The Maine Coon cat is a long-haired breed that is native to Maine, where it has been held in high regard for its mousing talents for centuries.
This is a large cat, weighing anywhere between 12 to 18 pounds, though the females of the breed are smaller. The typical physical characteristics of the breed do not develop until the cat's third or fourth year.
The Maine Coon breed's distinguishing feature is its smooth, shaggy, and water-repellent coat, which can come in a variety of colors, though brown is currently the favorite. Its hair is long and silky and is shorter on the shoulders and longer on the stomach.
The Maine Coon is often in the top 10 of the most popular cat breeds in the U.S. The reasons for its popularity are not hard to find. Besides possessing a distinctive coat, it has extremely hardy, undaunted by most circumstances, and fiercely loyal to its human owners. In fact, this playful breed will get along well with other pets and children.
Although the Maine Coon cat is wary of strangers initially, it will grow accustomed to them if given time. It is docile, obedient, and, curiously, attracted to water. So don't be surprised if you see your Maine Coon taking a little dip.
In addition to grooming the Maine Coon's coat twice a week with a steel comb, you will need to be sure to provide opportunities for regular daily exercise, often in the form of play.
Maine Coons have inhabited America for centuries, even during the early colonial period. However, there is very little knowledge of how they first came to the continent. There are many tales related to trace their origin, though the authenticity of these tales is doubtful.
One far-fetched story claims that the Maine Coon's ancestor was a raccoon -- which is biologically impossible. Others say the breed was produced by the crossing of the indigenous Bobcat with a domestic cat. Yet another fanciful tale traces their ancestry to the long-haired cats belonging to the French queen, Marie Antoinette. According to this lore, an American captain named Clough rescued the queen's cats but was unable to save her life; the cats were then brought to America. Yet another narrative is that these cats were brought to the states in the 1700s by an American captain named Coon, who hailed from the Northeast coast of America.
This last tale may contain some grains of truth. Captains of ships often brought cats from foreign lands to counter the problems of mice, which thrived on the ships. On their arrival they may have made their home on the Northeast coast, in Maine. The climate was terrible and only the bravest and toughest cats could survive. The survivors were strong and hardy with a water-resistant coat.
The Maine Coon is one of the first breeds to be officially recognized in the early 19th century; since then it has gained rapid popularity. Mr. F. R. Pierce, who owned Maine Coons as early as 1861, mentioned in The Book of the Cat that a Maine Coon named Leo was awarded Best Cat in the New York City cat show of 1895 and was a consistent winner in Boston in 1897, 1898, and 1899.
The breed’s popularity plummeted in the early 1900s when more exotic cats arrived and became instant favorites. By 1950, the breed had dwindled alarmingly and very few members were left.
A few breeders, however, displayed an active interest in this cat and threw it a life line. They held Maine Coon-only shows and in 1968 founded the Maine Coon Breeders and Fanciers Association.
Thanks to the efforts of its staunch supporters, the Maine Coon regained much lost ground and was once again a candidate for Championship competitions. It remains one of the most popular breeds of cat today, with Championship status in all associations.