The Maine Coon Cat came, saw and conquered. The mouse hunter from the USA has long since conquered the whole world and has been leading the ranking of the most popular pedigree cats for years. The magnificent fur, the pointed ears and the impressive size make the Maine Coon one of the most famous cat breeds. Here you can find out everything you always wanted to know about these popular cats.
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Origin and Breed History
The Maine Coon is a domestic cat breed from the USA. It originated in the northeast of the USA, namely in the state of Maine, which also gave it part of its name. The coon probably comes from “raccoon”, the English word for raccoon. Because of the length of its fur and its strong stature it probably reminded of raccoons, which have always been native to North America. Already around 1860 the medium-long haired cat from Maine is mentioned in descriptions of agricultural fairs at that time, where it was also called “Shags”. The first cat show where a Maine Coon won the “Best in Show” was held in New York in 1895. But later the Maine Coon fell into oblivion.
Her ancestry has not been conclusively clarified, but it is certain that she does not descend from raccoons, as this would not be biologically possible. It probably came with the emigrants from Europe or Minor Asia, who in the 19th century landed daily with their ships in the northeast of the USA. Because they also always brought cats with them. Perhaps it was the precursors of today’s Turkish Angora or the Persian cat, which then mixed with the native Maine domestic cats. The dense long coat was certainly no disadvantage in the long and cold winters of the region. So this otherwise rather rare longhair variety kept for a while among non-bred domestic cats.
Around 1950 cat breeders remembered this special domestic cat and founded a club, the “Central Maine Cat Club”. In 1973 the Maine Coon was recognized as an independent breed by some US cat clubs. However, its international recognition by the major associations lasted until 1982. The core problem of the Maine Coon is its extremely small genetic base. There are only five cats selected from the “natural” domestic cat population. With these five cats a new, genetically closed cat breed was founded. The selection of these animals was done according to external criteria. They were declared to be suitable for breeding according to their appearance. Today they are called “foundation animals”. There is no Maine Coon that does not originate from one of these five “foundation cats”. This inbreeding sometimes becomes an enormous burden for the health of the breed. The Maine Coon is a pleasure in its appearance and from its behaviour an ideal domestic cat for today.
Description of Maine Coon cats
The Maine Coon is a medium to very large semi-longhair cat. It is large-framed and has a long, bushy tail. Single specimens reach sizes which are not healthy for the biological blueprint of a domestic cat and so males with about 12 kg and 120 cm length are no rarity. Such tendencies to giant growth should not be supported. Usually males weigh between 5.5 and 9 kilograms, cats between 4 and 6.5 kilograms. Striking features are their medium-long coat, their angular head outline and their mostly pointed ears with ear tufts that remind of a lynx tuft.
Their fur is dense and is considered water repellent. All colours are permitted. The colour of the eyes should only match the fur colour. Coonies have very strong paws, which also earned her the name “snowshoe cat”. Sometimes a genetic defect, polydactyly, which is spread by inbreeding, occurs. It leads to excessive toes on the paws. According to the Maine Coon Standard, breeding with this genetic defect is permitted. Maine Coon cats like to “speak” and have a rather high voice. Typical for them are the sounds known as “cooing” in their “language”.
Character and nature of the Maine Coon cat
Maine Coon cats are very social animals, extremely friendly and sociable. They are therefore also called the “Gentle Giant”, the gentle giant among the domestic cats. They are very social and do not like to be alone. The Maine Coon is very talkative with both humans and conspecifics. It is intelligent, attentive and very interested in what is happening in its environment. At the same time Coonies are very playful and like to work with their paws. This makes them not only to persistent play partners but also to talented door openers. A Maine Coon is very fixated on people.
Not seldom she goes for a walk with her master or mistress like a puppy. The Maine Coon is a hard-working retriever and because of its orientation towards humans, its attachment and some characteristics more reminiscent of a dog, the Maine Coon is also called “dog cat”. She is always open-minded and friendly towards children as well as animal roommates and is always ready for a game. Aggressive behaviour is practically foreign to her. The Maine Coon can therefore be described as an ideal cat for families.
How to keep a Maine Coon cat
The Maine Coon is an ideal house cat for the home. As it is very intelligent, observes its humans well and is very skilful with its paws, it also learns very quickly to open doors or a water tap for example. You have to keep this in mind. Otherwise she is undemanding and modest in her keeping. But she needs the intimate relationship with her two-legged friends and loves to be with people or animals in her family. A Maine Coon cat doesn’t have to be a free rider to feel comfortable all around. It enjoys a garden for observing nature and occasional hunting trips nevertheless.
Breeding the cats
The Maine Coon is very easy to raise. It is very intelligent and human-oriented and is therefore called a “dog cat” as already mentioned. If she comes from a serious breeder who has taken good care of her parents and kittens and socialized them, she will take care of the rules and habits of her family by herself. With a little guidance she can be house-trained quickly and easily. Apart from that, Coonies are very late developers, who often do not grow up before the age of three or even later.
Care and health
The fur of the Maine Coon must be brushed regularly. With a little bit of feeling and skill, brushing the coat can be turned into a ritual of social bonding, which is emotionally very good for cats and humans alike.
The Maine Coon suffers partly from strong inbreeding. This has also favoured the spread of several diseases. These include hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a heart disease, problems with the joints, spinal muscular atrophy, a disease of the nerve cells, or polycystic kidney disease (PKD). Extreme inbreeding also promotes immunodeficiency and general ill-health. However, these problems do not necessarily occur in all cats of this species.
Nutrition and Food
The Maine Coon is a problem-free eater for cats. However, if it is inbred too much, it can have a tendency to allergies, which makes a dietary diet necessary. Coonies like to play with their food as well as with the water in their bowl.
A Maine Coon cat, bred in a healthy way, can live to be 12 years old. However, hereditary diseases and inbreeding shorten the life expectancy drastically.
Buying a Maine Coon cat
If you want to get yourself a Maine Coon, you can first look around in animal shelters. Here you can find cats that have the same type and character as Maine Coons. At the breeder you should make sure that parents and puppies grow up in good conditions, especially with a close social connection to the human family. You should have a look at the pedigree. Here no ancestor may occur twice, to exclude too extreme inbreeding. In addition, both parents should definitely be tested negative for the above mentioned diseases. Serious breeders state this of their own accord in their advertisements. Of course the kittens should be vaccinated several times, dewormed and chipped.
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