There are many tales that try to chronicle the history of the Maine
Coon, but no one can be absolutely sure of their precise origin. The
first Maine Cats, as they were called early on, evolved along the Maine
coastal towns and villages some 3 centuries ago. Early Maine Cats were
a normal part of the rural life. A flourishing maritime trade existed
during the colonization of New England (and before) and cats were important
passengers on the ships and schooners. The paring of
these seafaring felines with the land cats of the early Maine settlers,
along with the climate and terrain of the region, is what most likely
produced the unique cats that today we call Maine Coons. Available literature
has the Maine Cat as a recognized "type" of feline as early
as the mid-1800's. The cats were developed into a standardized and registered
breed in Maine during the 1950's and 1960's and by 1980 all of the cat
registering organizations had accepted the Maine Coon. During the early
part of the 1900's, outside of the New England area, the Maine Coon's
popularity waned with some of the newer, European imports, such as the
Persian, gaining favor. However, the popularity of the Maine Coon began
to increase again during the 1950's and since that time, their acclaim
spread across the United States and into other parts of the world.
Coons can come in almost every color. The most common color is the brown
tabby, but Maine Coons can be white, black, red, blue, silver and any
mixture allowed by genetics. The color can be with or without white.
They can be solid cats or tabbies. Their tabby pattern can be mackerel
(a striped tabby) or classic (a bullseye pattern on the side of the
cat). Maine Coons will not be the pointed colors or pattern, such as
body and coat characteristics of the Maine Coon is an outcome of their
development in the harsh climate of New England, and is a credit to
Mother Nature. Their coat is glossy, water-resistant, and layered. Soft,
downy-like undercoats, and longer, coarser, guard outer hairs keep the
cat warm and dry during snowy, wet, or chilled weather. The coat is
longer on the ruff, stomach, and legs (britches) which provides protection
from moisture, and shorter on the back and neck as a defense against
tangling in brush. During the colder months, the undercoat will thicken,
especially underneath the neck and stomach, adding a protective "layer"
of insulation. The tail is long and bushy, called a "brush",
which allows the cat to curl up around the tail as another protection
from the elements. The feet of a Maine Coon are large, rounded and tufted,
to facilitate walking on cold, wet, snowy surfaces. Originally, up to
25% of early Maine Cats were polydactyl, or multi-toed. These cats were
also called mitten-toed cats and could have extra toes on just the front
feet, or all four. The ears, while big, are not as large as many breeds,
but are hairy, both giving extra protection from climate and heat loss.
size and structure of the Maine Coon also showcases Nature's abilities
to promote the best. A strong, solid body supports the predatory nature
of the Maine Coon. A rugged, outdoor cat, the Maine Coon's body is substantial,
muscular, medium to large, rectangular in shape, and very balanced.
The ears have a wide range of motion. Eyes are large. Long whiskers
help with balance and movement, as does the long tail. A long. square
muzzle aids in grabbing prey and lapping water. A Maine Coon is a slow
developing cat, not reaching full size until around three years old,
and some state up to five years. Males typically weigh 15 - 20 pounds,
while females usually weigh between 9 - 12 pounds.
The temperament of the Maine Coon belies its rugged hardiness. The Maine
Coon is a relaxed cat, with an easy-going personality one of its major
traits. They are often referred to as goofy. Maine Coons get along with
children, dogs, other animals, and other cats. In keeping with their
heritage of being prized by New Englanders, they are very people-oriented,
preferring to be close to their human companions whenever they can.
Maine Coons are not known for being "lap cats" - their size
may preclude that - but they will greet you at the door, follow you
from room to room, and help you with whatever you are doing. If allowed,
Maine Coons love to sleep on the bed with their humans. The Maine Coon
is an intelligent breed, and can be taught to walk on a leash, play
fetch, and perform many other tricks. Maine Coon owners can keep you
occupied with stories of the many things their furry child has learned
to do on its very own! Maine Coons love to climb and jump, but, again
true to their working cat background, love to chase objects on the ground
and carry their "prey" around in their mouths. A Maine Coon
will stay playful even as an adult.
A Maine Coon is also a quiet cat. One would think that with the handsome
ruggedness of the breed, s/he would have a royal roar. But when a Maine
Coon is vocal, the voice is more of a chirp or trill. They love to sing
though, even when not courting.
Since the 1950's especially, planned breedings with other registered
Maine Coons with a known pedigree has begun. Maine Coon breeders have
sought to preserve the robust nature and wonderful personality of the
cat. Ethical, caring breeders hope to produce healthy cats. Breeders
tend to breed for traits they like personally, while trying to keep
the overall picture (and written standard) of an ideal Maine Coon in
mind. The cats we see and call Maine Coons now are a bit different than
the original Maine Cats. They have bigger builds and longer bodies and
heads, with taller ears. Coats can be longer (or shorter) and more uniform,
with less shag. Coat colors and patterns are closer to a desired standard.
Most are not polydactyl, since this trait is not accepted in written
breed standards. Temperament is probably even more people-oriented than
before. Some of the modern Maine Coon cats have lost the sweet, big-eyed
look and instead have a more wild facial expression. I think that the
early Maine Cats have developed into what is now called a "traditional
or moderate" style in Maine Coons, and the bigger, longer, more
wild look of some of today's cats is a more "extreme" style.
the Links page (coming soon) for more stories about the Maine Coon.