Road Test: The Maine Coon
One of the largest of the domestic cats this gentle giant’s origins are shrouded in mystery and intrigue with myths and folk lore abounding.
One theory is that domestic and semi wild cats mated with racoons, another is that they originated from descendants of long haired cats belonging to Marie Antoinette in her last ditch attempts to escape execution when she is reputed to have enlisted the help of a Captain Samuel Clough loading his ship with her most prized possessions including her Turkish Angora cats. Yet another and possibly more plausible origin is that they evolved from long haired cats brought to America by the marauding Vikings.
Whatever their origins they are one of the favourites of the felines in America, noted for their gentle, affectionate natures whilst being a beautiful and larger than life domestic cat.
As mentioned, the exact origins are unknown but they go back to the 1700’s and are North America’s only native long haired cats.
They are generally regarded as being native to the state of Maine (in fact the Maine Coon is the official Maine State cat!).
They were originally a working cat and their abilities as mousers are legendary.
They have become well adapted to the cold winters of their native New England and even their feet have tufts of hair between the toes (like snowshoes) and their ears are also protected by tufts of hair.
These are beautiful, heavy boned, muscular cats with long rectangular bodies.
The males can grow to 10kg whilst the females are slightly smaller.
They come in every colour except pointed (lilac and chocolate) and the best known colour, the brown tabby, gives these individuals a similar appearance to the racoon as does their love of water, hence their name.
There large physique and shaggy coat gives them a larger than life appearance and along with the frontal ruff that some of the males have, they could pass for a small lion.
These are a gentle, affectionate cat that adapt well to most surroundings and get on well with dogs and other cats. They have a soft, high pitched chirping voice and are well known for yowling, chattering and “talking” back to their owners.
They are patient with children, can be taught interactive games like fetching objects, and whilst being athletic are quietly so and therefore are not a demanding animal enjoying perching on high places away from the action.
They are slow to mature and may take 3-5 years to attain full size.
Their easy going nature and characteristic clown-like personality have ensured their popularity.
WHO SHOULD HAVE ONE:
As they are good with children and families they make ideal pets and are not high maintenance as far as attention is concerned.
They do however require weekly grooming and a bath once a month is a good idea to keep the coat under control. This procedure is generally carried out by breeders from a very young age and so they accept it well.
A Maine Coon will be your companion, your buddy, your pal, but hardly ever your baby.
Individuals within any breed are fairly closely related, and have many characteristics in common.
These include genetic strengths and weaknesses. So it is with the Maine Coon and so when choosing a breeder one needs to ask questions about the breeding program and so on.
The most common inherited problems are hip dysplasia causing hindquarter lameness, and cardiomyopathy which can cause severe heart problems in some cases. These conditions are screened by good breeders but should be investigated before buying.
All in all these are a delightful cat and come highly recommended.