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rec.pets.cats: Maine Coon Cats Breed-FAQ

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Archive-name: cats-faq/breeds/coons
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Last-modified: 12 Mar 1997

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                             The Maine Coon Cat


   This FAQ is Copyright (c) 1994, 1995 by Laura Cunningham, Jean Marie
   Diaz, JoAnn Genovese, Valerie Johnston, Dave Libershal, Orca Starbuck,
   Betsy Tinney, and Eric Williams. Please contact the authors (see
   below) if you wish to reprint this document in whole or in part.

     * History
     * Characteristics
     * Temperament
     * Description
     * Care and Training
     * Special Medical Problems
     * Frequently Asked Questions
     * Recognition
     * Breed Association
     * Finding a Maine Coon Breeder
     * References
     * Authors

   One of the oldest natural breeds in North America, the Maine Coon is
   generally regarded as a native of the state of Maine (in fact, the
   Maine Coon is the official Maine State Cat). A number of attractive
   legends surround its origin. A wide-spread (though biologically
   impossible) belief is that it originated from matings between
   semi-wild, domestic cats and raccoons. This myth, bolstered by the
   bushy tail and the most common coloring (a raccoon-like brown tabby)
   led to the adoption of the name 'Maine Coon.' (Originally, only brown
   tabbies were called 'Maine Coon Cats;' cats of other colors were
   referred to as 'Maine Shags.') Another popular theory is that the
   Maine sprang from the six pet cats which Marie Antoinette sent to
   Wiscasset, Maine when she was planning to escape from France during
   the French Revolution. Most breeders today believe that the breed
   originated in matings between pre-existing shorthaired domestic cats
   and overseas longhairs (perhaps Angora types introduced by New England
   seamen, or longhairs brought to America by the Vikings).
   First recorded in cat literature in 1861 with a mention of a black and
   white cat named 'Captain Jenks of the Horse Marines,' Maine Coons were
   popular competitors at early cat shows in Boston and New York. A brown
   tabby female named 'Cosie' won Best Cat at the 1895 Madison Square
   Garden Show.
   Unfortunately, their popularity as show cats declined with the arrival
   in 1900 of the more flamboyant Persians. Although the Maine Coon
   remained a favorite cat in New England, the breed did not begin to
   regain its former widespread popularity until the 1950's when more and
   more cat fanciers began to take notice of them, show them, and record
   their pedigrees. In 1968, six breeders formed the Maine Coon Breeders
   and Fanciers Association (MCBFA) to preserve and protect the breed.
   Today, MCBFA membership numbers over 1000 fanciers and 200 breeders.
   By 1980, all registries had recognized the Maine Coon, and it was well
   on its way to regaining its former glory.
   Maine Coons were well established more than a century ago as a hardy,
   handsome breed of domestic cat, well equipped to survive the hostile
   New England winters. Nature is not soft-hearted. It selects the
   biggest, the brightest, the best fighters, and the best hunters to
   breed successive generations. Planned breedings of Maine Coons are
   relatively recent. Since planned breeding began, Maine Coon breeders
   have sought to preserve the Maine Coon's "natural," rugged qualities.
   The ideal Maine Coon is a strong, healthy cat.
   Interestingly, the breed closest to the Maine Coon is the Norwegian
   Forest Cat which, although geographically distant, evolved in much the
   same climate, and lends credence to the theory that some of the cats
   responsible for developing the Maine Coon were brought over by the

   Everything about the Maine Coon points to its adaptation to a harsh
   climate. Its glossy coat, heavy and water-resistant, is like that of
   no other breed, and must be felt to be appreciated. It is longer on
   the ruff, stomach and britches to protect against wet and snow, and
   shorter on the back and neck to guard against tangling in the
   underbrush. The coat falls smoothly, and is almost maintenance-free: a
   weekly combing is all that is usually required to keep it in top
   condition. The long, bushy tail which the cat wraps around himself
   when he curls up to sleep can protect him from cold winters. His ears
   are more heavily furred (both inside and on the tips) than many breeds
   for protection from the cold, and have a large range of movement. Big,
   round, tufted feet serve as 'snow shoes.' Their large eyes and ears
   are also survival traits, serving as they do increase sight and
   hearing. The relatively long, square muzzle facilitates grasping prey
   and lapping water from streams and puddles.
   Although the Yankee myth of 30-pound cats is just that, a myth (unless
   the cat is grossly overweight!), these are indeed tall, muscular,
   big-boned cats; males commonly reach 13 to 18 pounds, with females
   normally weighing about 9 to 12 pounds. Add to that two or three
   inches of winter coat, and people will swear that they're looking at
   one big cat.
   Maine Coons develop slowly, and don't achieve their full size until
   they are three to five years old. Their dispositions remain kittenish
   throughout their lives; they are big, gentle, good-natured goofs. Even
   their voices set them apart from other cats; they have a distinctive,
   chirping trill which they use for everything from courting to cajoling
   their people into playing with them. (Maine Coons love to play, and
   many will joyfully retrieve small items.) They rarely meow, and when
   they do, that soft, tiny voice doesn't fit their size!

