Maine Coon Cats: Maine's Gift to Cat Lovers
By Lisa J. Lehr
Maine coon cats are an American classic, a contribution to our history and culture that only Maine could
provide. This hardy, handsome breed of domestic cat was established at least 150 years ago, and its
unique characteristics developed as it adapted to Maine's own unique characteristics. And as America
has become a nation of animal lovers, the Maine coon has only become more appreciated.
Maine Coon: One of Oldest Cat Breeds in North America
Maine coons are one of the oldest natural breeds in North America and are regarded as a native of Maine.
"Around the origins of the Maine Coon cat swirls a fog of legend and conjecture as obscuring to reality
as the fogs of its homeland," says Marilis Hornidge in That Yankee Cat -- the Maine Coon. "Of the many
legendary tales of the Coon cat's beginnings, the one most completely discredited is the best known, the
mating of the raccoon and the domestic house cat. This is, of course, a physical impossibility."
Most Maine coon breeders believe that the breed originated from matings
between pre-existing short haired domestic cats and long haired types
brought to America from overseas by New England seamen or by Vikings. We
know from history that the old sailing ships kept cats for rodent control,
and Maine was a commerce area, so it is not difficult to imagine how this could happen.
Maine coons are tall, muscular, big-boned cats, with a long,rectangular body and deep chest. Males
commonly reach 13 to 18 pounds; females, normally about nine to 12; they may continue to grow until
three to five years of age. They have long muzzles and long teeth. All of these traits would have given
them an advantage against competitors as well as predators.
A Cat Well-Suited for New England Weather
Maine coons, with their heavy coats, are well suited to the harsh New England winters. Adult Maine
coons have a three-layer coat; in winter, their undercoats thicken. They have long guard hairs to keep off
the snow and repel water, and a long, bushy tail to wrap around themselves for warmth. Maine coons
have large, furry feet (all the better for walking on snow); furry, tufted ears that stay warm against the
cold; and extremely long whiskers, which help them stay clear of brush that may entangle their long fur.
According to the Maine.gov website, "Maine coons' voices set them apart from other cats; they have a
distinctive, chirping trill."
Initially appreciated for their rodent hunting skills, they were also highly admired by the families of
Maine for their friendly personalities and high intelligence, and began to take on an important role as
pets. As they became a more important part of New England culture, it became a popular pastime for
families to admire, pamper, and brag about their cats.
In the mid-19th century, the Maine coon became a special exhibit at many county fairs in Maine, thus
becoming America's very first "show cat."
Maine coons come in almost all colors; although the classic brown tabby may be the first that comes to
mind, they can be red tabby, silver tabby, tortoiseshell, black and white -- almost anything except the
Siamese pattern and a few others.
As Cat Fancy Magazine says, "Maine coons are a furry piece of American history."
About the author: Lisa J. Lehr is a freelance writer and Internet marketer specializing in direct response and
marketing collateral. She holds a biology degree and has worked in a variety of fields, including the pharmaceutical
industry and teaching, and has a particular interest in health, pets, and conservative issues.