History & Overview
Many myths surrounding the Maine coon cat, especially regarding its origins. However, there are some things about the ancestors of Maine coon that are known to be true. In fact, cats came aboard ships even before permanent settlements were established.
Cats were useful to seamen because they helped control the rat population aboard the ships and were good company. When the ships landed ashore, it is likely that the cats went ashore too and some were probably left behind. These cats produced offspring, but only the offspring that were adaptable could survive in the harsh New England climate.
The Maine coon cat of today is America’s original cat, that is, the Maine Coon descended directly from the cats that were around during the time that New England was first settled. These New England cats were prized during the 19th century. Beautiful yet practical in appearance and resourceful, these Yankee cats were excellent hunters. Their personality and ratting skills kept them close to people.
In the early 1900s, other long-haired breeds started to become more popular, especially the Persian. In the early 1960s, a group of enthusiasts began the work to return the Maine coon cat to popularity. From this group emerged the Maine Coon Breeders and Fanciers’ Association (MCBFA), which is today the largest and most influential organization to promote the breed.
Maine Coon Cat Registries
A Maine Coon cat registry is kept by several cat fancier organizations in North America. Some of them include: the oldest association:
- American Cat Association (ACA)
- American Cat Fanciers Association (ACFA)
- Cat Fanciers Federation (CFF)
- Cat Fanciers’ Association, Inc. (CFA)
- International Cat Association (TICA), with whom the Maine Coon cat is perhaps the most popular
Maine Coon cats are also registered with the Canadian Cat Association (CCA), and with the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) in Great Britain and the Federation Internationale Feline (FIFe) in France, which registers Maine Coons all over Europe. Breeders will register cats with one or more associations depending upon the cat shows in which they wish to exhibit and campaign their cats.
The average Maine Coon female can weigh between 8 and 12 pounds. A really large female will weigh up to 14 pounds. Male Maine Coon cats weigh upward of 12 to 18 pounds. Considering that the average domestic shorthair house cat weighs about 8 to 10 pounds, Maine Coon cats are still pretty large. Maine Coon cats do not reach their maximum body size until four or five years of age. Genetics, diet and exercise, all contribute to the cat’s overall size.
Many Maine Coons may been measure 5 feet from nose to tail. Although all colors are acceptable by the MCBFA, the brown tabby, with either classic or mackerel markings, is still the most common and favored color of Maine Coon cats. Colorpoints such as those occurring in the Siamese or Himalayan breeds are not acceptable.
Known Health Risks
For the most part, the Maine Coon cat has been and remains an active and healthy breed with no more susceptibility to disease than any non-pedigreed domestic cat. Two serious health problems are currently being watched by Maine Coon cat breeders:
Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle that results in heart failure and thromboembolism (clot formation similar to stroke). Cardiomyopathy occurs in several forms and may go undetected for an extended period of time and can exist in a mild, nonfatal form. The condition is diagnosed using ultrasound technology, and some responsible breeders screen their cats.
Historically, hip dysplasia, or bone malformation, has only been of concern to dog breeders but it is well known to veterinarians that cats, too, including Maine Coon cats, can have this condition. It is related to genetics and environmental factors.
Buying A Maine Coon
A reputable cattery is the best source for acquiring a Maine Coon cat. These are serious individuals who carefully select cats for their breeding programs in order to strengthen the chances of producing the most desirable characteristics in breeding while diminishing recognized faults as well.
Aside from their preoccupation with breeding and showing Maine Coon kittens and cats, cattery breeders are very concerned about the health of the kittens. All reputable breeders give a health guarantee. Reputable cattery breeders will recognize the importance of early socialization and sell only kittens and cats whose temperament makes them suitable as pets.