   While Maine Coons are highly people-oriented cats, they are not
   overly-dependent. They do not constantly pester you for attention, but
   prefer to "hang out" with their owners, investigating whatever
   activity you're involved in and "helping" when they can. They are not,
   as a general rule, known as "lap cats" but as with any personality
   trait there are a few Maine Coons that prefer laps. Most Maine Coons
   will stay close by, probably occupying the chair next to yours
   instead. Maines will follow you from room to room and wait outside a
   closed door for you to emerge. A Maine Coon will be your companion,
   your buddy, your pal, but hardly ever your baby.
   Maine Coons are relaxed and easy-going in just about everything they
   do. The males tend to be the clowns while the females retain more
   dignity, but both remain playful throughout their lives. They
   generally get along well with kids and dogs, as well as other cats.
   They are not as vertically-oriented as some other breeds, prefering to
   chase objects on the ground and grasping them in their large paws --
   no doubt instincts developed as professional mousers. Many Maine Coons
   will play "fetch" with their owners.

   The important features of the Maine Coon are the head and body shape,
   and the texture and 'shag' of the coat. The head is slightly longer
   than it is wide, presenting a gently concave profile with high
   cheekbones and ears that are large, wide at the base, moderately
   pointed, and well tufted inside. They are set well up on the head,
   approximately an ear's width apart. Lynx-like tufting on the top of
   the ears is desirable. The neck should be medium-long, the torso long,
   and the chest broad. The tail should be at least as long as the torso.
   One of their most distinctive features is their eyes, which are large,
   round, expressive, and set a a slightly oblique angle. Overall, the
   Maine Coon should present the appearance of a well-balanced,
   rectangular cat.
   Throughout their history there has been no restriction on the patterns
   and colors acceptable, with the exception of the pointed Siamese
   pattern. As a result, a wide range of colors and patterns are bred.
   Eye colors for all coat colors range through green, gold, and
   green-gold. Blue eyes and odd eyes, (one blue and one gold eye) are
   permissible in white cats. There is no requirement in the Maine Coon
   Standard of Perfection for particular combinations of coat color and
   eye color.
   Maine Coon owners enjoy the breed's characteristic clown-like
   personality, affectionate nature, amusing habits and tricks,
   willingness to 'help' with any activity, and easily groomed coat. They
   make excellent companions for large, active families that also enjoy
   having dogs and other animals around. Their hardiness and ease of
   kittening make them a satisfying first breed for the novice breeder.
   For owners wishing to show, the Maine Coon has reclaimed its original
   glory in the show ring.
Care and Training

   Most breeders recommend a high-quality dry food. Most cats can free
   feed without becoming overweight. Middle-aged cats (5-10) are most
   likely to have weight problems which can usually be controlled by
   switching to a low-calorie food. Many Maine Coons love water. Keep a
   good supply of clean, fresh water available at all times.
   Most Maine Coons can be trained to accept a leash. Maine Coons are
   creatures of habit and they train easily if they associate the
   activity with something they want (they train humans easily too!).
Special Medical Problems

   Individuals within any breed are fairly closely related, and have many
   characteristics in common. This includes genetic strengths and
   weaknesses. Certain genetic health disorders may be more or less of a
   problem in a particular breed than in other breeds. For example, a
   breed may have a slightly higher incidence of gum disease than the cat
   population as a whole, but have a lower incidence of heart disease or
   liver disease.
   Genetic problems generally only affect a tiny minority of the breed as
   a whole, but since they can be eradicated by careful screening, most
   reputable breeders try to track such problems, both in their breeding
   stock and the kittens they produce. By working with a responsible
   breeder who will speak openly about health issues, you are encouraging
   sound breeding practices.
   In the Maine Coon, the most common inherited health problems are hip
   dysplasia, which can produce lameness in a severely affected cat, and
   cardiomyopathy, which can produce anything from a minor heart murmur
   to severe heart trouble. Any breeder you talk to should be willing to
   discuss whether they've had any problems with these diseases in their
   breeding stock, or in kittens they've produced; how much screening
   they're doing, and why.
Frequently Asked Questions

   _"How big do they get?"_
     A full-grown female typically weighs between 9-12 pounds and males
     tend to be in the 13 to 18 pound range.
   _"Do they need much grooming?"_
     Maine Coons do not need much grooming and a weekly combing is all
     that is usually required to keep the coat in top condition.
   _"But I thought Maine Coons had extra toes...?"_
     Some "original" Maine Coons were polydactls (had extra toes).
     However, modern purebred Maine Coons are rarely polydactlys. This
     is because all cat associations automatically disqualify
     polydactyls from competition in the purebred classes. Because of
     this, most polydactyls were culled from the Maine Coon breed
     decades ago, and only a few breeders continue to work with them.
     Since the polydactyl gene is dominant, you can't get a polydactyl
     kitten unless at least one of the parents is also a polydactyl.
   _"I think my cat is part Maine Coon. How do I tell?"_
     The Maine Coon is America's native longhair cat; it evolved
     naturally in response to the New England climate. Your cat's
     ancestors might be similar to the cats that founded the Maine Coon
     breed. However, it's impossible to tell from just looking at your
     cat if it is related to the Maine Coon or to any other breed.
     Because the Maine Coon is a natural breed and hasn't been bred to
     extremes, there are cats all over the world that resemble the Maine
     Coon. The only way to tell for sure if your cat is a Maine Coon is
     to look at the pedigree.
   _"Is that a Maine Coon? I thought all Maine Coons were brown."_
     Maine Coons come in a wide variety of color combinations. The only
     colors you won't find are the Siamese-type colors.

