbs (4.1 – 5.5 kg) and males are 13 – 18 lbs (5.9 – 8.2 kg). Their bodies have a very strong, sturdy frame.
- Long silky fur.
The fur of a Main Coon cat is tiered – shorter around the shoulders and longer on its belly and britches. It is thick, slightly oily fur (which provides a bit of water repellency), but it isn’t dense like other long haired breeds. The tabby pattern is the most common, but Maine Coon cats are found with a variety of colors and patterns.
- Tuffed ears, tail, and paws.
Both for warmth and protection, a Maine Coon’s ears, tail and paws are surrounded by sprouts of fur. The large furry paws also help the cat to walk on the top of ice and snow (think built-in snowshoes).
- Oval, almost round eyes.
The Main Coon’s large roundish eyes are very beautiful and expressive.
A Little History About A Big Kitty
There are a few things that we know for certain about the history of the Maine Coon breed. We know that they were developed on the east coast of the United States. They are named after the state of Maine, where they were first identified as a breed. Another thing that we know is that many of their features were a result of adapting to the cold climate on the American east coast. We also know that they have been around since America’s colonials days. What we don’t know is exactly how or when their predecessors got to the U.S. and what breed(s) they were derived from.
The most famous (but not necessarily true) of the stories about how the predecessors of the Maine Coon came to the United States involves the French Revolution. It is said that after Marie Antoinette was imprisoned by the French rebels, she made plans to be rescued and flee from France. She had her 6 Angora cats along with some other belongings shipped over to the United States to await her arrival. However, when her rescuers came, she refused to leave France without her son. She was executed and her cats remained in the U.S. with the captain of the ship that had brought them over. The Maine Coon was the result of those Angora cats breeding with other domestic cats.
There were other stories about the Maine Coon’s predecessors that tried to explain the breed’s unique physical features. One said that the Maine Coon was the result of the breeding of a short haired domestic cat with a raccoon. While this might seem to explain the tufted tail, it turns out to be biologically impossible. Another story said that the Maine Coon was the result of the mating of a domestic cat and a bobcat. This story would explain the large size and tufts of fur on the ears, but is still unlikely to be true.
In the 1920’s the Maine Coon was very popular in the United States. However, as more long haired breed were imported, the popularity dwindled. By the 1950’s the Maine Coon was rumored to be extinct. Thanks to some breeders who loved the Maine Coon, the breed is back and as popular as ever.
A Total People Purrson
Maine Coon cats are the gentle giants of the domestic cat world. They are intelligent, trainable, and they love to be around people. Often they will want to follow their owner around from room to room. Maine Coon cats love to “help” their owners with any task – even water doesn’t deter them (they like water). They also get along great with children and other animals. Their soft meow will melt anyone’s heart.