Maine Coon: The Gentle Giant

Given the Maine Coon’s shaggy coat, bushy tail and impressive size, it’s easy to understand the myth that he emerged from crossing housecats and raccoons. It would be a good story, if it weren’t biologically impossible.

While the true origin of this cat breed is murky, his characteristics are clear: There’s no doubt why cat-fanciers dub the Maine Coon the “gentle giant.”

Maine Coon History

The Maine Coon cat breed has seen ups and downs in popularity since it was first recorded in cat literature in 1891. It’s generally considered a native of Maine, which claims the Maine Coon as the official state cat.

Theories about its origin include royal lineage: Some say the doomed Marie Antoinette sent some of her pets, the Maine Coon’s ancestors, to America, anticipating that she might escape her beheading. Others say the variety is the result of Vikings pairing their longhair breeds with existing shorthairs on U.S. shores.

The cat breed enjoyed a surge in popularity in the early 20th century after winning Best Cat at the Madison Square Garden Show in 1895. By the 1950s, however, some thought the breed had gone extinct.  In the 1960’s, the Maine Coon Cat Club, formed to develop and champion a breed standard, lobbied the Cat Fancier’s Association tirelessly to include the Maine Coon as a recognized breed club. At that time, there were only 20 Maine Coon breeders in the U.S.

The Maine Coon breed’s resurgence in the past several decades is due in large part to the founding club’s efforts and their love and dedication to this personable, friendly and gentle cat.

Characteristics of the Breed


A Big Cat

The average male Maine Coon is an impressive creature. It can tip the scales between 13 and 18 pounds, as much as double the average conventional housecat. Combine that with an uneven, shaggy coat and a bushy tail, and Maine Coon owners will tell you this is a fairly imposing feline to have sprawled across the kitchen floor.

A Big Personality

His impressive size contradicts an affectionate and sometimes goofy personality. The Maine Coon loves to be around people, even to the point of trying to “help” by plopping into the middle of whatever is going on. While not typically lap cats, they’ll often follow their families from room to room to keep them company.

The breed is often described as “kittenish,” retaining its playful nature throughout its life. Indeed, they are slow to grow, often not attaining full size until they’re 3 to 5 years old. The Maine Coon is even trainable, with the right positive reinforcement. They’re sometimes called “dog-like” in their devotion to families and children.

They love to watch and play with water, contrary to many other breeds. And also unlike others, they’re not as inclined to seek out the highest spot in the room, content to play at ground level.

They are also excellent mousers, which fits their playful nature and perhaps lends credence to their origin among ship-bound Vikings.

An Impressive and Unique Breed

Signature Coat Care

That impressive, silky coat was bred for a cat that could handle the cold. Maine Coons have tufted paws and ears for the same reason, and they’re known to wrap that long, fluffy tail around themselves for an added measure of warmth.

Still, their long, oily coat is regarded as relatively easy to maintain with regular grooming. Because the Maine Coon loves attention, owners often find they’re happy to sit for a weekly combing with a wide-toothed comb, followed by a narrow-toothed comb.

Experts even suggest giving your Maine Coon an occasional bath, particularly when his fur looks stringy and feels greasy, and suggest extra attention to the litter box as fur can collect there as well.

Maintaining a Healthy Weight


Maine Coon cat owners need to watch what’s happening under all that fur — specifically, what they’re eating. As water lovers, they’ll drink plenty and need to have plenty on hand. Obesity is a problem with cats in general, but when feeding large-breed cats like the Maine Coon, a high protein cat food diet is recommended. And, by the time the Maine Coon is 5 to 10 years old his daily activity level is likely decreasing and adjusting his daily caloric requirements should be considered.

Learn more about ROYAL CANIN® MAINE COON cat food, exclusively designed for the pedigreed Maine Coon.

Banfield Pet Hospital lists these breed-associated health conditions for the Maine Coon cat:

hip dysplasia
hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
periodontal disease
In general, the Maine Coon is regarded as a low-maintenance pet with a well-deserved reputation for being gentle, friendly, and affectionate and, of course, big enough to give many common dogs a run for their money.

Resources 

Maine Coon Info
- The International Cat Association
Maine Coon Breed Info - The Cat Fancier’s Association
Maine Coon Personality - Maine Coon Cat Nation
Everything You Need to Know About Maine Coon Cats - Petango.com
Maine Coon Cat Breed Info - Cattime.com
Maine Coon Information - Catster.com