     * American Cat Association (ACA)
     * American Cat Fanciers Association (ACFA)
     * Canadian Cat Association (CCA)
     * Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA)
     * Cat Fanciers' Federation (CFF)
     * Federation Internationale Feline (FIFe)
     * Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF)
     * The International Cat Association (TICA)
Breed Association

   The Maine Coon Breeders and Fanciers Association (MCBFA), founded in
   1968, is the international breed association.
   If you would like to join the Maine Coon Breeders and Fanciers
   Association and receive the quarterly magazine, _The Scratch Sheet_,
   please send dues, as outlined below, to the MCBFA Fancier Secretary:
   Wendy McGlynn
   39 Broadway Street
   Pembroke, NH 03275.
   _U.S.:_ $15.00/one year; $27.00/two years; $35.00/three years.
          Optional: Add $5.00 to have your _Scratch Sheet_ sent via First
          Class Mail.
          _Canada:_ $15.00 + $6.00 postage/annually.
          _All Other Countries:_ $15.00 + $16.00 postage/annually.
   If you are actively breeding Maine Coons, you may join the Breeder
   Division for $25.00 (includes subscription to _The Scratch Sheet_ and
   a copy of MCBFA's book on caring for and breeding your Maine Coon
   cats). For information, please contact the Provisional Breeder Member
   Secretary, Ginny Molloy, at 1274 Uhls Road, Franklin, KY 42134;
Finding a Maine Coon Breeder

   There are many Maine Coon breeders throughout the world. One way to
   find a local Maine Coon breeder is to visit a local cat show. Some
   breeders have waiting lists for their kittens, but most will happily
   refer you to another breeder if they are not able to help you. There
   are also breeder listings in the breeder advertisement sections of
   Cats and Cat Fancy magazines, and the annual publication Cats USA.
   Lists of Maine Coon breeders are also available online. A good
   starting place is the Fanciers Breeder Referral List, where there is a
   list of Maine Coon breeders.
   Breeders who are members of the Maine Coon Breeders and Fanciers
   Association agree to a specific code of breeder ethics. MCBFA
   maintains an online list of breeder members.

   MCBFA also publishes two excellent books relating to the Maine Coon:
   Caring For, Breeding, and Showing Your Maine Coon Cat ($8.00) and
   Genetics For The Maine Coon Cat Breeder ($5.00). These prices include
   shipping and handling. Orders for these books should be mailed to the
   editor, Trish Simpson, 10149 Oakwood Chase Court, Oakton VA 22124.
   (Please make check or money order in U.S. funds payable to MCBFA.)
   The best book about Maine Coons is probably That Yankee Cat, The Maine
   Coon by Marilis Hornidge, now into a third edition. It is available
   from Tilbury House Publishers (, 132 Water
   Street, Gardiner, Maine 04345. Phone is 800 582 1899 for orders. The
   cost is $14.95 plus $4 (for the first book; $.50 for each additional)
   shipping if ordered from the publisher. ISBN: 0-88448-088-7. Lots of
   breed stories and history, good sections on genetics and home medical
   care. The pictures are plentiful.
   The other Maine Coon book is This Is The Maine Coon Cat by Sharyn P.
   Bass. Contact T.F.H. Publications, Inc., 211 West Sylvania Ave.,
   Neptune City, NJ 07753. ISBN 0-87666-867-8. It has a 1983 copyright.
   This book is more oriented to showing and breeding Maine Coons. Less
   history than in the other book but some color pictures. Show
   information is geared towards CFA and generally useful but some stuff
   is out of date. Good sections on pet care and medical advice. A good
   chapter on birthing but no genetics.
Authors and Credits

   The sections on History, Characteristics, Description, Breed
   Associations, and the first paragraph of References is courtesy of the
   MCBFA from their flyer "The Maine Coon - America's Native Longhair",
   by Mike & Trish Simpson (Cheeptrills Cattery).
   Other Authors and editors:
     * Laura Cunningham,, Coonyham Cattery
     * Jean Marie Diaz,, Ambar Cattery
     * JoAnn Genovese,, Taelcat Cattery
     * Valerie Johnston,, Denalicoons Cattery
     * Dave Libershal
     * Orca Starbuck,, Lutece Cattery
     * Betsy Tinney,, Pinecoon Cattery
     * Eric Williams,
    Maine Coon Cat FAQ
    Valerie Johnston,
    Last modified: Thu Jan 4 19:22:00 -0700 1995

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