About the Breed

Maine Coons originate from the US state of Maine. When the first farmers arrived in the United States, Maine Coons were discovered and encouraged into the barns and stores because of their excellent mousing abilities. The first Maine Coons were resilient, rugged working cats.

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If ever there was evidence that nature is an artist, it is this breed. Each of the Maine Coon’s distinctive features was not bred to be alluring to humans (although they no doubt are) but emerged from natural selection for the purposes of helping these cats to survive and thrive in the cold and sometimes harsh northeastern United States.

Their long fluffy tails acted as built-in blankets, their large tufted paws allowed the heavy Maine Coons to walk atop deep snow, and their intelligent minds helped them hunt. Even the Maine Coon’s affectionate and social nature is thought by some to have been adaptive, giving them a backup option when hunting didn't go as planned – charming food from humans.

Today, the breed retains its charm over humans to such an extent that they seldom have to hunt for their own food, although they certainly can, if they want to! In fact if you don’t feed them on time, there is a strong possibility that they won’t meow or throw a tantrum as other breeds might do, they will simply go outside and bring back a take-away mouse, bird or whatever other tasty meal they can find.

 

Breed standards

The Maine Coon was originally a working cat, developed through a natural selection process in the woods and farms of New England. The Maine Coon is solid and rugged, able to thrive in the rough, woody terrain and the extreme north-eastern US winter climates. The cat has a well proportioned and balanced appearance with no part of the cat being exaggerated. Quality should never be sacrificed for size. With an essentially amiable disposition, companionable and playful nature, it was adapted to many varied environments.

HEAD

Medium in length, slightly longer than wide, with a gently curving forehead and high prominent cheekbones. The profile is slightly concave with no nose break. Nose is of uniform width. Muzzle is visibly square. Chin firm, in line with nose and upper lip. Bite level.

EARS

Large, tall and wide at base. Set high on the head with a slight outward tilt, approximately one ear’s width apart. Ears to be well furnished. Lynx tips desirable.

EYES

Large and widely set, slightly oval but not almond shaped. Appear round when wide open. Set at a slight slant.

NECK

Medium in length. Males have a strong muscular neck.

BODY

Large, long and rectangular. Broad chest, square rump. Muscular with substantial boning. Females are smaller than males.

LEGS

Sturdily boned, medium length and in proportion to the body.

PAWS

Large, round and well tufted.

TAIL

Wide at base, and tapering. At least as long as the body from the shoulders to the base of the tail. Fur long and flowing.

COAT

Heavy and shaggy. Undercoat soft and fine, covered by a substantial topcoat. Shorter on head, neck and shoulders; lengthening gradually down back, flanks and tail. Trousers and belly fur full and shaggy. Frontal ruff desirable. Texture silky, falling smoothly. Different coat colours may have different coat textures.

EYE COLOUR

Any eye colour is permitted. Clear eye colour is desirable. Coat and eye colour may be unrelated.

COAT COLOUR

All colours and patterns acceptable, excluding chocolate variations and all pointed patterns.

Self Coloured Cats should conform to the standard as for All Breeds

 

The above breed standards are from the Southern Africa Cat Council. Other breed standards for international associations can be downloaded below:


Personality

For a cat adapted to be so resilient and self-sufficient, Maine Coons enjoy their people, and are a particularly social breed. Your Maine Coon will appreciate your attention, and will likely involve herself in many of your human activities, possibly even ones like showering and washing dishes, since Maine Coons are known for their un-cat-like love of water. 

Maine Coons are often described as similar to dogs in their intelligence and trainability, and their good temper and gentle nature have meant that they have even made a name for themselves as excellent therapy animals (don’t tell the dogs though!).

To enjoy the best of your Maine Coon’s personality, it's important not to neglect their need for exercise and running room. Your cat will also enjoy interactive play, and can even be taught (or will sometimes teach their humans) to play fetch. Do remember, though, that any climbing frames or cat trees should be sturdy enough to accommodate the larger than average weight and size of the Maine Coon.
 

Autistic children and child therapy

Because of their gentle and interactive nature, Maine coons bond with their human owners readily and actively want to participate in everything their owners are doing. As a result of this wonderful kindness and patience, Maine coons are often used as therapy cats with autistic children. If you have an autistic child and you believe they would benefit from some cat visits please feel free to make an appointment for visits at no cost. Philip and the girls would love the extra cuddles we are sure your child will love it too.  
 

