Big, fluffy, beautiful, and gentle. It's time to focus on one the largest and most popular cat breeds in the US and around the world - the 'gentle giant' Maine Coon!
Origins of the Maine Coon
The Maine Coon is native to the USA, more specifically to Maine, the northeasternmost US state. There they are Maine's official state cat and are also one of the oldest natural breeds in the US. They are incredibly popular, known for their gentleness, magnificence, and size - in other words, a 'gentle giant'.
Legend has it that the Maine Coon was the result of breeding a raccoon with a wild cat. Whilst this might explain its luscious, thick fur, science may not see it quite the same way. In fact, it is physically impossible for the two different species to breed! Meanwhile, others believed the Maine Coon descended from the Angora cats belonging to France's last queen, Marie Antoinette, while other stories suggested the cat descended from the Norwegian Forest Cat and were imported by Vikings thousands of years ago.
Whilst there are many mysteries and legends surrounding this majestic animal, one current truth is that the Maine Coon is one of the world's most popular breeds of cat.
Did you know that the record for the longest cat in the world is held by a Maine Coon? Known as Stewie, he measured 123cm in length, from nose to tail!
Long and muscular, Maine Coons are one of the largest cat breeds in the world. They typically weigh around 6-9kg while some can reach up to 15kg in weight.
A Maine Coon's legs are powerful and muscular, and their paws are particularly large and round.
Its muzzle is noticeably square-shaped with well-defined cheekbones. Their forehead and crown are prominent and elegant, and almost regal in appearance.
Eyes are large, oval and spaced reasonably far apart. They are typically green-yellow or copper-gold.
Ears are medium-large and stand tall on the head, often with tufts of fur at the point and inside the ear (much like the Siberian and lynx breeds).
This large breed sports a furry coat that contributes to their overall size and magnificence. The coat is medium-long, very thick, and dense all over the body. It is characterised by two distinct layers - longer guard hairs on the outer with a silky satin undercoat. Overall, the hairs are very fine, soft and silky, but they protect well from the breed's native colder climate. Coat colours vary widely.
So what about the Maine Coon's health?
Maine Coons typically live between 10-15 years. They are unfortunately prone to a disease named feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy feline (or HCM). This heart disease is more common in middle-aged to old cats and even males. There is no known cure at this stage although some tests can help to determine if the cat is predisposed to the condition. These are, however, not conclusive.
Maine Coons may also suffer from spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). This can result in the loss of spinal-cord neurons that communicate with skeletal muscles and the front and back legs, leading to reduced or no mobility.
Hip dysplasia is another common abnormality that can lead to osteoarthritis and lameness. There is no cure, however surgery can alleviate some of the suffering.
Appropriately named the 'gentle giant', Maine Coons have a very sweet, kind and patient temperament. They respond well to children and even other pets. They will require regular affection from their owner and want to play often.
They are vocal creatures and enjoy communicating with their owner. Don't be surprised by their chirp-like meow; it's a more unusual sound than the common cat makes. They have also been described as 'dogs of the cat world', being friendly, intelligent, playful and curious. It's very possible to teach them tricks like 'fetch'!
Maine Coons love being outdoors but will adapt to indoor living providing they have sufficient stimulation and human interaction. They enjoy exercising, so if you don't have a garden you may like to walk them on a leash.
Unlike most cats, Maine Coons are typically fascinated by water and may enjoy going for a swim in the summer. Who'd have thought it!
What's your favourite thing about the Maine Coon?