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Maine Coon

 

Introduction

The Maine Coon, also known as American Longhair, is the largest domesticated breed of cat with a distinctive physical appearance and valuable hunting skills. It is one of the oldest natural breeds in North America, specifically native to the state of Maine, where it is the official state cat.

Although the Maine Coon's exact origins and date of introduction to the United States are unknown, many theories have been proposed. The breed was popular in cat shows in the late 19th century, but its existence became threatened when long-haired breeds from overseas were introduced in the early 20th century. The Maine Coon has since made a comeback and is now one of the most popular cat breeds in the world.

The Maine Coon is noted for its large bone structure, rectangular body shape, and long, flowing coat. The breed can be seen in a variety of colors and is known for its intelligence and gentle personality. Health problems, such as feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and hip dysplasia, are seen in the breed, but screening methods can help minimize the frequency of these problems.

 

Appearance

The Main Coon has a long silky coat, short over the head, becoming longer own the back, stomach, legs and ruff. The coat can come in a huge combination of 64 colors and patterns in the UK, including solid colors, torte, tabby (both classic and mackerel, but not ticked), tortie-tabby, smoke and shaded, all with or without white, but chocolate, lilac and Siamese pointed are definitely not permitted as they are not natural colors for the breed's origins. The final colour can take several months to come through on a kitten, and it is often very difficult even for the most experienced breeder to see what colors they have. All eye colors are acceptable, apart from blue or odd-eyed in Maine Coons that are a colour other than white. This is a large breed with fully- grown males sometimes reaching as much as 18lb in weight, although the females are usually slightly lighter. One of the most significant distinguishing features of this breed is the tail with its long and dramatic flowing fur. They are sometimes called 'the tail with the cat on the end' as the tail is especially long so that the cat can wrap it around its body for extra insulation. It is thought that today's Maine Coons look very much as their ancestors did.

 

History

The very beginnings of the Maine Coon breed are not known, although it is generally thought that they descended from British cats brought over to the New World by English settlers, combined with longhaired Russian or Scandinavian cats that arrived on ships into the ports of Maine. Some believe that this breed acquired its name of 'Coon' from mating with the raccoon (a small American wild mammal with a striped coat and tail), whilst others claim it comes from Captain Charles Coon, one of the early English seafarers, but the truth is that nobody knows! Their dense water-resistant coats would have been suited the harsh winters of New England as they were wild cats before they became a domesticated breed, and they a suitable size for hunting their own prey. The very first Maine Coon to appear at a cat show was a black and white cat named Captain Jenks of the Horse Marines, who was exhibited at shows in New York and Boston in 1861, right at the beginning of the boom in this breed's popularity as a domestic pet. However, as the Persian breed gained popularity at the beginning of the twentieth century with its more luxurious coat, Maine Coons started to fall behind as a show cat and domestic pet until the 1950s, although they were still very popular with farmers because of their ability to hunt. However, by the 1980s there was a worldwide interest in this breed and they are now one of the most popular breeds anywhere. They started to be imported into Britain in the 1980s, being given preliminary recognition by the GCCF in 1988, and eventually gaining full Championship status in 1994.

 

Health

Maine Coons are a very long-established breed with no need for out-breeding, and their origins mean that they are strong and deal well with the British climate. They are not known to have any breed-specific health problems and many live to a very good age in the mid-teens. As with all other breeds, they need annual vaccination boosters against the common feline ailments of flu and enteritis, as well as against Feline Leukemia if they go outdoors.

 

Care

Despite their long flowing coats, Maine Coons are easy to look after a regular combing will be enough to remove any loose hairs that might cause fur balls. This breed will eat most good quality proprietary brands of cat food, but will also enjoy treats of cooked chicken, ham and grated cheese. Cows' milk may give them a stomach upset, and a bowl of water should always be available.

 

Temperament

The Maine Coon is a placid breed that enjoys human company, but they are not dependent on it in the same way that many other breeds are, and are happy to amuse themselves. They will often become attached to one particular member of the household of their choice, but they are not lap cats and prefer to be just with people rather than sitting on them or being picked up and cuddled. Their voice is quite different to the typical feline meow, and they have a rather charming chirpy trill that they use to greet their family, whether they are human, feline or even canine. Their origins as hunting cats in a cold climate also mean that they are fascinated by water and love playing with it, and a dripping tap turns into a favorite game. However, they are not as extrovert as many other breeds, particularly with people they do not know.