Health

Maine Coons have an average life expectancy of around 9 to 13 years in nature but longer when domesticated, and their characteristic ruggedness and sturdiness is not just aesthetic; they are generally healthy, adaptable and resilient cats. Perfection takes time, though, and they can take as long as four years to reach full physical maturity.

Responsible Maine Coon breeders like Jaeger Cats take every measure to ensure that any genetic defects or predispositions towards illnesses are eliminated, however, the following ailments are sometimes believed to have a slightly higher incidence among Maine Coons:

  • Feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is the most common feline heart disease, and is seen more frequently in males and middle-aged and older cats. As the disease progresses, it causes paralysis in hind legs, heart failure and sudden death. Genetic testing can be performed for the mutation that is thought to cause HCM in Maine Coons.
  • Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a genetically inherited disease which affects the neurons in the spine linked to the skeleton and muscles, and results in muscle weakness and atrophy, and a shortened lifespan. The genes that cause SMA can also be tested for.
  • Hip dysplasia is considered to be more common in heavier-boned breeds such as Maine Coons, and in males. This abnormality of the hip joint can cause difficulty walking and painful arthritis.


Diet

Although they are naturally hardy and adaptable cats, there are a number of reasons to feed your Maine Coon a high quality, high protein diet. Firstly, it can take as long as four years for your Maine Coon to reach full physical maturity, and for those years it is especially important to provide the nourishment your growing cat needs to for optimal development. Secondly, Maine Coons are large and usually active cats, meaning that they have higher than normal energy requirements. Thirdly, Maine Coons do sometimes have a tendency to become overweight, which can cause or exacerbate medical conditions such as hip dysplasia, so good nutrition is especially important.

Because Maine Coons take so long to fully mature, we suggest that you keep your cat on kitten food rather than adult food. At Jaeger Cats, the cats are kept on kitten food for their whole lives. Dry food (kibbles) is permanently freely available as well as fresh water. Young kittens start off with five meals per day (breakfast, lunch, supper, second supper around 8pm, and midnight snack) consisting of fresh raw beef, raw chicken fish or cooked eggs. As they get older they get four meals, later they will only get three meat meals a day.

They can also have goat’s milk or Lactogen1 as often as they like, but cows milk is not recommended as it can cause diarrhoea. They also love a bit of yogurt now and then. A little bit of oil in their diet is also very good for them and coconut oil will help keep your Maine Coon’s coat in top condition, while being naturally antibacterial, too.

A good rule of thumb is to feed your Maine Coon dry foods that list meat as the first ingredient, as a diet high in animal protein is preferred over plant protein. Also rather choose brands that use whole meat, rather than meal or animal by-products.

A staple diet of high-quality dry food is recommended to keep your cat’s teeth healthy, with wet food being offered a few times per week. Larger kibbles encourage chewing which keeps the teeth clean. Be careful with a large Maine Coon, the larger cats swallow smaller kibbles whole and that is not good for their teeth.  

 

Grooming

Keeping your Maine Coon’s coat in good condition is surprisingly easy, if you are accustomed to the care of Persians or other longhaired breeds. Perhaps because the Maine Coon’s sleek coat developed naturally to protect the semi-wild mousing cats from the cold (when they would hardly have been groomed by humans in the lounge), healthy cats can maintain their own coats to a large extent.

However, a weekly combing is recommended at a minimum to keep knots and mats at bay, so it’s best to get your Maine Coon accustomed to grooming at a young age. Since Maine Coons usually love any and all attention, though, grooming is an enjoyable experience for the cat. Try to avoid brushing their tail too much as the hair snaps easily and it takes a long time to grow back.

 

Sources

Hills Pet Nutrition | Southern Africa Cat Council | The Cat Fanciers' Association | University of California Veterinary Genetics | Laboratory: Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy | Universities Federation for Animal Welfare | Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine: Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy | University of California Veterinary Genetics Laboratory: Spinal Muscular Atrophy in Maine Coon Cats | PetMD | Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine: Hip Dysplasia | Mainecoon.org | Main Coon Expert